“You may have the universe if I may have … Abruzzo?”
I’m rewriting a charming quote by Giuseppe Francesco Verdi, the famous 19th century composer who left us with Rigoletto, Il Trovatore and La Traviata among other great operas.
Verdi actually ends the aforementioned quote with the word “Italy”, but I don’t think he’d be upset with the change.
Abruzzo is one of Italy’s most majestic provinces, stretching from the beautiful coast along the Adriatic Sea in the east to the highest peaks of the Apennine Mountain range in the west.
In between is the “greenest region in Europe”, according to numerous travel publications and journalists.
Nearly a third of Abruzzo’s geographic land mass is comprised of three national parks and 38 natural wildlife preserves where the continent’s rarest animals and birds live in government-protected areas.
And the wine? Fantastic.
This is the land of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (red) and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (white), two native varietals that are Abruzzo’s No. 1 and No. 2 most widely planted grapes, respectively.
The varietals have captured the hearts and palates of wine lovers dating back to the first Etruscans who planted vines in this central Italian province over 1,000 years ago.
And while Abruzzi winemakers don’t get a whole lot of attention on the wine Richter scale compared to northern neighbors in Tuscany and Piedmont, their wines are of the highest quality. Abruzzo has three DOC- and one DOCG-designated appellations – the latter for top-rated Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane wines.
Also, the region’s rosato wines – under the Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC designation – are recognized as among Italy’s best.
The secret to Abruzzo wines is freshness coupled with minerality.
For those seeking an introduction to these hard-to-find wines, Atilia Winery of Mentepulciano has produced two wines using organic grapes that will wet your whistle. The Jasci family has run the farm for three generations and is a leader in sustainable farming practices and crafting natural wines.
Atilia’s 2019 Montepuliciano d’Abruzzo DOC red ($16.99) and 2020 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC white ($17.99) come in 1-liter, screwtop bottles. That means you get an extra glass of wine in each 33.8-ounce bottle compared to a 750 ml. bottle (25.36 ounces).
I tried Atilia’s medium-bodied red wine first.
It’s got a good look in the glass – dark crimson color – and is mildly aromatic in floral and wild brush notes. The taste is juicy and ample, delivering sweet cherry and wild berry flavors interlaced with a tangy orange rind. The finish is nice and smooth. A subtle saline minerality adds a bit of length to the finish.
Atilia Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (13% alcohol) is not a complex wine like the more structured, intense DOCG versions from Colline Teraname. However, it provides wholesome drinking pleasure and is a good companion to a host of simple pasta dishes, meatball and chicken parmesan sandwiches, pizza and antipasto. You can even put a little chill on it and enjoy it on hot summer days on the patio with finger foods.
Atilia Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (13.5% alcohol) is a splendid drink for those seeking a new taste from an every-day wine. It’s a mix of 85% Trebbiano and 15% Biancolella, another native grape grown in Abruzzo.
Whether or not organic grapes make the difference or not, I was pleasantly surprised by the “clean” characteristics emanating from the glass with each whiff and sip. White flowers and jasmine were prominent on the nose; peach, apricot and lemon citrus flowed brightly on the tongue. Trebbiano is an original when it comes to flavor.
While Trebbiano is traditionally considered a light-bodied wine, Atilia’s 2020 version felt a bit weightier, if not creamier than others tasted at this quality level.
I hate to pick on Chardonnay drinkers, but there is more to la bella vita than sitting around and tasting the same oaked and unoaked versions that keep rising in price. I love Chardonnay too, but Trebbiano offers a welcome respite at a greatly reduced cost.
Both Atilia wines are available at The Wine ConneXtion in Andover, selling for $16.99 each.
Another decent option is the popular Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo that is selling for $19 and is widely available in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.