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ItalyAbruzzo

A mountainous region in central Italy with a significant coastline on the Adriatic sea to the south of Marche and an important producer of wine (see map under italy). Abruzzo is fifth among Italy’s regions in terms of production, with a total output of just under 4 million hl/105 million gal in 2004.

Despite the presence of one of Italy’s better red grape varieties montepulciano d’Abruzzo, despite the warm climate, and despite favourable vineyard sites where the hills descend towards the Adriatic and enjoy the benefits of summer heat and solar radiation from the sea, most of the region’s production is undistinguished—even if close to a sixth of the region’s production is doc. The DOCs themselves are not particularly well conceived, with excessively generous production limits—100 hl/ha (5.7 ton/acre) for Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and over 120 hl/ha for Trebbiano d’Abruzzo—and little attempt to define suitable subzones for the varieties. In addition, the regional authorities virtually compelled growers in the 1970s to use the tendone system of training when replanting their vineyards (by withholding subsidies otherwise), which promoted quantity wildly in excess of quality.

In spite of this rickety legislative framework, some good wine is produced in Abruzzo. Fine, often keenly priced Montepulciano has long been produced in such townships as Brecciarola, Città Sant’Angelo, Controguerra, Loreto Aprutino, Tocco da Casauria, Torano Nuovo, and Vasto. The Montepulciano grape was once openly (now clandestinely) prized as a blending wine in the north of Italy, particularly in Toscana, Veneto, and Piemonte. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is generally produced in two styles: a young, quaffing style, robustly fruity and best drunk in its first two years; and a more serious, almost Syrah-like style, where the wildness of the fruit is often tempered by a bit of oak. Regardless of style, the wine frequently has a detectable animal quality to it, which can range from the attractively ‘sweaty saddle’ to the intolerably gamey. This reductive character, probably caused by the high level of phenolics in the variety’s skins, could easily be tamed with a bit of care in the winery, but such care is sadly lacking in many wineries in the region.

An attempt to redeem the image of Montepulciano has been made with the introduction in 2003 of docg for Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane, for Montepulciano grown in the hills in the area around Teramo in the northern part of Abruzzo.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, mentioned as a wine of high quality by Cervantes in his Novelas ejemplares, is more complex. The best wines are not made from Trebbiano at all but rather from the bombino of Puglia, while the great, dreary majority is made from high-yielding Trebbiano Toscano. Better Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is a pleasurable, if not memorable, wine, but in the hands of Edoardo Valentini, who combines low yields with a severe selection in the cellar, and ferments and ages his wine entirely in wood, it is one of Italy’s most distinctive dry white wines.

 

References:

Robinson, Jancis, The Oxford Companion to Wine (New York, 1999).
Bastianich, J., Lynch, D.Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy (New York, 2002).

Belfrage, N.From Brunello to Zibibbo: The Wines of Southern Italy (London, 2001).

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