Toasting Abruzzo with Montepulciano & Trebbiano
Founded in 1990 by Roberto Sabatino and Andrea di Properzio, Fattoria La Valentina is located in Spoltore, a village nestled on the Pescara hills in the Abruzzo region. Like most of Southern Italy, Abruzzo has been restoring its historic grape varietals to levels of excellence that the ancient Romans praised two thousand years ago, and La Valentina is at the helm of a group of wineries that are turning out top quality wines from indigenous Montepulciano and Trebbiano varietals.
La Valentina’s winemaker Luca d’Attoma says, as will every winemaker, that excellent wines develop only from superb vineyards. Owner Andrea di Properzio farms with organic and biodynamic methods.” By ensuring that the land remains highly fertile and the plants healthy, they are able to fight off parasites and disease on their own and fully express themselves. In this way, they can produce the healthiest possible grapes of the absolute highest quality.” The Bellovedere hillside vineyard surrounds the winery at Spoltore and is planted with white Trebbiano and red Montepulciano, overlooking the Maiella and Gran Sasso mountains, over 6,600 feet high. The vineyard’s proximity to the sea, forest, and mountains defines the wines made from its terroir, including the Montepulciano Spelt, which in 2005, 2007, and 2008 won the highest Tre Bicchieri award from “Gambero Rosso,” the prestigious Italian wine rating journal, and Bellovedere, which won the award in 2005. The Binomio vineyard is located in San Valentino near the Maiella Mountain, about 20 km from the winery, an area that is hot, dry, and windy in the summer and very cold in winter. This 10-acre vineyard is a joint venture with well-known Venetian winemaker Stefano Inama. The Binomio is planted entirely with Montepulciano. La Bianca is the most recent acquisition in nearby Scafa and comprises 52 acres of Montepulciano, Ciliegiolo and Fiano.
Col del Mondo
Located in Abruzzo, the Col del Mondo estate is situated in the village of Collecorvino in the province of Pescara and was founded in 2001 by three winemakers, Antonio and Vincenzo Mazzocchetti and Francesco Polastri, whose goal was to enhance the wines of Abruzzo and improve their reputation. They devoted resources and efforts to historical research, to studies of land and soil, and to the rediscovery of native vines, especially the red Montepulciano and the whites, Trebbiano and Pecorino. In 2013, Fabrizio Mazzochetti, son of Vincenzo and winemaker from the beginning, became the sole owner. The estate includes nine hectares and is fortunately located 20 kilometers as the crow flies from both the Adriatic Sea and the Apennine Mountains. In the morning, breezes blow from the sea, and in the afternoon cool winds flow from the mountains, ideal conditions for premium vineyards, which require cooling influences to prolong the time that grapes hang on the vine in order to permit flavors to intensify. Another asset of the location is that the soils are rich in sea elements since the sea covered the area at one time.
Italian Wines of the Month
Col del Mondo – 2010 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Sunnae
This delicious Col del Mondo Sunnae, named for the ancient people who inhabited Abruzzo, has plenty of elegant but luscious wild fruit and spice flavors. Harvested from two different vineyards sites, the Collecorvino and the Atri, these Montepulciano vines are 35 to 40 years-old, no doubt one of the reasons that the wine is so tasty. The Sunnae was aged for 12 months in cement tanks, common enough in Italy and catching on among innovative winemakers in California. Cement tanks are slightly porous like wood barrels and allow a very slight and controlled oxidation that smoothes tannins. But unlike oak barrels, cement tanks do not impart any flavor whatsoever. What you taste is pure fruit, a beautiful expression of Montepulciano grapes, altered and enhanced only by fermentation (13.5% alcohol). Enjoy!
Col del Mondo – 2012 Cerasuolo Rosé
Rose is made like most white wine, the juice separated from the skins before fermentation, with the exception that Rosé juice remains on the skins just long enough to soak up a bit of color that can range from the most delicate pink to a translucent red, depending on the preferences of the winemaker and the flavor of the grape, which by the way can be any particular red grape. This Rosé is 100% Montepulciano and shows fresh flavors and great elegance. Like all Rosé, this one is very versatile but with more varietal flavor than most, so you can serve it chilled with just about any menu from salads to barbecued poultry and pork, another stellar wine from Col del Mondo (13% alcohol).
Col del Mondo – 2010 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Kerrias
The Kerrias Montepulciano is named after the goddess, who protected the crops of the ancient Sanniti people that inhabited Abruzzo. But more immediately, the family fondly calls the wine “Uncle” because it is a bit unpredictable in style from year to year but always exceedingly charming, no doubt a reference to a particular family member. We didn’t ask for names. The fruit was harvested from 25 year-old Montepulciano vines and aged for 24 months in French oak barrels, half of which were new so as not to over power the amazing flavors that the wine displays. Deeply colored with aromas that jump from the glass, the nose juggles sweet floral Wisteria with spicy notes, while tannins caress the mouth. Be sure to serve the Karrias at less than 70 degrees, avoiding warmer temperatures that will not show its best (14.5% alcohol).
La Valentina – 2009 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Spelt
This delicious wine is 100 percent Montepulciano with a blend of fruit from the vineyards in Spoltore, San Valentino, and Scafa. Drink the aromas before the actual wine. They’re wonderful. You’ll smell wild berries, violets, and bergamot scents that melt into blackberry, black currant, and hints of cocoa and coffee. The palate shows rich balsamic flavor with an edgy mineral hit. After 18 months in oak barrels, the winemaker chooses a careful selection, then blends and bottles the wine, retaining bottles for an additional year before release from the winery. Serve at cool room temperature with roasted mountain lamb, scented with rosemary and garlic, or with grilled polenta with basil and wild mushrooms.
La Valentina – 2010 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Spelt
With an intense yellow color, this 100% Trebbiano shows a bouquet of flowers, almonds, and herbs as well as suggestions of citrus. The wine is made and then aged for several months in stainless steel tanks without any oak barrel influences that would distract from its pure fruit flavors. The wine is also unfiltered so you might find particles that have fallen out of solution. As a result of this treatment, the Trebbiano Spelt has wonderfully vibrant flavors. Serve chilled.
La Valentina – 2006 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Bellovedere
Located on the estate Bellovedere vineyard, the Montepulciano grapes for this wine were harvested from a two-hectare section of 30 year-old vines. The previous 2005 vintage received the Tre Bicchieri award from Gambero Rosso. The wine was aged in French oak barrels and larger Slovenian oak casks for 18 months and was racked from barrel to barrel during that time to eliminate sediment but was not filtered before bottling. With dense red color, the Bellovedere has lingering aromas of ripe red fruit and hints of spice. The palate is stylish and velvety, almost creamy, but at the same time well balanced with acid and fine tannin structure. The palate has alluring flavors of red berry fruit and rhubarb with a long sweet finish. Decant this wine and serve at temperatures less than 70 degrees (14% alcohol).
Binomio – 2007 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
The Binomio is a collaboration between two old friends, Sabatino di Propersio from La Valentina and Stefano Inama from Inama in the Veneto. Their idea was born of the conviction that Montepulciano is a native Italian grape of extraordinary potential that has not received the recognition that it deserves. The wine is 100% Montepulciano from La Valentina’s Binomio vineyard, a stunning plot of old vine Montepulciano, planted in 1971 with the low-yielding Africa clone. While the grapes are indigenous to Abruzzo, the style mimics famed Amarone from the Veneto although the grapes were fermented in the fall instead of dried through the winter like Amarone. The Binomio was aged in French oak barrels for 15 months and then lightly filtered but not fined. At 15% alcohol, the Binomio has a deep, dense, and intense ruby red color with obvious viscosity. The nose has pronounced ripe black berry, cassis, and spice with intense fruit flavors and great length. I chose to taste it with grilled lamb, an ideal pairing of big complementary flavors. Be sure to decant before serving at temperatures less than 70 degrees (15% alcohol).