From east-central Abruzzo, north to east-central Marche is not a well-travelled stretch of earth by nearly anyone’s estimation. The largest city in either region – which by the way happens to be the coastal Abruzzese city of Pescara – doesn’t even crack 150,000 inhabitants. This is still a largely rural, hilly region that must still hold a thousand ancient secrets, and up until a short time ago the Pecorino grape variety was poised to become one of them.
It seems very likely once upon a time that this shy-bearing variety was cultivated all over central Italy, but by the 1960s , but for a few tiny coddled parcels here and there, many of the surviving examples of Pecorino were found growing semi-wild or languishing in old, abandoned vineyards. Italy’s rapid post WW II industrialization for a time seeped into winemaking, and “difficult” cultivars like Pecorino are always the first to go…
Thankfully, this big, bold, and slightly odd ancient grape (which derives its name not from the eponymous cheese, but from the resemblance of the shape of the vine’s fruit clusters to sheep’s tails) has lately benefitted from numerous modern farming and cellar methods, allowing it to somewhat escape its reputation as local rarity.
And now that Pecorino has been unleashed on the market, if you ever run intoone, you’re not likely to forget the encounter. This is a grape that can produce a drink that can outsize many a New World Chardonnay, showing an exotic and dense bittersweet fruit and intense minerality, all without the aid of oak…
This big white wanted big local food to dance with, and so it got: spaghetti with garlic, onion, olive oil, red pepper, and parsley, and then baccala` all’ Abruzzese: a heady baked casserole of potatoes, salt cod, celery, porcini mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, etc. with some chewy bread to go with it.
Valle Martello Pecorino “Brado” Terre di Chieti IGT 2010
Bright medium gold color with a slight greenish tinge. Big and intese nose of apricots, papaya, lemon curd, fried dough, dried sweet flowers, and medicinal herbs. The palate is immediately minerally, weighty, round, smooth, and viscous, but with a great balancing acidity at the core, and rich and intense flavors of apple sauce, roasted corn, quince, and candied citron. The finish is quite long and fresh with lingering notes of quinine.