Learning the various wine making regions of Italy can be quite daunting. I'm neither a sommelier (I can barely spell the word) nor do I have the nose or palate for a string of long descriptors that impress those that know wine.
But I've been enjoying going to seminars hosted by the various wine making regions of the world when they come to Chicago.
Just last week, I attended a walk around on Alsatian wines sponsored by Wines of Alsace USA and a seminar/tasting on the wines from Abruzzo, a region north and east of Rome on the central part of the coast which overlooks the Adriatic Sea.
The climate of Abruzzo is mild in the area on the Adriatic-facing side of the Apennines and more continental in the inland basins. Overall the advantages of good rainfall and high levels of sunlight combine with a generally mild climate.
The imposing Gran Sasso and Majella mountains located a short distance from the sea (30-40 minutes by car) generate sharp temperature changes between day and night which, together with good ventilation, ensure an ideal microclimate for the vines to grow and produce extraordinarily high-quality grapes.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is the most representative of the regional culture of wine. It's a red wine that's not heavy and has a brace of friendly acidity. I found these wines to be more approachable than the ones that come from Tuscany and are trying to compete with Parker-influenced wines from California. 80% of the wine produced in the Abruzzo DOC is Montepulciano.
The most popular white grape of the region is Pecorino. The wines made from this grape that I tried were full bodied, fruity but light and had the type of acidity that makes them easy to pair with food especially on summer picnics and backyard BBQs.
Overall, I was most impressed by how even the quality of wines I tried were. While in the shadow of other better known regions such as Tuscany, Chianti, and Piedmont, Abruzzo can effectively compete and offer something that is quite different. It will take time for American consumers to warm up to the names of the grapes since they are unfamiliar.
But once they do, I think the wines of this region will become more readily available and enjoyed both at home and in finer dining establishments. And I look forward to that time!