I have been at home for a few days in Central Italy visiting my region of Abruzzo, and, by a lucky coincidence, on those very days the MTV ( wine tourism movement) was running a very special event: ‘Cantine Aperte’. This is a unique opportunity to visit wine production sites, understand production techniques, talk to producers and get in touch with the poetry behind wine production.
Following the advice of my teacher @Umbertosommelier, I decided to visit the Cirelli farm, where I had the chance to meet the owner Francesco, who has been producing wines in amphora for 10 years in the hills around Atri, where both my sister Rita and I were born.
Atri is a small town with breathtaking views, close to the mountains and overlooking the sea, with an interesting artistic and natural heritage that makes it certainly worth a visit.
Francesco has found a small piece of paradise among the hills, an enchanting place where you can breathe in the unique atmosphere of this land. With 22 hectares of vineyard, he started his production in amphora, using Montepulciano and Trebbiano grapes.
The wine in amphora, which I covered in a previous post, is an ancient and poetic production. Having an aperitif in the countryside, in the shade of the olive trees while enjoying excellent wines was a truly special experience.
I tasted the Trebbiano, the Cerasuolo and the Montepulciano, which remains my favorite as a true Abruzzese! It is a wine produced by fermentation in amphora with maceration of the skins for about 30 days, with subsequent racking and malolactic fermentation in amphora. Racking means the moving of the wine from one vessel into another – i.e. from tank to barrel, barrel to barrel, and barrel to tank. Its function is to separate the newly formed wine from the old skins, seeds, dead yeast cells that settle on the bottom of the tank. Then malolactic or secondary fermentation turns the sharp-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, into gentler-tasting lactic acid.
This process creates a ruby red Montepulciano, with flavours of blackberry, leather, earth and chocolate but also with spicy and balsamic hints in the mouth. A bouquet of intense but not aggressive aromas and tannins make it easy to drink. Like all artisanal wines, I recommend uncorking it at least 30 minutes before drinking, to allow it to oxygenate, and to maintain a temperature of 16-18 degrees. It is an excellent wine to drink immediately, but it also ages well, even over years.
I’d like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Francesco for the great tasting experience and also because he had the courage to revive the traditions of my native land! I warmly recommend visiting his vineyard if you go to Abruzzo.
Being a vegetarian, it is a bit hard to find a dish in the Abruzzo culinary tradition that matches a wine that has white meat, red meat and cold cuts as a natural combination. However, in Abruzzo we also have some delicious meat-free recipes, I am sure that Rita will think about a nice vegetarian option!
I would like to recommend one of the most popular pasta dishes in Abruzzo: Anellini alla Pecorara. It is a vegetarian recipe – absolutely delicious – and you can easily eat it at any restaurant in the area. You can can make it yourself following this recipe. Have a go and let me know!