Let me begin with some clarification: Montepulciano can be confusing, as it is both the name of a place and the name of a wine, and they are unrelated! Montepulciano d'Abruzzo refers to a specific grape, and the red wine that is made from that grape. It thrives in the Abruzzo region in Eastern Central Italy. This is completely different from Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a red wine made primarily from the Sangiovese grape near the town of Montepulciano in Tuscany. It also should not be confused with Montalcino, the home of Brunello (which is also made from Sangiovese, but a different clone than they use for Vino Nobile).
Anyway, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo has a pretty lousy reputation in the United States, and with good cause. Frankly, most of what gets imported to the US is not very good. Very simple table wines, jug wines. So why am I recommending them? There has actually been a steady increase in the quality of these wines over the past decade or so, and there are now some premium Montepulciano efforts in the marketplace. These are the wines to seek out because the weak brand equity of Montepulciano results in the wines being underpriced relative to their quality. I'm talking about $20 to $25 wines that drink like $50, and that's the kind of thunder I'm always on the hunt for.
Like the Barone Cornnachia I tasted in the video that accompanies this article, these higher caliber Montepulciano wines do not even approach the price points of comparable quality Brunello, Barolo, or Barbaresco. Full-bodied in style and loaded with dark fruit, they are a natural fit with Italian, but you can even pair them with a big thick steak.