Drink Magazine

Grape Spotlight: Abruzzo DOC Pecorino

By Winecompass
“…one morning in September, before the harvest, I and others went to Arquata del Tronto, in the hamlet of Pescara, where they had pointed out to me an ancient vineyard cultivated with Pecorino. Arrived on the site I was indicated by the owner of the land Mr. Cafini some shoots that were evidently two, or three, generations old. In the following February I went back to pick up the shoots and took them to my company in Ripatransone, where I made the first grafts: my idea was to cultivate it in purity. I know, it was a crazy idea, everyone said it, my friends always repeated it to me in the winter evenings in front of the fire, but I wanted that wine, I knew it was possible, and I never doubted” -- quote from Guido Cocci Grifoni in The Rebirth of Pecorino
Grape Spotlight: Abruzzo DOC PecorinoAbruzzo is a naturalist's dream "as half of the region's territory is protected through national parks and nature reserves, more than any administrative region on the continent, leading it to be dubbed 'the greenest region in Europe'".  That could be why it has been occupied since the "Neolithic era, with the earliest artifacts dating to beyond 6,500 BC. In the 6th century BC, the Etruscans introduced viticulture into the area which continued with the Romans -- who contributed to much of Abruzzo’s recognizable history.  Even after the fall of Rome, the Lombards, Byzantines, Magyars, and Normans successively imparted some type of influence in Abruzzo.   Throughout these periods, viticulture has been a constant with multi-generation small plots, sometimes less than a few hectares, being passed down through successive generations. Grape Spotlight: Abruzzo DOC PecorinoAbruzzo is located directly east of Rome and bordered by the Molise wine region to the south, the Marche to the north, the Lazio to the west, and the Adriatic to its east.  It is further divided into several sub-regions: Controguerra, Teramo, Chieti, Pescara, and L’Aquila (L’Aquilano) -- with Chieti being the prime winemaking region (75% of vineyards).  Most of Abruzzo is rugged with  65% mountainous with this landscape assisting grape growing by blocking most storms from the west. And to the east, the Adriatic Sea provides a moderating Mediterranean climate for these vineyards; vines that are predominately planted in calcareous clay soils.

The most popular grape varieties in all sub-regions are Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and Trebbiano d'Abruzzo. That being said, our current focus is Pecorino, a light-skinned wine grape that, in general, produces dry, minerally, driven, floral, and herbaceous wines. According to our friends at Wiki, "Pecorino is a very old variety that, as believed by ampelographers, likely originated as a wild grapevine growing in the Sibillini Mountains that was eventually domesticated for wine production".  Its name derives from the Italian word pecora, meaning sheep, most likely because sheep would often eat the grapes while moving through the vineyards. 

Grape Spotlight: Abruzzo DOC PecorinoPecorino's home region is actually in Marche and in the last couple of centuries was slowly phased out because of low yields. By the mid-20th century, it was thought to be extinct. But in the 1980s, Guido Cocci Grifoni decided to "search for this native vine in the wild lands of the Sibillini National Park" and the quote above is how he traced an old vine raised in Pecorino in Arquata del Tronto.  "In February 1983, the first rows of vines were grafted in different geographical exposures within the grounds of the  Cocci Grifoni Estate. And just two years later the first demijohns of wine were produced". -- The Rebirth of Pecorino

Grape Spotlight: Abruzzo DOC PecorinoSince then, the variety's plantings have grown exponentially, and Pecorino is now found across the Marche, Abruzzo, Umbria, and Tuscany.  "The 'Abruzzo' DOC was created to protect and enhance the main autochthonous regional grape varieties, in particular Pecorino and Passerina, and by means of the 'Abruzzo' DOC, the territory of origin of these wines has been directly identified, as a guarantee of their quality, typicality, and origin." -- Consorzio Vini d'Abruzzo

This month, the Vini d’Italia 2022 experience came to Washington DC showcasing 100 wines at the Embassy of Italy, There were also two masterclasses led by journalist and author Lorenzo Ruggeri, the first focusing on Italian wines in general and the second specifically on Pecorino wines from Abruzzo. I attended this second session which compared ten Pecorino wines from ten different producers and from various sub-regions within Abruzzo. Grape Spotlight: Abruzzo DOC PecorinoWhat I discovered was that these wines were able to alleviate the high sugar content and corresponding higher alcohol into crisp, fresh, and acidic wines. In general, they provided a vibrant white flower aroma with degrees of herbaceousness with sage, basil, and thyme. The wines also alternated between a ruby red grapefruit profile and a red delicious apple profile with a major exception being the Pasetti Abruzzo Pecorino Superiore Collecivetta DOP 2020 which had a textured profile of an upside-down pineapple cake laced with melons. The Podere Colle San Massimo Abruzzo Pecorino Colle Dell'Orso DOC 2019 showed the savory side of Pecorino layered with multiple spices. Two that stood out were the Tenuta Terraviva Abruzzo Pecorino Terraviva DOC 2021 and the Tenuta I Fauri Abruzzo Pecorino DOC 2020. The first is from a small organic grower located very close to the Adriatic so this wine is a little riper with a floral aroma, savory red apples, some herbaceousness, and energetic acidity.  The second is from the first female winemaker in the Consorzio Vini d'Abruzzo and is from the Chieti sub-region. This wine also provides savory fruit and the accustomed herbaceousness but is saline driven based on the clay calcareous soils of their vineyards. Both of these are evidently priced near six euros, so you don't need to spend much to obtain quality Abruzzo Pecorino. Saluti. 

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog