2018 Cirelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Region: Abruzzo < Italy
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Certified organic farming; clay/calcium soils; fermented and aged in stainless steal; bottled unfined/unfiltered with <20ppm SO2; 13% ABV
Winemaker: Francesco Cirelli
Francesco would stand out as a rising star in any of Italy’s big famous regions, but in the decidedly non-shiny region of Abruzzo, better known for recent geological disasters (earthquakes, avalanche) than wine, his aura is almost blinding. Here is a farmer and winemaker who worked high-profile jobs in several of France and Italy’s famous cellars and could’ve rooted his own project anywhere, but chose to return to Abruzzo, his homeland, in 2003, buying a small estate just 8 km from the sea. And he’s been challenging conventions and pushing the boundaries since he landed. His organically-farmed estate includes not only vineyards but olive trees, garlic, spelt, wheat, barley, figs and geese – a complete ecosystem. In the cellar, he’s experimenting with amphora (of his own design, with special stainless steel seals on the top of them that assist in preventing oxidation), adds nothing but tiny SO2 at bottling and basically lets his wines evolve as they wish. He trying to make authentic wine, not important wine – wine that is “a magic potion for joy and communion”, in his words.
We’re featuring his killer pet’nat this month, the Wines of Anarchy Rosato, as well as his juicy Montepulciano, a local grape that is suffering from an identity crisis. This ancient grape still gets a bad rap—as a bland ‘table wine’ at a 1970s-era Italian-American trattoria— because there were, and still are, a lot of cheap versions on the market. Or people confuse it with Montepulciano, the town in Tuscany (where they grow Sangiovese). But Montepulciano the grape is the star red grape of the more southerly region of Abruzzo (lately rocked by a succession of earthquakes).
When done well, Montepulciano in all of its purple glory, drinks like cru Beaujolais. Like Cirelli's version, which is vibrant, pure, dark fruited with black raspberry, plum, pomegranate and violets, finishing with a refreshing acidic crunch. It’s like eating berries off a bush! Medium body, silky tannins, juicy fruit - this wine is a total crowd pleaser, and won't break the stay-at-home bank.