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The Abruzzi (a.k.a. Abruzzo) region of Italy is situated halfway up the “boot,” facing the Adriatic Sea to the east and the Appenine mountains to the west. Though on a map the area looks to be centrally located, it is has historically been considered part of the southern territory. The name derives from Listitieratu Aprutii, the name chosen by 12th century Emperor Frederick I, who founded the Kingdom of Southern Italy. Territorial claim passed through the centuries from Spain to Austria and then Napoleon’s French empire, ending in 1860 with Giuseppe Garibaldi’s victory that finally united Italy.
But let’s time travel a bit back to the Etruscan era around 6th century BC. Polytheism begs for wine, and there was much of it flowing in ancient Abruzzi. The vineyards were concentrated mainly in the Peligna Valley near what is now modern day L’Aquila. One of the favored wines was a sweet Moscato-based wine called Apianae. It has been said that soldiers in Hannibal’s army were very keen on Abruzzo wine from Teramo, then known as Pretuzi.
However, throughout all the previously mentioned territorial struggles, Abruzzi viticulture was pretty much sidelined until recently. Granted, Abruzzi has been regarded as a great source of “plonk” wine, and a lot of it is shipped to other parts of the world for blending purposes. But wine-makers have taken cues from the evolving global crave for high quality production and are producing with much more focus. Given all of its complicated history, the region has morphed into a very simple, yet prolific wine industry, with only four DOC’s and one DOCG, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane.
Incidentally, here Montepulciano is the grape, whereas in Tuscany, it’s not the grape but the place (Vino Nobile di Montepulciano). General rule: if you see Montepulciano as the first word in a label name, it’s the grape, and probably from Abruzzo. If it’s the last, it’s probably made from Sangiovese and refers to the place in central Italy.
Montepulciano here is the signature red grape, that comprises the aforementioned DOCG as well as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. The latter is a lighter, elegant, more perfumed style of the wine as a rosato. Trebbiano is the signature white grape for Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC. Controguerra DOC is the newest, giving props to production of international varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling as well as Amabile, Ciliegolo, Malvasia, Pecorino and Passerina. Passito wines are produced here from dried Montepulciano grapes, with some percentage of others in the blend. There are also frizzante and spumante sparkling wines from Trebbiano and other white grapes. ~Amanda Schuster
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