Abruzzo is an unheralded region as Italian wine goes; and frankly that’s a shame. Like pretty much every corner of Italy this region that stretches from the Apennine Mountains to the Adriatic Sea, is a real gem. From the historically important port city of Pescara to the hill towns like Colledimezzo and steep rocky mountains of the Apennine. Abruzzo is an incredibly beautiful and bountiful region. It’s a rich tapestry of culture, cuisine and, yep, wine.
Wine making has ancient roots in Abruzzo, where wine growing techniques were brought from Tuscany by the Etruscans. Chieti, the epicenter of the Abruzzo wine culture is the second place in all of Italy to plant wine grapes. Early on a signature wine of the region was a sweetish white wine, that was once believed to have been served to Hannibal and his troops when he crossed the Alps. The region’s signature grape these days is Montepulciano, a hearty red grape, not to be confused with the hill town, or Tuscan wine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which is made from Sangiovese.
The wines of the Niro label are produced in Abruzzo from a cooperative of over 3,000 winemakers, an effort dating to the early 1970s. The aim of the wine is to preserve the region’s winemaking heritage and highlight some of the region’s signature grapes. All while delivering a value drinking experience with a sense of place.
2016 Niro Pecorino Terre Di Chieti, Abruzzo $16
A Pecorino Romano is an Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk, and oddly, it’s a wine named for sheep, but not made from their milk. The Pecorino grape ripens early and is a favorite of the flocks of sheep that have roamed the Chieti hillsides for a long time. Pecorino is a natural food wine, which is not much of a surprise considering the strong traditions of the region and its cuisine. The aromas of ripe apricot, honeysuckle and ripe cantaloupe hint at a wine that is rich in flavor, and the palate obliges but also mixes the fruit flavors with great structure, minerality and an elegance that comes from the acidity.
2016 Niro Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC, Abruzzo $16
Montepulciano D’Abruzzo walks the line between a few different wine styles. It brings forward a dollop of red fruit and spice aromatics just like you might expect from the wines of the not so far neighbor Chianti, but it also bring a ripeness, and almost mocha note to the aromatic party. The lower alcohol makes for a great balanced wine with emphatic black fruit, hints of anise and pepper. There is a rustic authenticity to this wine that communicates both the region’s long standing tradition, and the fact that wine, fruit and traditional winemaking practice don’t need a modern twist to appeal to today’s wine drinkers.