Molto Bene Montepulciano Duo

In the nascent days of my wine discovery, Montepulciano's red wines were relegated to the bottom shelves of grocery stores, often in 1.5 liter bottles. Montepulciano d'Abruzzo was cheap, harsh, and utilitarian. Like so many Italian wines, these reds have since benefited from modernization of vineyard practices and winemaking technology. Today's Montepulciano is crowd-pleasing and versatile, and still relatively-inexpensive by comparison to Italy's more well-known regions. And like everyone else in the business, they now make rosés. The following two are from the same producer in the Abruzzo region northeast of Rome and on the other side of the Appenine mountains. I'll spend my own money on either of these wines in a heartbeat.

A quick note for the nerds among us: Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is made from the Montepulciano grape in the Abruzzo region, and is unrelated to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which is a sangiovese wine made in southeastern Tuscany. Ah, got to love the confusing Italian wines!

The 2020 Masciarelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo ($15) is a textbook example. Widely available, this quenching medium-bodied red has plenty of clean acidity for pizza or Bolognese, and enough fruit to also make it perfectly flexible for enjoying with conversation - cheese optional. Look for pretty mountain flowers on the nose and something for everyone on the palate. Yum! 91 points (Sample.)

2020 Masciarelli Rosato IGT ($14) The clear bottle glass seems to be illuminated from within, radiating a deep, rich color to this rosé. Clean on the nose, it offers an almost tart crispness on the fore palate, where acidity and body are nicely balanced. Dry, yet full of flavor that is decidedly Italian without gesturing its hands at you, this super versatile wine will please many at either the dinner table or patio gathering. Also made entirely from Montepulciano. 91 points (Sample.)