Abruzzo: Getting To Know The Pecorino Grape

Abruzzo - Pettorano sul Gizio @Chris Cutler

One of the highlights of the Wine Media Conference was learning about Abruzzo and the Pecorino grape. Abruzzo is a region in the southern portion of Italy, approximately 80 miles east of Rome. It borders on another wine region, Marche just to the north and the Adriatic Sea on the east. Spanning from the Apennine Mountains in the north to the Adriatic Sea, Abruzzo is known as the greenest area in Europe due to its numerous national parks. The area is home to three National Parks, one regional park, and 38 protected nature reserves. Its landscapes are Italy’s best-hidden secret.

Abruzzo is also known for its wine, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a red grape that defines the area. Other grape varieties include Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, Pecorino, Passerina, Cococciola, Montonico, Moscatello, and Malvasia. For the purpose of this article, I will be discussing the white grape, Pecorino.

Abruzzo ©Chris Cutler
Abruzzo. Photo Courtesy of Chris Cutler.

Pecorino The Cheese Or The Grape

When thinking of Pecorino, most people think of the Pecorino Romano, a hard cheese often used for grating. The cheese comes from sheep’s milk. Pecorino means “of sheep.” It is also the name of a white Italian indigenous grape. There is no connection between the Pecorino grape and the cheese. The grape, an old variety, probably got its name because it grows in the mountains where sheep grazed. As sheep came down the mountain, they would nimble on the grapes as they moved through the vineyards.

Pecorino Grape

The Pecorino grape is early to ripen and produces low yields. The variety predominately grows in Marche, but it can be found in the Chieti, Pescara, and Teramo provinces of Abruzzo. In Marche, the Offida Pecorino is a DOCG wine. In other areas, it is a DOC wine.

I first sampled Pecorino at a luncheon with Velenosi in 2018. My notes at the time stated, “The Villa Angela Pecorino DOCG 2017, our first wine, Pecorino represents an indigenous grape named after a type of cheese produced in the Offida region of Marche. The wine ferments and ages in stainless steel for three months on the lees, giving the wine creamy qualities. With briny and salty influences from the sea, the wine displays flavors of lemon and honey.”

Velenosi Villa Angela Pecorino DOCG
Velenosi Villa Angela Pecorino DOCG

Abruzzo Soils and Climate

The Apennines mountain range provides storm protection for the vineyards. The Adriatic Sea’s influence brings a Mediterranean climate. Most of the soils consist of clay, sand, and gravel. In the inland areas, Marly soils are found.

Abruzzo Wines

During the seminar presented by Consorzio Tutelo Vini d’Abruzzo at the Wine Media Conference, we sampled four Pecorino wines from Abruzzo.

Barone di Valforte 2020: The grapes for this wine grow organically in calcareous soils. The wine ferments in stainless steel. The wine exhibits salinity, and although there is no oak, the aromas include an oaky quality. I found lemon and citrus flavors.

Torra del Beati “Giocheremo con I Fiori” 2020: The soils consist of clay-limestone on a sandy sublayer. The wine ferments in tank and aged six months on sur lies in steel tanks. This wine exhibits bright florals. Again I found lots of salinity with savory flavors.

AgriCosimo 2020: The 20-year-old vines grow in soils of sand and limestone. The wine ferments in tank, followed by aging three months in stainless steel. The wine undergoes full malolactic.

Cascina del Colle Aimé 2020: Organically grow, the wine ferments and ages for four months in stainless steel. Like the other Pecorinos, I found salinity yet a spicy finish. This wine was a favorite.

Abruzzo Wines with Pecorino Grape
Abruzzo Wines

Based on these wines, the Pecorino grape grown in Abruzzo has a consistent saline quality.

Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received a hosted wine samples. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.

Featured Photo: Abruzzo – Pettorano sul Gizio. Photo Courtesy of Chris Cutler.