I invite you on a journey... as my beloved Franco Battiato sang, to a country, or rather a splendid region: l'Abruzzo. I find this song, so sweet and melancholic, perfect to describe its places, populated not only by wines from Abruzzo that deserve to be known (by the way, here you will find a splendid vertical of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva I did at Vinitaly 2022!) and tasty food that you remember years later, but above all by extraordinary people, balanced between consolidating the work inherited from their family and the desire to make their own contribution to innovate and grow.

I invite you to the journey
In that country that looks so much like you
The languid suns of its clouded skies
They have for my spirit the charm of your eyes
When they shine dimmed
Over there, everything is order and beauty
Calm and voluptuousness
The world falls asleep in a warm light
Of hyacinth and gold
Wandering vessels sleep lazily
Arriving from all borders
To fulfil your desires

Franco Battiato

I think this track is the mirror of Abruzzo because in every corner of this region you can breathe Italy and the pride of Made in Italy. Abruzzo shines with its riches, but it is also tired of not occupying the place it deserves in the Italian wine scene. I barely catch a glimpse of its wines in that thick fog of expensive blazons and noisy bins, and yet, for me, they have the charm of the eyes of those men and those women of wine who speak of it with the fiercest of passions. And if even the wine world often does not see them because it is wrapped up in its reassuring habits, there are journalists, bloggers and sector operators who have come from all over to experience the wine and food Abruzzo and tell its story.

Abruzzo wines

Abruzzo wines: my food and wine factsheet

This is first and foremost a didactic wine blog dedicated to aspiring sommeliers, so I will show you why this land is extraordinary not only for producing wine, but also for experiencing unforgettable moments with my 'usual' regional board.

Abruzzo wines: the climate

In summary...

  • Temperaturesmild climate on the Apennine slopes facing the Adriatic Sea; continental climate in inland areas. 
  • RainfallThe northern and central part has widespread rainfall throughout the year. The southern part is affected by periods of drought. On the coasts, from north to south, there is always little rain.

Abruzzo weather: temperatures & rainfall

Abruzzo is divided by the mountains - which occupy most of the territory - into two zones: an inland zone occupied by the province of L'Aquila and a coastal zone occupied by the remaining provinces. As you can easily guess, temperatures are very different between these two zones. The coastal zone has a Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild, not very rainy winters. The inland area has a continental climate with hot summers and cold winters, with rainfall and snowfall increasing the higher you go.

Abruzzo wines

Abruzzo wines: soils

In summary...

  • Western Abruzzomountainous, limestone terrain, karst phenomena.
  • Eastern AbruzzoHilly, clay soils with sandstones and sands.

Western Abruzzo

Western Abruzzo is the inland area, characterised by limestone soils that provide great finesse and minerality to white wines made from riesling grapes.

Eastern Abruzzo

Eastern Abruzzo is the coastal area, mostly hilly and with only 1% of plain. Here, the clay, iron and siliceous soils 'guarantee' the production of quality wines.

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Abruzzo wines: the grape varieties

In summary...

  • White berrychardonnay, coccocciola, grechetto, malvasia bianca di Candia, malvasia bianca lunga, manzoni bianco, montonico, passerina, pecorino, regina, riesling, riesling italico, trebbiano abruzzese, trebbiano toscano.
  • Black berry: aglianico, barbera, canaiolo nero, ciliegiolo, dolcetto, maiolica, merlot, montepulciano, pinot nero, sangiovese.
  • Grey berrypinot grigio, aromatic traminer.

In the photo below, the beautiful sea-view vineyards of the Fontefico farm in the Gulf of Vasto.

Abruzzo wines

Abruzzo wines: areas and key wines

In summary...

  • Teramanoclayey-siliceous soils and a particularly favourable microclimate give Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOCG and Controguerra DOC.
  • Peligna ValleyMontepulciano d'Abruzzo DOC and Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo DOC of great depth, with very floral aromas. The famous white wine Trebbiano d'Abruzzo DOC has a particular bitter taste here.

Abruzzo wines: Teramo

The Teramo area produces Abruzzo's only DOCG, namely Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG, and Controguerra DOC, as shown on the map below that I drew.

Abruzzo wines: the Peligna Valley

The beautiful Peligna Valley (also known as Conca di Sulmona) is the area of choice for the production of Trebbiano d'Abruzzo. It is a plateau located at an average height of about 400 metres above sea level that occupies an area of 100 square kilometres and originated from the slippage of the surrounding mountains.

Abruzzo wines map

Abruzzo wines: Sub-zones, DOCG & DOC

In summary...

[R]: Red; [B]: White; [T]: Rosé; [S]: Sparkling or Frizzante; [*]: Ongoing

  • DOCGMontepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Teramane [R], Terre Tollesi or Tullum [R,B,S].
  • DOC: Abruzzo [R,B,T,S], Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo [T], Controguerra [R,B,T,S], Montepulciano d'Abruzzo [R] (Subzones: Terre di Casauria, Terre dei Vestini), Ortona [R,B], Trebbiano d'Abruzzo [B], Villamagna [R].

Abruzzo wines: Montepulciano

Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is a wine with interesting ageing potential that, for me, tends to be consumed too young. The photo below shows the splendid vertical tasting of Zaccagnini that I did at Vinitaly 2022 (thanks again for the invitation!) which covered no less than 6 vintages from 2005 to 2017. If you would like to read an in-depth study dedicated to this wine from Abruzzo that also includes some insights into the grape variety, the wine and the climate, I recommend reading this article.

Abruzzo riesling best wine star 2018

Abruzzo wines: Riesling

I'm sure that when you think of Abruzzi wines, you don't think of riesling... and in fact I had never thought of riesling either until I tasted a riesling from the L'Aquila area that was truly portentous! In fact, it all comes about because when one thinks of Abruzzo, one often forgets its altitudes and tends to consider only the coastal strip or, at most, the hills. I remember the first sip of Castel Simoni's Riesling La Lupa Bianca: exactly four years have passed and I still remember it! Notes of hydrocarbons, flint and aromatic herbs were the background to a savoury and balanced taste... (here you can read an in-depth review of this and other wines tasted at Best Wine Star 2018).

Abruzzo wines Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Zaccagnini

Abruzzo wines: Typical dishes & wine-food pairings

In summary...

  • Appetisers: scapece alla vastese (blue fish fried and then dipped in a mixture of vinegar and saffron that gives it its characteristic golden yellow colour); spur anchovies (fried anchovies); L'Aquila-style gravy (ox marrow omelette, fresh cream and saffron); raw baby squid in oil, mule dicks (Campotosto mortadella actually has nothing to do with Bologna or Prato mortadella, as it is a raw sausage more reminiscent of salami and consists of a central bar of lard around which a minced pork meat dressed with cinnamon and other spices rotates).
  • First: fregnacce served with beef, pork and lamb sauce and plenty of grated pecorino cheese; scripelle 'mbusse (rolled omelettes served with a light chicken broth); Teramo-style timbale (layers of puff pastry topped with sauce, fried meatballs, mozzarella and baked in the oven); spaghetti all'Amatriciana (born in Amatrice and later becoming a symbol of Roman cuisine); maccheroni alla chitarra (square spaghetti) seasoned with mixed meat sauce; virtues (soup with both fresh and dried pulses, vegetables, herbs, beef patties, pork rinds, bones, pigs' feet and ears salted, and various types of short pasta, including egg and stuffed pasta).
  • Seconds: arrosticini (cubes of mutton skewered and barbecued), cooked sheep (sheep stew with herbs and spices cooked in a pot for many hours), salt cod Abruzzi style (cod floured and fried with fried onions, potatoes and olives all drowned in tomato sauce), delicious (layers of baked potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and courgettes), lamb torcinelli (lamb gut or endive leaves filled with mixed lamb and kid offal, pecorino cheese, lard, spices and cooked over embers).
  • Sweets: bocconotti of Castel Frantano (short pastry tartlets filled with chocolate, cinnamon and almonds and plenty of icing sugar); cicerchiata (balls of dough made of flour, eggs, butter, sugar and liqueur fried in lard, drained and mixed with melted honey, which, as it cools, creates a homogeneous texture); mostaccioli of Scanno (biscuits filled with almonds and cooked must and covered with a chocolate icing); lactacid (a pudding made of milk, eggs and sugar similar to the Romagna-style latte brûlé); L'Aquila soft chocolate nougat (very very soft hazelnut nougat with cocoa, honey and vanilla).

With this selection of typical dishes and the appellations and wines I have described in the previous paragraph, you can play around to create delicious territorial pairings. To do so, I recommend you consult this article on the AIS food and wine pairing chart.

Abruzzo wines Abruzzo cuisine

Abruzzo cuisine: my diary of memories

Cicolana

Cicolana is a pork liver, heart and tongue sausage with little lean meat and fat added. There are two versions: one flavoured with chilli, pepper and garlic, and one called 'sweet liver' flavoured with pepper, honey and oranges. It goes well with an aromatic and structured white wine such as Riesling made in L'Aquila.

Macaroni alla chitarra with meatball sauce

When I was in my first year at university in Bologna I had a classmate from Abruzzo named Maria. I would say that she was one of my closest friends at university, so much so that when I ran away from Civil Engineering to go into Construction Engineering she 'followed' me not only to Ravenna, but even to the flat in the historic centre of Ravenna, in the Tomba di Dante area, next to mine (let's face it: we had parents who could afford it...). When I think of Abruzzese cuisine, an image immediately comes to mind of her cooking meatball sauce and me, who had never eaten it and could not understand how one could make a sauce with meatballs! Well... it was really delicious! The beef meatballs are fried and then added to the tomato sauce. a tasty first course that calls for a full-bodied rosé wine such as Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo DOC. 

Arrosticini alla brace

Arrosticini are skewers of cubes of sheep meat with a wild, smoky flavour that go well with a structured, intense and harmonious red wine such as a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOCG. I love unwrapping that warm foil wrapper and being enraptured by their intense perfume....

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Abruzzo wines osteria il grottino arrosticini

And with these wonderful arrosticini I ate at theOsteria il Grottino in Città Sant'Angelo... a village of a beauty that stole my heart and to which I cannot wait to return!

I hope, as always, that you enjoyed this educational article and found it useful... good luck with your sommelier exam!

Cheers 🍷

Chiara

P.S. I greet you with an emotional video that deserves to be seen (I have watched it three times in a row, it is so beautiful!).

In the cover photo Emperor Campan enchanted place that mountaineer F. Maraini found similar to Phari Dzong, in Tibet, and called it "Little Tibet"term still used today. For the photo we thank A. Passerini.

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