This Montepulciano's dark garnet color gives the first indication of the wine's intensity. Aromas of violets, plums and vanilla are full and fresh, with a hint of smoke. This bold Italian red overflows with crushed black cherry and mocha flavors. Flecked with notes of rosemary and black licorice, the wine is creamy, plush and energetic, with a deep core of savory fruit flavors. The finish turns slightly taut, with youthful tannins that will be perfect with a juicy steak.
Cherry, plum, hibiscus, milk chocolate and clove.
The Montepulciano grape variety is from Abruzzo, a region in the eastern part of Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea. Montepulciano d'Abruzzo makes plummy, full-bodied red wines with velvety tannins. Most of Abruzzo is dominated by large-scale commercial wineries that grow high-yielding grapevines near the coast; the grapes are harvested mechanically and made into quaffable rustic wine. But venture inland into the hills of the Apennine Mountains, where Castello di Salle lies, and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo makes a very different wine. Castello di Salle belongs to the Zaccagnini family, headed by Marcello Zaccagnini. The family originally grew grapes and sold them to a local cooperative, but over the last 30 years, the Zaccagninis have transformed their estate into a quality-focused winery. Their grapes are planted on well-draining hillsides and are picked by hand, with yields carefully limited by severe pruning. Fewer grapes means more concentrated flavors and more intense, complex wines. Winemaker Concezio Marulli, who is Marcello's cousin, uses modern winemaking equipment to make outstanding examples of the region's traditional wines.
The Abruzzo hills are classic sheep country, and most lamb dishes will harmonize with the Castello di Salle's tannins and bring out the wine's deep black cherry and fruit flavors. Therefore, milder preparations like quick-grilled lamb chops or lean lamb burgers will make fine matches, as will heartier fare, such as lamb stew, shanks or a roast rubbed with garlic and rosemary. My Fennel-Spiced "Forever" Roasted Lamb is a memorable dish for any occasion. Serve it with a side dish of my Fagioli all'Uccelletto. If you need something a little simpler, try my Pizzettas with Olive Tapenade and Pecorino Cheese.
Abruzzo's wealth of castles and medieval towns, especially near the town of L'Aquila, has earned it in some quarters the nickname of "Abruzzoshire" due to the number of British nationals that have bought and restored many of the best estates.