When I say Pecorino, I know you are thinking cheese. But let me tell you about Abruzzo and the enchanting story of how this wine came to have the same name.
The Charming Taste of Europe held a session on the Pecorino d’Abruzzo at the 2021 Wine Media Conference held in Eugene Oregon. This is a wine that everyone should be enjoying, and it seems that too few are aware of it!
The Wine Media Conference is for the Wine Industry Media. The Conference itself is paid for primarily through the sponsors. The turnaround is that attendees have promised to write about the sponsors and their experience. You will see more content to fulfill our obligation for posts, but quite honestly, there is so much to write about, that you will see more than our requirement. Please note that all opinions are our own.
(The conference content and wine for tasting at the sessions and excursions were provided by the sponsors, travel, hotel and most meals were paid for by attendees.)
Pecorino, no not the cheese, the grape!
The “transumanza” is the route that the Abruzzo shepherds take their sheep, in the spring they head into the hills and mountains of the Apennines in the fall they come back down, as the weather gets cooler. This is early in the harvest season and Pecorino is an early ripening grape, so the sheep would feast as they were brought through the vineyards.
These sheep trails, provide beautiful views in Abruzzo, where much of the land is Nature Preserve, and make stunning hiking trails. These trails were called the “tratturi” and many have been used for thousands of years. For centuries raising sheep provided the income for more than half of Abruzzo. From the 12th to 16th centuries this was the leading wool-producing region in Europe (source)
The Tratturo Magno was the most important route, which connected L’Aquila to Foggia, which had a series of tolls for safe passage and was regulated. Picture yourself in this beautiful place. Here is a link to a video of the route from Air Abruzzo, as well as a couple of photos of the sheep in the mountains.
Now…when you think Pecorino, you will think of the sheep, the grapes, and the view!
Back to Abruzzo
Abruzzo is a region in the central part of Italy on the Eastern Coast. It sits just south of Marche and just north of Molise. From east to west the region runs from the Adriatic Sea to the Majella Massifs and the Gran Sasso Massif, which is the second-highest mountain in Italy outside of the Alps. These massifs are part of the Apennine mountains. 30% of the region is Nature preserves.
There are over 10,000 grape producers in the region with 84,000 acres under vine. The diurnal shifts in the area (daytime to nighttime temperature differences) allow for great acid and complexity in the wines.
As far as wine goes, the region is probably best known for Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from the red grape Montepulciano or the Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo a brilliant cherry red rosato made in the region (you can read more about that here)
Grapes of Abruzzo
Montepulciano is the main grape of the region, accounting for about 50% of the plantings. Other grapes include Cerasuolo, Passerina, Coccciola, Montonico, Moscatello, Malvasia, and the grape that we will be focusing on Pecorino.
This grape is, as I mentioned before early ripening. It fell out of favor as it had low yields and almost disappeared. In 2000 there were just 87 hectares in Italy (Robinson, Jancis; Harding, Julia; Vouillamoz, José, Wine Grapes, New York, HarperCollins, 2012). In 2010 there were 1,114 hectares. So the grape is on the rise.
It’s no wonder. This is thought to be one of Italy’s oldest varieties. It has great fungal resistance and it is good with altitude (important in this mountainous region). The grape gives a high sugar balance by high acidity which gives you a structured wine with a density that is balanced with the acid.
In addition, you find a great deal of variety in the styles. The differences in these 4 wines presented at the Wine media conference show that. All four are 100% Pecorino from the Abruzzo DOC Pecorino.
Barone di Valforte 2020
(Imported by Wine for All – Pietro Cavallo – L&T Abruzzi Wine LLC)
Grown in calcareous soil, and fermented in stainless steel, this wine has lingering saline and chalk notes. 13% abv
About Barone di Valforte. The Sorricchio di Valforte family has own this land since the XIV century. Today they have 52 hectares under vine in Abruzzo that they farm sustainably between the Gran Sasso and Maiella mountains.
Torre dei Beati “Giochermon con I Fiori” Play with the Flowers
(Imported by Casa Bruno LLC)
Grown in clay-limestone with a sandy sublayer on 17-year-old vines, this wine is fermented in tank and aged 6 months sur lie, again in steel. Here you find floral notes (hence play with the flowers) as well as nuttiness and savoriness plus rich texture from the lees. 13.5% abv
About Torre dei Beati: The winery began in 1999 when the family started to manage the vineyard that their father had been looking after since 1972. The estate is 21 hectares in Loreto Aprutino in the province of Pescara and sits at 250-300 meters.
(Imported by Prosapore LLC)
This is an organic certified wine from sandy limestone soils at 250 meters and 20-year-old vines. Fermented in stainless steel, it ages in steel for 3 months and does a complete malolactic fermentation. This wine was richer in color, with peachy notes and a distinct note of pineapple. 14% abv
About agriCosimo: Founded in 2000 by grape growers, this modern winery in Villamagna faces the Adriatic Sea. They pull from vineyards in Santa Lucia, San Vincenzo, Colle Maggio, and San Francesco. Sustainability is key here, with social responsibility and accessible buildings, solar power, and a building designed to be energy efficient and clean.
(Imported by More Than Grapes LLC)
Again organic, fermented, and aged in stainless steel (4 months aging). These vines are in the Villamagna region. This had peach notes with straw and herbs. 13.5% abv
About Cascina del Colle: This family winery has been operating in Villamagna for 25 years. They are Bio Zero – wine without sulfites. Their 20 hectares of vineyard are mainly in Villamagna, but also extend into Bucchianico, Ripa Teatina, and Vacri.
Find some and try it for yourself!
So many different notes, one grape. All of these very interesting wines retail at $15-$20.
This region is up and coming, with Italy and the world turning their eyes to Abruzzo. Pecorino may not be a grape that you have tried before, but it certainly should be one you look for.
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.