The ancient region of Abruzzo in central Italy has been an important center of wine production for millennia, with most archaeologists agreeing that the first vines cultivated in the excellent soils of the region were probably planted sometime in the sixth century BCE. Indeed, legend has it that Hannibal was given Abruzzo wine after he brought his elephants over the Alps, whilst on his way to sack Rome. As with many historic wine regions of Italy, Abruzzo's reputation was heavily tarnished in the mid 20th century, and it became known as a region more concerned with bulk and quantity than quality. Today, this couldn't be further from the truth, and wineries in Abruzzo are once more using their traditional techniques to make wonderful, characterful wines from their native grape varietals, and finding new successes and new fans all the time. There are few countries in the world with a viticultural history as long or as illustrious as that claimed by Italy. Grapes were first being grown and cultivated on Italian soil several thousand years ago by the Greeks and the Pheonicians, who named Italy 'Oenotria' – the land of wines – so impressed were they with the climate and the suitability of the soil for wine production. Of course, it was the rise of the Roman Empire which had the most lasting influence on wine production in Italy, and their influence can still be felt today, as much of the riches of the empire came about through their enthusiasm for producing wines and exporting it to neighbouring countries. Since those times, a vast amount of Italian land has remained primarily for vine cultivation, and thousands of wineries can be found throughout the entire length and breadth of this beautiful country, drenched in Mediterranean sunshine and benefiting from the excellent fertile soils found there. Italy remains very much a 'land of wines', and one could not imagine this country, its landscape and culture, without it. Montepulciano grapes are one of the most widely cultivated varietals in Italy, with vines growing in twenty of Italy's ninety five provinces. This varietal is renowned for producing high yields, making it popular with vintners looking for a relatively easy varietal to grow. Whilst the grapes tend to have a low skin to juice ratio, the skins themselves are remarkably high in tannins with a lot of pigmentation, which means they often produce rather well bodied wines with a beautiful deep, dark color The wines of Montepulciano grapes are most commonly associated with soft, rounded characteristics, with plenty of juicy, plummy flavors The wines are known for being very smooth and drinkable, and easy to match with a wide range of foods.