Posted by: tomciocco | August 5, 2011

PECORINO SPLITS THE HERD

The Italian peninsula, from the Alps to the southern shores of the Mediterranean, is thickly spattered with rare and endangered grape cultivars. We find them in various states of  “un-domestication”: from the ultra-obscure varieties that have been identified as genetically unique, but yet have no known name, and exist perhaps only in some biodiversity nursery, right up to varieties like Pecorino which has won enough champions who have succeeded in reviving it, and are even fostering its expansion…

Though today Pecorino is cultivated almost exclusively in Marche (primarily), and northern Abruzzo (this wine’s from Abruzzo), this grape was once grown fairly broadly in neighboring Umbria, Lazio, and Puglia as well, but as the economic need for quantity trumped the desire for quality, this shy-bearing variety, like so many others, was as broadly abandoned in favor of less labor intensive, more reliable, but typically less interesting varieties…

“So what’s with the name?” some will surely ask, they of course being familiar with this grape’s namesake in the context of cheese not wine. And indeed, the word “pecorino” has at its root the word “pecora” (PEH-co-ra) meaning “sheep”. Etymological tales vary, but the most common one is that the vine’s grape bunches resemble the form of a sheep’s tail. That said, and perhaps only coincidentally, Pecorino the wine and Pecorino the cheese are a GREAT pairing…

So, I concocted a “menu’ abruzzesco” (sort-of Abruzzo-style) of a chilled salad of potatoes, peppers, onion, olives, and tuna, and then crepes (called “scripelle” in Abruzzo) stuffed and rolled with shredded yellow squash, ricotta, pecorino (winky dinky), and parsley, sauced with a sieved fresh (Jersey) tomato/basil/cream sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cataldi Madonna  Terre Aquilane Pecorino “Giulia” I.G.T. 2010

Pale, bright “white gold”  color. Tidy aromas of green apple, pear nectar, almond milk, lemon curd, celery seed, sake, and kerosene. The medium-full-bodied palate offers clean and punchy flavors of grapefruit, peach, lime, and chopped herbs in a big, chalky,  firm, and round structure pierced by a fresh and snappy acidity. Wonderful bitterish, zesty finish.

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