Twig Wine: Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

When I visited Italy many years ago, I was surprised to find oranges in the markets that still had their leaves attached. I’d never seen such a thing living inland in the United States, but I watched customers in Italian stores carefully evaluate the quality of the leaves before squeezing and sniffing the oranges themselves.

Zaccagnini-BottleCantina Zaccagnini produces a distinctive line of wines with a short stick of grape vine (tralcetto) tied around the necks of each bottle. Some might wonder how they can afford to sacrifice their vines for the purposes of marketing, but you’d be amazed at how much clipping and trimming is necessary to produce a healthy harvest. Dried grape vines are traditionally used as fuel for grilling, and in Greece and Middle Eastern countries, the foliage is also used for dolmas, stuffed grape leaves.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is located on the Adriatic about mid-way down the boot, and the grapes for this wine share that name, too. It’s a bit of a mouthful if you don’t speak Italian, and over the past ten years of drinking this wine I’ve heard retailers and customers alike refer to it simply as “twig wine” or “stick wine”. The label is designed to appear handwritten, and I’ve enjoyed repurposing my empties for olive oil or vinegar to add a dash of Old World charm to my suburban American kitchen.

2011 Cantina Zaccagnini
Il Vino “dal Tralcetto”
100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
$17, 13% abv.
300,000 bottles produced annually

The wine shows bright strawberry and raspberry notes on the nose and offers a tart and tannic mouthfeel. Firm acidity and a long finish make this a great pairing for cured meats, although I’ve also found it to be a natural match for smoked pork at a barbecue.

The current release is among the first to feature the Nomacorc Select® Bio closure that’s manufactured from sugarcane and has a zero carbon footprint.

About the Author

A lifelong resident of Memphis, Tennessee, Ben Carter has been writing about wine and food online since 2005. Starting at his blog, Benito’s Wine Reviews, he has also written for Serious Eats, Snooth, Palate Press, and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal. During the day, he works in quality assurance for a major corporation.


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