Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a Great Italian Red Wine

The “Simply Italian Great Wines US Tour” came to NYC and I attended.

IMG_8447 2There were 4 very interesting seminars, one after another, so you could attend all of them. In order to accommodate all the people that responded, we were divided into two groups, A&B. It was a difficult choice but I went with group B. After the seminars there was a Grand Tasting. The event was organized by Marina Nedic, Executive Director of I.E.E.M. (International Event and Exhibition Management). I have been to a number of events organized by them and they always do a wonderful job.

One of the seminars I attended was  Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, a Great Italian Red Wine. I have visited Abruzzo a number of times, and in June I was there on a press trip, so I was looking forward to the seminar.

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Davide Acerra

The speakers were Davide Acerra, present of the Concordia Tutela d’Abruzzo and Joe Campanale, restaurateur and author of “Vino: The Essential Guide to Real Italian wine”

I first met Davide on a press trip a few years ago and again on the press trip in June as well as in NYC.  I have known Joe for a number of years through the wine trade. 

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.

Most vineyards are in hilly areas of which 75% are in the province of Chieti.

img_7587AbruzziThe traditional vine training method is the Tendone system also known as Pergola Abruzzese.  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.

The wines

IMG_8446 2Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC “Parcella” 2021 Cantina Colonnella. The exposure is south/southeast. The training system is cordone speronato and Pergola Abruzzese with the same yields. There are 3,000 vines per hectare The soil is mainly clayey and well drained. Manual harvest from the end of September to the middle of October. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine spends 10 months in large oak barrels (botti) of 50HL and four months in bottle before release. This is a full bodied red wine with rich ripe fruit and hints of plums, black cherry, notes of rosemary and a touch of pepper.

IMG_8445 2Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC 2021 Gennaro Pigliacampo. The grapes are harvested by hand in the middle of October, immediately destemmed, pressed and left to ferment in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature for about four months where spontaneous malolactic fermentation takes place.  Aging: 4 months in steel, 12 months in second passage barriques or tonneaux and 3 months in bottle before release. This is a very fruity wine with hints of blackberry jam, blueberries, rasperries and a note of licorice.

IMG_8444 2Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC “Vere Novo”2020 Cantina Mazzarosa. The vineyard is located in Roseto degli Abruzzo is at 100 meters and the exposure is south/southwest. The grapes are hand picked from the best selection in the vineyard. Fermentation and maceration takes place in stainless steel tanks with the inclusion of about 30% whole bunches with gentle pumping over and delestage. Retention on the lees and maturation in stainless steel for about 12 months. The wine remains in the bottle for 6 months before release. The wine had hints of cherry and cherry jam and herbaceous notes.

IMG_8443 2Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC “Riserva 2019 Fosso Corno Harvest takes place from the end of September to the middle of October and for the Reserve only the best grapes are chosen. After a 14 day fermentation in steel vats, the wine is transferred to oak barrels of 15 HL for 12 months and then back to steel vats for another 12 months. The wine is in bottle for 2 to 4 months before release. This is a full Riserva with hints of black cherry, black plums, spice and balsamic notes. 

IMG_8442 2Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC “Constantini” Poderi Antonio Constantini. The soil is mostly limestone clays. Manual harvest. Grapes are crushed and destemmed  and fermentation takes place on the skins for about 7 days. The wine ages in large Slavonian oak barrels and a small percentage is in French oak tonneaux. The wine remains in bottle for 6 months before release. This wine has hints of black cherry, blackberry, licorice, a hint of tobacco and a note of vanilla. 

IMG_8441 2Montepuliciano D’AbruzzoDOC “Capo Le Vigne” 2017 Famiglia Di Carlo-Vigna Madre. Vineyard exposure is south/southeast at 250 meters. The training system is Pergola Abruzzese (1,800 vines per hectare) condone speronato (4,000 vines per hectare). Harvest is in August/September. There is long maceration on the skins is stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. Aging: 12 months in steel, 12 months in French barriques and 12 months in battle before release. The wine has hints of red fruit, black cherry, leather with with a hint of leather and a note of cinnamon.

IMG_8440Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC Riserva Enisio 2017 Tocco. The vineyard is at 350 meters and the exposure is south/southeast. The grapes are hand picked from October 25th to November 5th. After a careful selection, the grapes are picked from their stems and squeezed. The skins are left in contact with the wine must which contains its own wild yeast for about 18 days at a constant temperature. Aging is in barriques for 12 months and 12 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of red fruit, cherry and licorice. 

IMG_8439 2Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC “Pepe Rosso” 2008 Stefania Pepe Agricola Bio Vitivinicola. The vineyards are in Torano Nuovo with a southwest exposure and the soil is clay-calcareous. They are at 250 meters, 15 km from the Adriatic Sea and 60 km from the Grand Sasso, the highest mountain in the Apennine Mountains. During the period of the full moon the grapes are harvested and destemmed by hand. Fermentation is in small concrete vats, keeping the temperature low, with 6-13 days of skin maceration. No additives are added, not even sulfites. The wine remains in concrete vats and is bottled by hand from a gravitational flow. Filtration does not take place and the wine is aged in bottle until it is ready to be released. This is a complex  wine with hints of red ripe fruit, blackberry, prunes, cherry with a touch of nuts and a note of black pepper. This was the oldest wine and the only one that was almost ready to drink. I have known Stefania for a long time and always enjoy her company and her wines.

Davide and Joe made the point that many winemakers in Abruzzo are going back to more traditional methods both in the vineyard and in the cellar. In the vineyard they are going back to the Tendone system also known as Pergola Abruzzese, where the leaves cover the grapes, especially now with global warming. In the cellar they are using more tradition aging methods such as concrete.

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