Abruzzo Wine

Lanciano vines - Photo © Antonio Dell'Elce
Lanciano vines – Photo © Antonio Dell’Elce

In a nation of myriad appellations, Abruzzi offers wine drinkers refreshing simplicity. The long-standing regionwide DOCs for Montepulciano and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo have been complemented by an appellation for Controguerra, which takes in 12 types of wine.

Abruzzi, which is two-thirds mountains and one-third hills, boasts highly favorable natural conditions for grapevines. Growers favor the predominant Montepulciano and Trebbiano while growing some highly productive vines (the region has Italy’s highest average yields) for bulk wines and table grapes, and experimenting in an increasingly convincing way with outside varieties.

Despite the outward simplicity of Abruzzi’s DOC system, certain details of Abruzzi’s wine production are worth pointing out. The native Montepulciano (not to be confused with the town of that name in Tuscany where Vino Nobile is made) is a vine of convincing character that has been winning admirers abroad.

In parts of the Abruzzi, notably in the low hills of the northern province of Teramo, Montepulciano becomes a red of irresistible character – full-bodied, even robust, with a capacity to age but with a supple smoothness that can make it eminently drinkable even when young. The red and riserva from the Teramo area have been distinguished under the DOCG of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane.

The rest of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is DOC, applying to both the red wine and the cherry hued rosé of Cerasuolo. Two other subzones are noted: Casauria or Terre di Casauria and Terre dei Vestini.

Much Trebbiano is based on the prolific Tuscan variety, which makes light, crisp whites of subtle aroma and flavor. Some growers work with the “true” Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (which may or may not be related to the Bombino Bianco of Apulia). A choice few have managed to make Trebbiano of remarkable depth and texture, with a propensity to develop complexity over four or five years, sometimes even more, of aging. Those wines are relatively rare.

Abruzzo Wines:

The Abruzzo DOCG Wine is:
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane

The Abruzzo DOC Wines are:
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Trebbiano d’Abruzzo

The Abruzzo IGT Wines are:
Alto Tirino
Colli Aprutini
Colli del Sangro
Colline Frentane
Colline Pescaresi
Colline Teatine
Del Vastese or Histonium
Terre di Chieti
Valle Peligna

I Love Italian Wine and Food – The Abruzzo Region

An article by Levi Reiss

If you are looking for fine Italian wine and food, consider the Abruzzo region of central Italy. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour.

Abruzzo is located in the central-eastern part of Italy on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. The area is 2/3 mountains and 1/3 hills. Over time Abruzzo has belonged to the Romans, the Lombards, and the kingdom of Naples. While this area was once very poor, its income is now growing. Abruzzo and Molise were a single region from 1948 to 1965. Its population is 1, 275 million.

Agricultural products include grapes, olives, wheat, sugar beets, tobacco, saffron, pigs, and sheep. The Adriatic Sea and inland lakes and streams provide a wide variety of fish and shellfish. If I remember correctly, the first time that I heard of this region was decades ago, when I learned that according to Craig Claiborne, at the time Food Editor of the New York Times, Italy’s best food was found in Abruzzo.

Abruzzo has no large cities. Its administrative center L’Aquila has a population of about 70 thousand. But big cities are hardly a requirement for good wine. Few would ever claim that Italy’s best wines come from Rome or the surrounding area.

Abruzzo devotes about eighty-two thousand acres to grapevines, it ranks 10th among the 20 Italian regions. Its total annual wine production is about 110 million gallons, giving it the 5th place. About 90% of the wine production is red or rose’ (not very much rose’), leaving 10% for white. The region produces 3 DOC wines. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin, presumably a high-quality wine and 1 DOCG red wine, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane. The G in DOCG stands for Garantita, but there is, in fact, no guarantee that such wines are truly superior. About 17% of Abruzzo wine carries the DOC or DOCG designation. Abruzzo is home to about two dozen major and secondary grape varieties, a few more white and than red.

Widely grown international white grape varieties include Trebbiano and Chardonnay. Sauvignon Blanc. The best known strictly Italian white variety is Trebbiano d’Abbruzzi, felt by some to be Bombino Bianco.

The best known Italian red variety is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC is the most widely exported Italian DOC wine.

Before we reviewing the Abruzzo wine and cheese that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with local wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with a Pizza Rustica, Cinnamon-Scented Pie Stuffed with Proscuitto, Cheese, and Eggs. Then move on to Polenta sulla Spianatora, Polenta (Cornbread) Topped with Sausage in Spicy Tomato Sauce. For dessert enjoy a Crostata di Ricotta, a Ricotta Tart.

Wine Reviewed Abruzzo Illuminati Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Riparosso” 2004 DOC 13% alcohol about $11.50

The marketing materials state that this wine has hints of an Amarone (a much more expensive wine) or a Ripasso ( a more expensive wine). There are raisings, currants, and tar on the nose whilst the taste profile is ripe, mellow fruit flavors of raspberry jam and ocha. It doesn’t contain a lot of acidities so drink it within a year. Pair it with pizza, burgers, or any meat dish that you tend to eat during the week.

This wine is said to complement pasta, red meats, and savory cheeses.

I found the Riparosso to be somewhat robust, with cherry and plum flavors. I didn’t have the feeling that I was drinking a regular Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, but instead almost a Ripasso, a wine that I prefer. This wine managed to feel full-bodied even with its light tannins. It balanced nicely the tanginess of barbecued eggplant loaded with garlic, and demonstrated notable spiciness when paired with a meatball and vegetable stew. Its acidity was pleasant. I did not discern all the flavors listed above. For me, the dominant flavor was black cherry. The final meat dish that accompanied this wine was a barbecued boneless rib steak with a spicy curry and cumin sauce. The wine seemed to pick up the strength to accompany this meat, which by the way, we don’t eat on a regular basis during the week.

I tasted this wine with two related kinds of cheese. Pecorino Toscano is a soft, nutty cheese. Interestingly enough, I found that the wine was no longer robust, it seemed to soften to accompany this mild cheese. In the presence of a Pecorino Fiore Sardo, a balsamic sheep’s milk cheese with a stronger flavor and coarser consistency than its Tuscan cousin, the wine almost magically picked up flavor to meet the challenge.

Final verdict, as you can tell this wine is a definite keeper.

Extra note. Several months ago, on a whim, I bought a $6 bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Given the realities of the marketplace, I doubt that any producer can come up with a decent bottle at that price. At first, the wine was acidic. I held out, finished the bottle, and the last glass was almost OK. Yes, there are bargains, such as this Riparosso, but few in the $6 range.

About the Author

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet. He would instead drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His wine website is www.theworldwidewine.com. You can reach him at ital@mail.theworldwidewine.com. 

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