Abruzzo is an Italian region, east of Rome, with an Adriatic coastline and the Apennine Mountains. National parks and nature reserves cover much of its rugged interior. It also encompasses hilltop towns, dating to the medieval and Renaissance periods. Regional capital L’Aquila is a walled city, damaged in a 2009 earthquake. The Trabocchi Coast, with sandy coves, is named after its traditional wooden fishing piers.
Abruzzo is located in east central Italy stretching from the heart of the Apennines to the Adriatic Sea, and includes mainly mountainous and wild land. The mountainous inland is occupied by a vast plateau including Gran Sasso, at 9,554 ft., the highest peak of the Apennines, and Mount Majella 9,163 ft.
The Abruzzo climates are strongly influenced by the Apennine Mountains, dividing the climate of the coastal and sub-Apennine hills from the interior’s high mountain ranges. The coastal areas have a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and mild winters and rainy hills where temperatures progressively decrease with increasing altitude and precipitation with altitude. Precipitation is also strongly affected by the presence of the Apennines mountain ridges of the region increases with the proportion being more abundant in the field and on the slopes exposed to the west, instead of decreasing towards the east and east-facing slopes. Often the Adriatic coast are sidelined rainfall from the west to the barrier effect of the Apennines undergoing the action of gentle winds descending from it (or Libeccio). The minimum annual rainfall, however, are found in some inland valleys, sheltered from much disturbance to the blocking action of mountain ridges, such as the Peligna Valley, or the valley of the river Tirino, which in some places (Ofena, Capestrano) showed barely 500 millimetres (19.7 inches), and not along the coast where it never falls below 600 millimetres (23.6 inches), for if Teramo is relatively little watered by rain (Teramo less than 800 mm), the metre is exceeded in Chieti, reaching maximum levels in the Adriatic, while between Ortona and Vasto in Costa dei Trabocchi decrease again. The highest rainfall occurs in upland areas on the border with Lazio; they are especially vulnerable to Atlantic disturbances. Around 1,500 to 2,000 millimetres (59 to 79 inches) of precipitation is typical (Pescara in 2010 showed a value close to 2800 mm)
Wine & Winemaking
Despite the mountainous region of Abruzzo having only half of the vineyard land of regions like Tuscany, the region still produces more than 22 million cases of wine annually. This is partly because of the high permitted yields of Abruzzo’s main DOC region (as much as 100 hectoliters/hectare) as well as the government mandated use of high-producing tendone vine-training systems installed in the 1970s. Particularly on the fertile hillsides and plain of the southern Chieti province, vineyards warmed by the dry Adriatic breezes during the summer can produce prodigious yields. Of all the provinces in Italy, Chieti is the fifth largest producer of wine in Italy.
The dominant varieties of the region are the red Montepulciano (grape) and the white Trebbiano d’Abruzzo grape which was once considered a clone of the “insipid” Trebbiano Toscano. Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is thought not to be a version of Trebbiano at all, but the southern Italian white grape Bombino bianco. Both Trebbiano Toscano and Bombino bianco are still widely planted in Abruzzo with field blends including all 3 varieties labeled as Trebbiano d’Abruzzo still common.
The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grape has no known relationship to the Tuscan wine village of Montepulciano or the Sangiovese grape behind the wines of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, it is not known how the dominant grape of Abruzzo took the name of the Renaissance era Tuscan town.
Nearly 80% of all the wine in the Abruzzo region is produced by large co-operative wineries with the four largest – Cantina Tollo, Casal Thaulero, Casal Bordino and Citra – dominating wine production in the region. These large co-ops also sell wine to other Italian and French wine regions where they are used for blending.
In the late 20th and early 21st century, there has been a trend away from the co-operatives towards growers starting their own boutique or artisanal wineries. Widely grown throughout Abruzzo and central Italy (and believed by some to be indigenous to the region), Montepulciano is the fifth most widely planted red grape variety in Italy – behind Sangiovese, Barbera, Merlot, and Negroamaro. In Abruzzo, it is the principal grape behind the DOC wine Montepulciano d’Abruzzo where the grape is noted for producing darkly colored, tannic wines with low acidity, and some aging potential.
While Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is produced in all four provinces of Abruzzo, nearly two-thirds comes from the Chieti province though many of the more critically acclaimed versions come from the lower yields and less fertile ferrous clay and limestone vineyards of the northern Teramo and Pescara provinces.
In the Controquerra DOC stretched out among five communes near the Marche border in northern Abruzzo, a novello style wine is produced from grapes that at least 30% of which has undergone carbonic maceration (a technique used in the French wine region of Beaujolais for the wine Beaujolais nouveau). This produces a very fruity wine with low tannins that can be consumed soon after the vintage.
The major white wine of the region is produced by the Trebbiano d’Arbuzzo, and Trebbiano Toscano grapes (the later is often labeled simply Trebbiano. These wines tend to be low in extract and acidity with faint aromatics that can be lightly floral. However, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo tends to be much more complex when compared to Trebbiano Toscano. When produced with some oak, and often blended with Chardonnay, the wines have been noted to have a creamy richness with pear and apple flavors and slight oxidized notes of caramel and nuts.
Abruzzo has approximately 30,000 hectares of vineyards planted in the region, with roughly half devoted to DOC production.
The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC was created in 1968 as a red/rosé wine only DOC that covers 7,500 hectares throughout Abruzzo. The wines are made from at least 85% Montepulciano with Sangiovese permitted up to 15%. In the sub-zones of Casauria and Terre dei Vestini the wines must be made from 100% Montepulciano. The wines must be aged a minimum of 5 months prior to release. Wines labeled as Vecchio aged at least two years in wood such as oak barrels. Rosés made under the same DOC requirements as the reds (grape varieties, harvest yield and alcohol level) are labeled as Cerasuolo meaning “cherry-red”.
There are many other DOCs in Abbruzzo and many have the same types of sub-zones which allow for difffering combinations of grapes to produce a specific wine.