2020 Gran Sasso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

For not much money we may be getting something a nudge up from the bottom of the quality pyramid. I think it’s from a clever operation buying good grapes in quite a few regions and looking for something safe and clean but properly whence it comes too. In the days when friends would let me tell them what to put on their restaurants’ wine lists, this often helped financially and slid the pasta go down nicely. A decade later and it’s still helping with the illusion that the wine budget’s OK. Maybe one of the better recent years? Vivid purple and red, clean, a punch of bramble fruit, fresh and preserved. Not that deep but the boisterous Monty skin tannin and crunchy acid are well under control, nipping the fruit but not imposing. There’s a volcanic smell and salami savoury lick that adds interest. Really well made. Bouncy fun.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $15 well spent.

89 for sure, easily persuaded 90.

2017 Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

If you’re looking for value, lots of flavour for your money and a good place to step into the world of savoury Italian wine suited to the table, then the full Monte is the grape. Nothing to do with the Tuscan town of Montepulciano where they grow Sangiovese under a different name, typically obtuse Italy. Zaccagnini predate the designer labels, sort of obvious really, and they still tie a vine wood twig to the bottle as a badge of authenticity. The contents are still very authentic too. Starts off a bit surly and reduced but air draws it out. Mouth filling tastes of those sour Italian cherries, roadside berries, coffee grounds and sweet tar. Good grainy tannin and enough well meshed acidity to carry those honest, rugged flavours. If you were a fan of Italian football a while ago, you could say this is more Gennaro Gattuso than Rui Costa.

12.5% alcohol it says but feels warmer. Cork and a good old fashioned lightweight bottle with a twig. Around $25.

91 points.

2017 Poggio Anima Samael Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo

Clean as the proverbial whistle that wets the lips and pleasures the olfactory bits with bright bramble berries, spice and sweet earth. Bass riff of dark fruit chocolate. Praise for the lovely balance of whole berry fruit cut by guttural Monte tannins and brusque acidity. Extra depth of fruit to finish raises the level above the usual and gives angel wings to tomatoey pasta. Such a modern, fresh full Monty without losing the rustic underwear.

13% alcohol. Screwcap. $22.

92 points.

2017 De Fermo Concrete Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

The full Monty of low fi wine production and a very successful one. All the bramble fruit, briar and deep extract of Abruzzo’s own great value but fresh, juicy and pure fruited too. Little bit of that low sulphur yeasty breath but clean gorgeous fruit charges forth and finishes with a dark summer pudding burst of fresh acidity and grainy, firm Monty tannin. None of the variety’s volcanic reductiveness either. Really good grapes and hands off in such a good way.

13.50% alcohol. Cork. 15 euros.

94 points.