A Taste of Abruzzo from Codice Citra

Today’s cellar note brings you a taste of Abruzzo, an Italian wine region located in the central part of the country along the Adriatic Sea. If you think of Italy as shaped like a boot, Abruzzo is located just below the calf of the boot. Marche lies to the north, Lazio to the west and Molise to the south. We received two wines as tasting samples both of which are made by Codice Citra using grape varieties indigenous to Abruzzo.

Researching the wine we drink (as well as the region and producer) is nearly as much fun as drinking them. In the case of Abruzzo the volume of information is slim, but I found two excellent resources: Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible and a detailed, online article written by Ian D’Agata for Antonio Galloni’s Vinous publication. Ian’s book, Native Wine Grapes of Italy, provides detailed information on both of the grape varieties included in this tasting.

Abruzzo (you will also see it called Abruzzi) is a sunny region that is mountainous in the interior where it enjoys more of a continental climate (cool summer temperatures with snow in winter). Along the coast, the climate is Mediterranean with less extreme variation summer to winter. The highest point in Abruzzo is the Gran Sasso massif at 9560 feet above sea level and most vineyards are planted in the hilly parts of the region above 2000 feet in elevation. 

The soils are as complex as the topography with limestone, sandy flysch and marly-clay soils in the hilly areas. Soils tend toward gravel and alluvial deposits in the low elevation areas along the coastline. 

Abruzzo is known for four main grape varieties: Montepulciano, Pecorino, Trebbiano Abruzzese and Passerina. We are tasting the first two varieties today and I refer you to Native Wine Grapes of Italy for details on the other two varieties.

Most wine in the region is made by cooperatives. Codice Citra is one such cooperative, which gathers grapes from 3000 family plots (some as small as two acres) to its nine wineries in the Chieti province. A staff of agronomists and enologists consult on the nearly 15000 acres of vines and oversee winemaking.

2017 Codice Citra Ferzo Pecorino Terre di Chieti IGP

2017 Codice Citra Ferzo Pecorino Terre di Chieti IGP crisp yellow in the glass with generous aromas of white flowers, roses, ripe melon and crushed granite. Flavors of ripe melon, dried oat hay, citrus and hints of white flowers are lifted by juicy acidity. A lingering crushed granite flavor is appealing in this medium-bodied white wine. Flavors last a long time. 13% abv. SRP $26

This lively, flavorful white wine is a standout among the white wines we’ve tasted this year. We kept sipping and tasting this wine over several days and it continued to please.

100% Pecorino is gently pressed, followed by cold maceration and fermentation in stainless steel where the wine ages for three months before being bottled.

In Italian, ferzo refers to a piece of fabric that is sewn together with others to make a sail. In the case of the Ferzo range of wines the reference is appropriate to describe the patchwork of vineyards planted to indigenous varieties that are the source for these wines.

Pecorino, according to Ian D’Agata, was named for the sheepherders who ate the grapes while tending their flocks throughout the many valleys where it was planted. I’ve also read it was the sheep that loved eating the grapes. Either way, the name always makes me think of the sheep’s cheese of the same name, which is one of my favorites. Pecorino is found in Marche, Abruzzo, Lazio, Tuscany and Umbria.

D’Agata goes on to note that it is just within the past 15 years that Pecorino has been used to make varietal wines. He acknowledges a producer in Marche and one in Abruzzo for making the first, very high quality varietal wines using Pecorino. 

2013 Codice Citra Caroso Riserva Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC

2013 Codice Citra Caroso Riserva Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC —  dense ruby in the glass with generous aromas of black and red fruit along with tobacco. The aromas follow into the flavor profile along with licorice, dark earth, nice acidity and grippy tannins in a medium body. 14% abv. SRP $26 (estimate)

This bold red wine has plenty of flavor and tannins without being at all over ripe. It is interesting and complex and just begging to be paired with braised lamb shanks or a grilled ribeye.

Montepulciano grapes are hand harvested from vineyards located in the southeast part of Chieti province. The grapes go through an extended maceration at controlled temperature with pump overs during fermentation. The wine is racked into stainless steel tanks to complete malolactic fermentation before aging for 24 to 36 months in large oak barrels and barriques. 

The first written documentation of Montepulciano goes back to 1792 in Abruzzo, though it is not certain that the variety originated here. Montepulciano quickly spread throughout central and southern Italy where it is common in Abruzzo, Marche, Molise, Lazio, Tuscany, Puglia and Umbria. 

Ian D’Agata cautions not to confuse this grape variety with Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, the wine made using Sangiovese. I admit the similarity of names makes me think twice and I have confused the two. I felt a little better when I read that ampelographers throughout Italy have failed, in the past, to correctly distinguish between the two varieties.

Both of these wines from Codice Citra offer unique and interesting flavor profiles. They are well balanced and offer very good value for the dollar. If you are looking for a taste of something a little different either would be a good choice.

Thanks to Donna White Communications for sending this taste of Abruzzo our way.

Cheers!

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