Import Selection: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 1989. Zonin

Founded in 1921, Zonin is Ita­ly’s largest privately-owned wine-making concern in operation to­day. Considering how far back many Italian wineries go, this makes the company a relative new­comer. In all fairness, it is impor­tant to state that prior to establish­ing the firm seventy years ago, the family had actually been active in the wine industry through seven generations. The founder’s (Com­mendatore Domenico Zonin’s) four nephews, Gianni, Giuseppe, Gaetano and Silvano, enthusiasti­cally maintain the family tradition.

Well known as a pace-setter in the use of modern winemaking technology, with diligence and de­dication, the Zonin family has ex­panded production and bottling to four-and-a-half million cases per year.

Zonin is actually not just one winery, but a conglomerate of vineyard holdings, vinification fa­cilities and prestigious wine pro­ducing estates. Their Montepulci a-no d’Abruzzo vineyards lie at about the same position on the Ital­ian boot as Rome, but well to the east, near Italy’s Adriatic coast.

Here the hearty Montepulciano vine reigns supreme, yielding grapes of robust generosity. In the past, its wines were used for boosting lightweight northern vint­ages. With technological advanc­es, however, Abruzzi wines have taken immense strides since their emergence on Italian and interna­tional markets about twenty years ago. Incidentally, do not confuse this wine with Vino Nobile di Montalcino, a Tuscan wine made almost exclusively from the San­giovese grape of Chianti fame. In general, Montepulciano d’Abruzzc is a purplish wine with an agreea­ble, straightforward aroma and a warm, generously fruited, slightly tannic taste.

Our Zonin selection, however, goes far beyond the norm. It will be noted to have the medium light ruby color of a mature red wine. The nose is very “Italian”, some­what intense, with a spicy aspect (like thyme) plus an intriguing fruity facet (like gooseberries). The taste is full, dry, smooth and satisfying. With its well-stated fruit impressions, firm acidity, and smoothness, this is a well-structured wine. The finish is dry, but not astringent, with nice rasp­berry, strawberry and gooseberry flavors lingering.

Serve at room temperature with red-sauced pasta, minestrone soup or Manhattan-style clam chowder.

Cellaring Notes: Close to its peak: can hold for 2-3 years.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper

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