Montepulciano d'Abruzzo was classified as Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) in 1968; In the late 20th and early 21st century, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo earned a reputation as one of the most widely exported DOC wines in Italy.
In addition to Montepulciano, up to 15% Sangiovese is permitted in the blend. Wines aged by the maker for more than two years may be labeled "Riserva."
The DOC region for Montepulciano d'Abruzzo covers a vast expanse of land in the Abruzzo region between the Apennines foothills down to a few miles inland from the Adriatic coast. The region is one of Italy's most mountainous with more than 65% of all Abruzzo being considered mountainous terrain with the Apennines peaks reaching up to 9000 feet above sea level.
The hillside vineyards planted on calcareous clay benefit from warm and significant sun exposure that is ventilated by dry breezes coming off the Adriatic. Montepulciano is produced in all four provinces of Abruzzo -L'Aquila, Chieti, Pescara and Teramo - with the southern fertile province of Chieti producing the largest total quantity of wine. The mountainous province of L'Aquila is noted mainly for the dry rosé labeled as Cerasuolo produced in the DOC. The most favorable vineyards are planted in the northern provinces of Pescara and Teramo with the later having its own DOCG designation above Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.These northern provinces benefit from having less fertile soils with more ferrous clay and limestone mix and higher elevations as the Apennines draw closer to the Adriatic. This creates cooler micro-climates that tend to produce more concentrated wines. In 2004, there were approximately 18,000 acres (7,300 ha) planted in the DOC. In 2005, the DOC produced over 500,000 hectoliters of wine, with more than two thirds of it being produced in the Chieti province.
Under Italian wine laws, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo can be produced as a rosé (where it is usually labeled as Cerasuolo). The wine must be composed of a minimum of 85% Montepulciano with up to 15% of Sangiovese permitted to fill out the remainder of the wine. Grapes are harvested to a yield no greater than 14 tonnes per hectare. The wine must be aged for a minimum of 5 months prior to release with bottles labeled as Vecchio further aged a minimum of two years in wood barrels. Additionally, all Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wines must have a minimum alcohol level of at least 12%.
Within the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOC region is the smaller Colline Teramane (Teramo hills) DOCG that is produced in the province of Teramo from vineyards planted in Teramo and 30 surrounding communes. Established first as a DOC in 1995, the region was promoted to DOCG status in 2003. The regulations for the wine are similar to Montepulciano d'Abruzzo except that the wine needs to be made from a minimum of 90% Montepulciano with a maximum of 10% Sangiovese permitted.