Abruzzo has long been known for wines made from Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (a grape variety which should not be confused with the medieval hill town of Montepulciano in the south of Tuscany) but its reputation, unfortunately, had been forged on the anvils of (i) bulk wine for blending in northern Italy and France and (ii) low-quality producers. In more recent times the world has begun to take notice of the wines of a few high-quality producers (Emidio Pepe, for example) and the region's reputation as a producer of age-worthy wines has begun to take hold.
Abruzzo lies along the Adriatic coast of Italy with three of its four provinces fronting on the sea. The landscape consists of rugged mountains covering 2/3 of the region and rolling hills and river valleys to the south comprising the remainder. While the sea bounds the region to the west, the Apennine and Marella mountain ranges play the same role in the east.
The Abruzzo climate is warm and dry on the coast and continental-like inland. The region is blessed with healthy doses of sunshine and rainfall with most of the rainfall occurring in November post-harvest. The waters of the Adriatic, and cool air blowing down from the mountains, serve as moderating influences on the climate.
The majority of the region's 30, 000 hectares (ha) of vineyards are located in hilly areas with 75% in Chieti, 10% in Pescara, 10% in Teramo, and 4% in L'Aquila. Viticulture in the region continues to be based on the traditional pergola method (85%) but new plantings are almost exclusively row-based.
Over 25 domestic and international grape varieties are cultivated in Abruzzo but the ones with commercial relevance are Montepulciano -- the source of the region's red wines -- and Trebbiano, the contributor to its whites. The Montepulciano variety is characterized by: medium-large pentagon-shaped leaves; thick triangular clusters; and oval-shaped, thick-skinned berries which yield bountiful amounts of deep purple/ruby juice. Trebbiano ( known also as St. Emilion, Ugni Blanc, Clairette Ronde, Thalia, and White Hermitage) is the most planted white grape in Italy and is known for high yields and neutral flavors. The juice is used primarily for brandy in France and as a blending component in Italy but, when used as the primary element, produces a crisp, high-acid wine that is ready for immediate drinking.
The map and table below illustrate the DOCG/DOC level wines that are produced in Abruzzo and the geographic area from which each is drawn. The map shows two "under-denominations" of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo: Terre dei Vestini and Casauria o Terre di Causaria.
The former is 1000 ha in size and is production-limited to 10,000 kilo/ha while the latter is 250 ha and is limited to 9500 kilos/ha. Wines from these two areas must be aged for a minimum of 18 months, of which at least 9 months must be in wood. Riservas must be aged for at least 30 months of which at least 9 months must be in wood.
The production-breakdown of protected wines is as follows:
Montepulciano d'Abruzzo -- 800,000 hl
Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Teramane -- 4000 hl
Controguera -- 4000 hl
Trebbiano -- 192,000 hl
There are a total of 160 entities producing wines in Abruzzo, 40 of which are cooperative wineries, operating mostly in Chieti, that are responsible for 75% of the region's production. The remaining 25% of the production is bottled by 120 companies under their own labels. Standout producers among this lot are Emidio Pepe, Edoardo Valentini, Masciarelli, Illuminati, and Cataldi Madonna.
© Wine -- Mise en abyme