‘Stick wine’ – It just works

Disclaimer: Don’t drink if you’re under 21, don’t buy alcohol for minors and always drink responsibly

I recently came to the realization that as I write these columns, my mom’s love of Italian-style wines might have rubbed off on me. We have another Italian wine this week – Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. 

The main thing I want to highlight about this wine is that it’s food-friendly with traditional Italian dishes, but it also works wonderfully alone. The legal drinking age in Norway for wine is 18; Zaccagnini Montepulciano was one of the first wines I tried and actually liked. Despite that being over five years ago, I find myself returning to it every now and then when I need an easy wine that just works. This is probably why it has gotten the popular name in Norway as the “stick wine.”

The wine is created solely on the grape Montepulciano which is from the area Abruzzo. The Montepulciano grape is considered the backbone of central Italian wine production, and with good reason, it has received the DOC honor which I delved into in last week’s column. You can see this by the light blue and white band wrapped around the top of the bottle. For only $15.49 at Total Wine & More, it’s an unbeatable price for a quality wine.

It has a dark ruby color and the aromas it gives are characteristic of berries, with a hint of dark, almost overripe, cherries, licorice, herbs and a hint of wood, which can smell almost like smoke. The flavor is juicy but with some firmness; you can taste hints of dark berries, green herbs, a touch of licorice, spices and a fresh aftertaste. This freshness in the aftertaste can almost feel like the wine is lingering in your mouth, but this is what makes it great for both food and drinking. This would complement both a traditional Italian pizza, but also a regular pepperoni pizza beautifully.

This popular Norwegian “stick wine” got its name thanks to a simple marketing technique; the winemakers tied a small piece of stick to the next of the bottle to make it distinct. The earliest trace of this that I was able to find dates back over 20 years, to 2001. In a 2016 interview, the wine’s producer, Angelo Ruzzi, said that “the sticks used on the bottles are collected from the vineyard, before it’s manually placed on the bottle one by one. It’s very time consuming.”

During the interview the magazine was able to look at their export warehouse. 38 pallets, with 450 bottles per pallet equaled a month’s supply to Norway alone. That equals 17,100 bottles every month. While it started out as almost a gimmick, the “stick wine” has really become a household brand in Norway. You can enter any liquor store (even online on their website) and ask for “stick wine,” – they will know what you’re looking for.

Maybe it’s too much to hope for the name to stick here in the United States too, but the “stick wine” is an excellent all-round wine which works great with food and by itself. Even if you’re new to the wine world, I think this might be something you will like.


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