A fascinating land
Abruzzo, an Italian region mostly covered with national parks and nature reserves, is located on the west coast of the Adriatic Sea. It borders Marche to the north, Lazio to the west and southwest, and Molise to the southeast.
Travelling through Abruzzo is a journey into history of territory, food, and wine. A region where conviviality is timeless and doesn’t follow any fashion trends. Abruzzo’s potential as an incredible and fascinating land was neglected for many years but this region is emerging from the darkness, to be rediscovered from a tourist, cultural, and architectural perspective; and last but not least, its gastronomic traditions and wine production.
Abruzzo was recognised as the “green region of Europe” because of the efforts to protect its environment and natural sites. In fact, more than 37% of its territory is protected. It counts not less than three national parks, a regional park and countless nature reserves. The region, so dear to the Italian poet Gabriele d’Annunzio (1863 – 1938), boasts 50% of the biodiversity of the entire European continent. In its parks and natural reserves you will discover many varieties of plants and animal species, from the Marsican brown bear to the Apennine wolf; from the chamois to the golden eagle.
Hilltop medieval and renaissance towns characterise Abruzzo’s landscape which, as you can imagine, changes from mountains to sandy beaches and so does the diverse cuisine of the region.
Abruzzo’s gastronomy and wine mirror the peculiarities of the territory which are intertwined with its history and human activities. Latin poets like Ovid, and Pliny the Elder, and the Greek historian Polybius confirmed in their writings what was also found imprinted on ancient buildings, revealing how the local economy has always been based on sheep farming, agriculture, viticulture, and fishing.
Abruzzo wines: on the road to higher quality
The Abruzzo winemaking tradition has ancient roots but it’s only in the last twenty years that the focus has been put on quality rather than mass produced wines. The winegrowers, gathered in cooperatives and in the Consorzio Tutela Vini d’Abruzzo (Consortium for the Protection of Abruzzo Wines), made it possible to focus on quality and on native grape varieties. Nowadays Abruzzo wines are elegant and supported by good communication strategies within their respective wineries to attract both Italian and international wine connoisseurs.
Most of the viticulture is concentrated in the hills on the coast, an area particularly suited because of the ideal microclimate due to strong temperature hikes between day and night, and good ventilation. This peculiar terroir allows for an ideal vine growth and consequently high quality grapes.
Without going into details about the different regional wine appellations, which can be a little confusing, Abruzzo is pretty well known for its red wine obtained from the native Montelpuciano grape variety, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. This wine is not to be confused with the Tuscan wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano made from the Sangiovese grape variety. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are two completely different wines each one with its traditions and history.
Montepulciano together with the Trebbiano white grape variety (called Ugni blanc in France) are the most important native grapes of the regional wine scene. The red wine Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and the white one Trebbiano d’Abruzzo have reached outstanding quality levels and, if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you try some of them. You will not be disappointed!
There is growing interest on some minor grape varieties like Pecorino, Passerina, Coccocciola and Montonico.
Besides the red Montepulciano and the white Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, I strongly recommend tasting another wine, the rosé Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, which is always obtained from the Montepulciano grape variety. This rosé wine is usually made using the svacata (local dialect) method which was used in old times by the local peasants. This method consists of blending wine obtained from Montepulciano grapes vinified into white wine (around 85%) and wine obtained from the same grape variety vinified into red wine (around 15%). You can find excellent Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo produced by different wineries, but, I was particularly impressed by one I had recently, the Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo Piè delle Vigne 2018 by Cataldi Madonna. It showed an intense, dark and brilliant pink colour. On the nose, notes of berries, cherries, spices and some hydrocarbon notes. In the mouth, it was voluminous, intense, lively with a very pleasant minerality and good acidity. A complex and elegant wine with a long, clean and harmonic finish. Undoubtedly one of the best rosè wine I have tried!
As far as wineries are concerned, you can choose wines from several of them without being disappointed as most of them have reached outstanding quality levels. Some years ago I visited one of my favourite wineries, Emidio Pepe, and enjoyed my stay at their agriturismo (farmhouse). During my stay I was lucky enough to meet Emidio, who founded the winery in 1964, and get his point of view about wine production. Emidio followed his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps who had been producing wine for family consumption since 1889. Their wines are produced respecting the natural cycle of the vine growth without interfering with it and avoiding the use of chemicals. Emidio Pepe’s natural wines are true expressions of the Montepulciano and Trebbiano grapes’ personalities, vintage after vintage.
You should visit Abruzzo region or at least get to know its wines!