Montepulciano, the key word in these two disparate wines, can cause the uninitiated some serious confusion. Not only are the wines made from different grapes, they are from very different regions: if you visualize the map of Italy, Abruzzo is about halfway down the eastern coast on the Adriatic. Tuscany is higher up and on the western coast, on the Ligurian Sea (though the region of Montepulciano is located inland).
Here's a premium example of each Montepulciano:
Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2011 ($28)
The 2011 Marina Cvetic Montepulciano, from Abruzzo's esteemed Masciarelli winery, is a deep black-cherry red in the glass, and redolent of dark berry fruit and violets, with vanilla and very light oak easing into the mix on the palate. It's a well-made, well-balanced, fruit-forward wine with smooth tannins, a silky mouthfeel, and a moderately long finish.
Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2013 ($29)
This wine, a mid-level selection from the award-winning winemakers at Avignonesi, is made from 100 percent sangiovese grapes from eight different vineyards. This Tuscan offering is a brilliant ruby red in the glass and boasts a heady mix of cherry, spice, and violets on the nose and palate. The region's clay-rich soil contributes a bit of minerality, complementing the bright acidity and notable tannins, which sail all the way through the savory finish.
Which ne to choose? You should try both, of course. But if your tastes run to cabernet sauvignon-merlot blends heavy on the merlot, you will be happier with the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Prefer Rhône blends with bright acidity? Reach for this moderately priced Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.