It is said that Italians lead the world in wine consumption by volume with 70 liters per capita consumption per year. Our experiences in Italy divulge that statistic to be true – at a minimum. We are so fortunate to have a house in San Tommaso, smack in the middle of Abruzzo’s “Wine country” where vineyards and olive groves are the major agricultural harvest, and wineries seem to crop up everywhere. The primary grape grown in our region is the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – an elegant red/purple grape producing a world-class and internationally award-winning red wine. The DOC (“Denominazione di Origine Controllata” – Controlled Designation of Origin) region for the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo covers a massive swatch of land between the Apennines foothills all the way down to the Adriatic coast. Abruzzo’s abundant hillsides provide for vineyards planted on calcareous clay which benefit from warm and significant sun exposure that is ventilated by dry breezes coming off the Adriatic.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo red wine is produced by wineries in all four provinces of Abruzzo- L’Aquila, Chieti, Pescara and Teramo- with the southern fertile province of Chieti producing the largest total quantity and best quality of wine. Fortunately for us, the Chieti vineyards are all less than an hour’s drive from our home, with some of the largest wineries (e.g. Zaccagnini and Valle Reale ) just 30 minutes down the road. But the best vineyards are boutique and don’t export to America. AbruzzoPresto! will take you on some exclusive wine tours where you’ll get to sample some red wines that are just short of the wine served in heaven. Take copious notes and photos, as you will want to remember this wine tasting experience. The Rosé (or Rosato) variation of the Montepulciano is called the Cerasuolo (see picture above). This delicious wine has the grape skins removed after a matter of hours, and before fermentation begins. Nonetheless, the sugar in this grape is so high that oftentimes, this wine ill sport a 13.5-14% alcohol level.
In addition to the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, the region is also famous for two whites worthy of mention. The first is the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. This classic light and flavorful wine is now found throughout Abruzzo. The grape flourishes in both hilly terrain and in the valleys. This wine is abundant and having been traditionally enjoyed by the Italian army became known as ‘il vino dei soldati” (the soldiers’ wine). The producers who use the authentic Trebbiano d’Abruzzo grape, as opposed to the more highly-available Trebbiano-Toscano, produce the best-quality wines. The wines are golden in color, typically dry, fruity and subtle, with a delicate bouquet and refreshing, crisp acidity. However, we will show you a select few that have had barrel fermentation and barrel maturation, resulting in a more complex wine with depth and body, and even some honeyed notes.
The second white important to mention is the Pecorino, a white wine made from an early-ripening white grape. Also native to Abruzzo, the Pecorino is used to produce several DOC wines. It is generally thought of as a low-yielding grape, but will ripen early and at very high altitudes. Pecorino white wines have a deep, rich, aromatic and nutty character. They are probably most akin to the Napa Valley Chardonnays.
For those who believe that Trebbiano is the only white wine that Abruzzo has to offer, you will be pleasantly surprised by discovering the Pecorino. It is a beautiful white wine which is honey in color, dry, fragrantly infused and sports flavors that span gooseberry & pine nuts to lychees & tangerines. The grapes themselves are crunchy and thin skinned, and since they ripen so early in the season they are vastly popular for being eaten, as much as used for wine. There is a bit of folk-lure which says the grape is named Pecorino because the abundant Abruzzese sheep (le pecore) are quite partial to munching on them as they graze by the vineyards.
Take your wine-rating logs or iPhone apps along with you, because you will probably have never sampled better wines than we will be able to show you.