Not your typical house red wine
by: Vino Joe
In the United States, we have many "Italian" restaurants. In the cities, they often boast outdoor, sidewalk dining "al fresco," and in the suburbs, they're cramped in mini-malls. No matter where you find them, you'll find three common threads: red and white checkered tablecloths, pasta in marinara sauce and a "house red wine."
Generally speaking, the recommendation is that you should not expect too much from the “house” red wine. That’s because it is often the cheapest plonk available, such as a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo that’s been sitting in the distributor’s warehouse too long. Even if it’s not a clearance item, many restaurants issue “Monte” as their house red because it is plentiful, easy to drink and cheap. As a result, people -- especially geeks -- tend not to take the wine seriously.
But in fact, among the ocean of Montepulcianos flowing in the Abruzzo, there are a number of excellent examples. You just have to look for them, and be willing to spend more than five bucks for a bottle.
One excellent example is Capestrano Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, which tells you it is not a cheap red wine right from the nose. Very forward, attractive aromas of spice, black raspberry, plum and sweet earth seem to jump out of the glass and give you a good preview of what’s going to hit your palate. In the mouth, this Monte is jammy (a lot of rich, ripe, jam-like flavors) upfront, with a smooth texture, and is balanced out nicely by good acidity and mild to medium tannins. Some spice notes and earthy hints round out the ripe black raspberry finish, which is balanced and enjoyable. Showing exceptional depth and complexity for a wine of this price, I rate this a ridiculously good value. Flavorful enough to drink on its own, it really shines when matched with typical Americanized Italian café
/ pizzeria fare: pizza, pasta with red sauce and eggplant parmigiana. In addition, it will stand up to burgers, most beef dishes, grilled meats, grilled veggies and cheeses.
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