In my History of Italy in Ten Glasses class I always reinforce the diversity and richness of Italian culture, which is the direct byproduct of the mixing of so many conquering/colonizing people on this verdant peninsular in the Mediterranean. Where other countries have specific areas devoted to grape growing and wine making, in Italy, the entire country is one giant vineyard. In Italy, wine is considered an integral part of everyday life. Wine is as essential to life – and the quality of life – as bread and olive oil. Contadini (local farmers) used to grow grape vines among other food crops, a practice referred to as: agricolturo promiscuo (promiscuous agriculture). People who visit Italy today quickly realize that the unsuspecting jug of wine served at a small roadside enoteca (wine house), is some of the most delicious wine they have ever enjoyed.

It used to be that Italy had a corner on value-leading wines, most of which were straightforward, thirst-quenching quaffs meant to accompany hearty meals with friends and family. At least that’s how it worked at my house when I was growing up… And it usually happens this way in our home today, except the bottle is more likely something Spanish given their command of the high-value market.

So, when a bottle of Italian wine appears that stresses value and pays homage to those classic characteristics of sun splashed fermented grape juice, I sit up and want to tell folks about it!

Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is not new to this wine writer. I stumbled across this producer with their 2001 vintage many years ago and really like it then. For whatever reason, I lost touch with the wine, but thankfully came across a bottle locally of the current vintage, 2010. In a word the wine is charming. Like most of my relatives, the wine could charm the shirt off your back and make you feel especially loved for giving up all your worldly possessions…

Abruzzo is one of the major wine regions in Central Italy, ranked as the sixth most productive region in Italy. Abruzzo is home to numerous DOC and IGT wines, probably best known is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The wine is produced from the Montepulciano grape, a prolific red grape known for producing full-bodied, fruity wines and should not be confused with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a red wine made from Sangiovese in the Tuscan town of Montepulciano. Whenever I open Montepulciano d’Abruzzo I feel envious – what must life be like making wine of such genuine character, which is guaranteed to put a smile on your face every time you drink it?

Zaccagnini

The 2011 Cantina Zaccagnini is classic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Rustic and earthy with a seductively lush mid-palate that seems to go on forever, all for an average cost of $14.99 per bottle before any discounts (I found it for $11.99/bottle). Great value in classic Italian wine!

My tasting notes:

Rustic, earthy nose with currant, plum and dried lavender hints. Medium-to-full-bodied with moderate acidity and firm, well-integrated tannins – good balance. Dark fruit core with thick blackberry and cherry notes. Rich tasting. Long finish – smooth with a nicely layered finish – anise and saddle leather on the aftertaste. Drinking well now and should continue to evolve for another 2 to 3 years in the bottle. Great value.

Cent’anni!

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