The region of Abruzzo, along the center of Italy’s Adriatic coast is most famous for two DOC’s, both monovarietal wines: the white Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, to which also belongs the Cerasuolo, a rosé style made from the same Montepulciano grape.
While the appellation is a rather vast area of production, covering pretty much the entire region where viticulture is possible, the Italian government bestowed special recognition on the hills around Teramo, the Colline Teramane, in the north, in the form of DOCG status. Over these hills towers the Gran Sasso chain, a series of the highest peaks in the Appennine Mountains. Their presence creates a greater swing in temperature between day and night, while millenia of erosion has given the soil an alluvial, stonier content than found further south. Cooler nights promote brightness and acidity in the wine while the stony soil creates excellent drainage making the roots of the vine have to reach deeper for water, better stabilizing the vines.
The Colline Teramane Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is much brighter in flavor with more acidity, a component very important in pairing wines with Mario’s food here at Babbo. In fact, we are currently featuring a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane on our tasting menu with our pasta maker Domingo’s Pyramids. The wines fresh acidity pairs with the tomato sauce while the rich, dark fruit balances with the braised beef filling.
While whites in the Colline Teramane may take a back seat to the reds, there are never the less some good examples. Trebbiano d’Abruzzo can be good, but the rising star here seems to be the unusually named grape called pecorino. Having nothing to do with sheep, nor cheese, this varietal, in the past, made decidedly acidic whites with little distinction. In recent years however, growers have understood how to coax more ripeness out of the grape and have been making quite interesting wines, some oaked, some not, that display a nutty richness with vibrant citrus and floral notes. The name is believed to have evolved from the fact that the varietal ripens earlier than most other grapes of the region, as the shepherds were herding their sheep into the mountains. The fatigued sheep, seeking nutrients, were difficult to keep out of the vineyards, creating unrest between the grape farmers and the shepherds. Producers to look for in the Colline Teramane include, among others, Orlandi Contucci Ponno, Dino Illuminati (look for his Zanna Riserva), Nicodemi, Monti and Montori.