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Abruzzo; A Wine Region Worth Knowing

Several months ago the Consorzio Vini D’Abruzzo invited me to attend an educational seminar to explore and learn more about the Abruzzo wine region of Italy. I had an opportunity to taste a variety of wines and speak with many of the region’s new generation producers. I left the seminar with a wealth of information and my palate singing. What was a recurring theme and stressed by the new generation was the importance of “balancing tradition while introducing new innovations.”  

Photo credit:  Penny Weiss

The following is a brief introduction to Abruzzo.

Abruzzo is located in central Italy between the Adriatic Sea and Gran Sasso d’Italia (one of the highest peaks in Italy standing at 9,554 ft.) and Majella Massif. For centuries, the inhabitants of Abruzzo have referred to the Majella Massif as a sacred mountain.

Photos courtesy of Consorzio Vini D'Abruzzo

Abruzzo winemaking dates back to the fourth century BC when the Etruscans introduced viniculture to the area. However, winemaking took a dip in production for several centuries and it is only in the last 50 years that it is on an upswing. Bulk wine dominated the scene, but with a recent turnover of the newer generations, Abruzzo is seeing more quality-driven wines.

Abruzzo wine region is divided into four provinces with sub-zones within the provinces. 


Map credit: Abruzzo-Italy.net
 

There are basically two geographical areas that makeup Abruzzo, the inland mountainous area that covers 65% of the entire region and the coastal area with sweeping hills. Climate and geography play an important role in the outcome of wine and the stage is definitely set when it comes to the terroir of Abruzzo. A moderate coastal climate exists in the area along the Adriatic-facing side of the Apennines and is more continental inland. The vineyards benefit from the high altitude that provides significant diurnal temperature variations and provides good ventilation that cools the vineyards while the Adriatic contributes a coastal breeze. Primary soils are clay rich interspersed with limestone, sandy with marine deposits and calcareous soils, marls, and rock.

There are an impressive 32,000 hectares of vineyards in the Abruzzo region with the majority of vineyards planted on hills. Abruzzo produces 3.5 million hectoliters of wine each year! And more than one million of these wines are Controlled Designation of Origin. (DOC)  of which approximately 80% are Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. In fact, 58% of all vineyards are planted to Montepulciano with 17,000 hectares under vine.

The map below shows the D.O.C.G. and D.O.C. controlled designations throughout Abruzzo.


Map credit:  GladiatorWine

About 83% of all wine produced in Abruzzo comes from 40 cooperative wineries, with the majority of wine production taking place in Chieti province. The remainder of the wine is produced by private wineries.

Montepulciano is the primary red grape grown in Abruzzo and as noted above, 58% of all vineyards are planted with it.

Photo credit:  Vini D'Abruzzo

Montepulciano wines tend to be rich, complex and medium-bodied with typical flavors of red fruit, plum, dark berries and herbs. It is a versatile grape that can be produced as a simple, fresh un-oaked wine or aged in casks for a more dense and complex wine. Montepulciano also is made as a rosé wine called Cerasuolo (cherry red). Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is refreshing and light-bodied with fresh red fruit aromas and flavors.

As of 2019, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane is the only D.O.C.G. made in Abruzzo with a minimum of 90% Montepulciano. 

Trebbiano is a widely planted white grape grown in Italy. It is the white star of Abruzzo with 14,000 hectares planted. Trebbiano tends to be light and fresh with tropical fruit, citrus flavors and lively acidity.

Other notable white grapes from Abruzzo that are gaining interest are Pecorino, Passerina, Coccocciola and Montonico.

Three samples of Abruzzo wine were recently sent to me and I thought it fitting to include them in my story. I also had the opportunity to taste Codice Citra wines at the seminar.
Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Codice Citra is a collection of family-owned vineyards located in Abruzzo’s Chieti province. It is Abruzzo’s largest winegrowing community with approximately 3,000 families sharing a code of values and respect for nature. Citra was founded in 1973 and has been passed down from generation to generation. The vineyards tend to be small, with some only being one hectare.  Collectively there are 6,000 hectares of vineyards that cover most of the province of Chieti. All their wines are estate grown and bottled. They have an impressive portfolio of wines that includes indigenous and non-native grape varieties.

Citra Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOP 2017 Estate Grown

This pale lemon 100% Trebbiano wine offers a lovely bouquet of floral notes, citrus and a hint of minerality that segue onto the palate with a touch of pineapple. This is a dry, light-bodied and refreshing wine with crisp acidity and citrus zest on the finish. Serve as an aperitif or pair with seafood, light pasta and salads.
Alcohol:  12%
SRP:  $10
Photo credit:  Penny Weiss

 

Citra Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOP 2017 Estate Grown

This is an un-oaked 100% Montepulciano aged in stainless steel tanks for two months and then bottled aged for one month.  The color is dark ruby bordering on purple.  Aromas of ripe berries, spice and anise lead to a palate of concentrated berry flavors, licorice, pepper and chewy tannins.  It is nicely balanced and rather impressive for the cost.  Pair with grilled meat, fowl, hearty stews and pasta.
Alcohol:  13%
SRP:  $10
Photo credit:  Penny Wess

 

Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti IGP 2017 Estate Grown

This 100% Sangiovese is un-oaked and aged in stainless steel tanks for two months and then bottled aged for one month.  The wine is deep ruby with pleasant aromas of cherry, red fruit and a hint of spice.  Sour cherry, plum, savory and notes of fennel and spice permeate the palate with a nicely structured balance of tannins and acidity.  Pair with red meat, white meat, pasta and cheese.
Alcohol:  13%SRP:  $10
Photo credit:  Penny Weiss

There is much to explore in the Abruzzo wine region and I’m just getting started. This story is only an introduction and I will be diving deeper into these expressive and unique wines that are being produced here.

Until next time…

Cheers!

Penny

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