The Abruzzo Region of Italy located to the east of Rome has everything going for it. There are beautiful national parks, a long coastline on the Adriatic, the rugged snowcapped Apennine Mountains, and little medieval towns perched precariously on hill tops. Abruzzo is situated between the Adriatic Sea and the Gran Sasso and Majella massif. It is one of the most unspoiled regions of Italy with three national parks and more than ten national and regional natural reserves. Geographically, Abruzzo is more central than southern Italy, but due to its connection with the old Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, it is considered part of the South.
I have visited Abruzzo a number of times and have always enjoyed the wine and food. In fact some of my favorite wines are produced there.
It was with great pleasure therefore that I accepted an invitation from The Consorzio Vini D’Abruzzo to visit the Abruzzo Region in early June. The trip was organized by Mariana Nedic, Executive Director of I.E.E.M. (International Event and Exhibition Management). I have been to a number of events organized by this organization and they always do a wonderful job.
Most vineyards are in hilly areas of which 75% are in the province of Chieti. The traditional vine training method is the Tendone system also known as Pergola Abruzzese. The three most important wine designations are: Montepulciano di Abruzzo (red), Cerasuolo (rose), and Trebbiano D’Abruzzo (white). Abruzzo is the number five wine producing region in Italy.
The grapes and the wine
The Montepulciano grape produces Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano is the most planted grape in Abruzzo and is grown on about 17,000 hectares. It represents 80% of the total DOC wine produced in Abruzzo. The Montepulciano grape has been in Abruzzo since the mid 17th Century.
Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is a Rose’ made from the Montepulciano grape. It is made from the free run juice and/or juice with very little skin contact and the color can vary from light pink to dark red.
The Trebbiano grape produces Trebbiano d’Abruzzo white wine. It is second in area covering over 5,000 hectares. This grape is planted all over Italy but it finds Is best expression in Abruzzo.
Of the local varieties, Pecorino, a white grape, is the most popular. Pecorino is an ancient grape variety which was “rediscovered” in the early 1980’s. The name in Italian is “little sheep” because the sheep liked to eat the grapes off the vines.
The other local varieties are Passerina, Cococciola and Montonico, all white grapes.
The trip — The Abruzzo Wine Experience
On the first night we visited had dinner in a trabocco. Fishermen traditionally built these wooden sheds onto piers that jut far out from the shore as a place to catch fish when the weather was bad.
The one we visited had been converted into a restaurant the, Trabocco Punta Cavalluccio. Davide Acerra, president of the Consortia Tutela d’Abruzzo, welcomed us and spoke about the Abruzzo Region.
Among the dishes were:
Assorted cold appetizers including marinated anchovies, tuna with toasted almonds and saffron mayonnaise, swordfish carpaccio, raw Dublin Bay prawns with orange emulsion and a salad of octopus and cuttlefish
Next came hot appetizers — Gratin of anchovies, Dublin Bay pawns and mussels
Verrigni fusilli with cuttlefish, glasswort and turmeric scented bread crumbs
We also visited the town of Loreto Aprutino which was know for its olive oil production and there is a Olive Oil Museum there in a Gothic building dating from 1881. Unfortunately the museum was closed.
On the second day we visited 3 wineries: Abbazia di Propezzano, Strappelli and Emidio Pepe.
On the third day there was a Grand Wine Tasting of Abruzzo wines at Palazzo D’Avalos in Vasto. Here are some of the wines I tasted.
Stefania Pepe “Pepe Rosa” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo DOC Biologico 2017. Made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The exposure is southeast. The training system is the pergola abruzzese. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats, without the skins, only the juice. This is a fresh fruity rose with red fruit aromas and flavors and hint of cherry. I have been a big fan of Stefania’s wines for many years.
Talamonti Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Riserva made from 100% Trebbiano di Abruzzo. The soil is stony, calcareous, structured and drained. The vineyard is at 300 meters. Harvest is by hand in mid September. Stalks are removed and the grapes undergo a cold maceration followed by a soft pressing. The clarified must is fermented on temperature controlled stainless steel vats for 12 days. The wine is aged for 7 months in 300 liter oak barrels (30%) and stainless steel (70%) with repeated badinage before bottling. The wine has hints of citrus fruit, apple, spiced good acidity. This is a white wine that will age. The president of the winery is Rodrigo Redmond. Before the tasting he recognized me from his time in NYC and we spoke. I did not know he had a winery and I was very impressed by the wines.
Tenuta I Fauri Abruzzo Pecorino DOC 2017 made from 100% Pecorino. The soil is clay calcareous and the training and pruning methods are tendone, single curtain/rows (spur training). There are 1,600/3,000 vines per hectare. Static decanting of the must takes place, followed by a soft pressing. Fermentation is in stainless steel at a controlled temperature and the wine is aged in stainless steel. The wine is bottled at the end of February. The wine has hints of apple and honey and a touch of mint. I visited the winery a few years ago and really liked the wines.
Fattori Nicodemi “Notàri” Trebbiano d’Abruzzo made from 100% TrebbIano d,Abruzzo. The vineyard is at 300 meters and the exposure is north/east. The training system is pergola Abruzzo and there are 1,600 vines per hectares. The vines are 50 years old. Harvest takes place the second half of September. Vinification is for 15 days in stainless steel at a controlled temperature. The wine remains on the lees for 6 months with bàtonnage. The wine remains in bottle for 6 months before release. The wine has hints of apricot, and hazelnut with a note of green olives and touch of mint. I visited the winery a number of years ago and am happy to say they were as good as I remember them. The winery is organic.
On the last day we visited 2 wineries Bosco and Margiotta and that night left for Rome.
Next time the wines of Emidio Pepe at the winery