While the Marches geographically belong to central Italy, but their wines show the transition between northern and southern Italy. Abruzzo and Molise are most definitely south, but not always to the liking of the regions residents. The landscape of Abruzzo is very similar to that of the Marches and from a wine making point of view the regions are very similar in their use of the noble Montepulciano grape.
Typically, the Abruzzian wine growing area is hilly and not many grape are grown. The foothills of the Gran Sasso, the highest peak in the central Italian mountain range, is covered in vines, which are planted to a height of almost 2,000 feet (600 metres). This creates a fantastic balance between the warming sun and the mountain coolness and not forgetting high mineral soils which give the regions wines such finesse. When I comes to grape varieties the region has a somewhat monopoly, the regions red and white wines are dominated by a variety of the Trebbiano variety which forms the basic ingredient for the regions Trebbiano d'Abruzzo wines. These wines are mainly produced in a light, fresh style, with a somewhat neutral quality, but there are a few characterful wines to be found with excellent bouquets and well balanced acidity, however, not always to everyone's tastes.
The regions main red variety, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (which should not be confused with the Montepulciano's of Tuscany). Rosso di Montepulciano and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are both made from the Sangiovese grape, which covers the majority of vineyards in Abruzzo. Here it can produce robust wines with low acidity and strong, it not harsh, tannins. The risk of confusing Abruzzo Montepulciano with Vino Nobile from the town of Montepulciano is further increased when when you discover that some oenology researchers believe that the Montepulciano grape variety is just a variety of Sangiovese.
Robust full-bodied Montepulciano wines from Abruzzo often surprise wine drinkers with their nuances of animal and farmyard aromas, which make them taste more like Pinot Noir than Montepulciano. Most Montepulciano wines are made to be easy-drinking and full-flavoured, rather than the overemphasised tannins of some other regional Montepulciano's. The rose style Montepulciano, sold under the name Cerasuolo, has a particularly pleasant fruity flavour. The new, independent mark of origin, Contoguerra, an area that used to belong to the Doc Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, also produces some excellent singe varietal wines that were not originally native to the region. Although the wine production of neighbouring Molise is 600 times larger than the production of the Aosta Valley, it only produces a couple of hectolitres more quality wines than the alpine region. There are very few DOC wines in Molise. As in Abruzzo, Montepulciano and Trebbiano are the two main grape varieties used, although a little Aglianico and Sangiovese may also be included in the regions two marks of origin, Biferno and Pentro di Isernia. However, the positive developments in Abruzzi will probably extend to the Molise region in the next few years, for even now one or two producers are coming out in favour of rediscovering and cultivating old grape varieties while using modern up to date wine making techniques.