- Written by Nick Breeze (@NickGBreeze) Nick Breeze (@NickGBreeze)
Winemaker and owner Nicola D’Auria greeted us at the entrance of this fascinating cantina. The winery and cellars have been designed by Rocco Valentini in the shape of a vertical barrel in order to immerse the tasters senses in wine.
The vines are managed in different ways depending on the grapes being grown with the Trebianno d'Abruzzo grapes using an older canopy system traditional to the area. The winery itself is modern and clean in order to maintain quality.
Sesto - made from the Cococciola grape, which is new to me. Straw colour. Grassy herbaceous on the nose make this an unusually savoury wine. The acidity is very pleasant and the finish has a nice hint of bitterness and saline that make me think of oysters or sushi.
Mimi Pecorino Colline Teatine - back on familiar territory. Open tropical and slight floral nose. There’s a nice tension between the fruit sweetness and the acidity that keeps it really fresh. Great mouth filling body. Lovely wine.
Rosso di Macchia Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2013 - Dark rich colour. Red and black cherry aromas with a touch of vanilla from the oak and dark chocolate. The tannins are quite silky but crying out for food. I’d sup this all afternoon with a plate of salami, olives, rich cheeses and my own homemade bread.
Rosso di Macchia Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2005 - Brick red round the edges of the glass with cherry, liquorice, hints of spice. Gentle tannin but still more years left this wine. A great example of an older Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. Very elegant wine.
Fontana del Vino
The most famous attraction is the fountain that pours montepulciano from a tap. This is a gesture to all the pilgrims who have set out on the Camino di Santo Tommaso, that stretches across from Rome to Ortona.
Wine from the fountain: It is light with red cherry fruit and even opening up to give off a hint of rose water. Soft tannin and hints of spice make this a very tasty and refreshing experience. Praise be to the vines!
Azienda Nicola Di Sipio - Ripa Teatina, Chieti, Abruzzo
The Di Sipio winery sits astride a fertile valley with views both up to the hills around Chieti and down to the coast where the Adriatic sea touches the horizon. This is a no expense spared winery where the aesthetics of production are architecturally intertwined with the hospitality side of the business. People come here to marry, to party, to dine and have fun, whilst taking in panoramic views and sips of delicious Di Sipio wine.
Brut Di Sipio Spumante, traditional method
80% pinot noir and 20% chardonnay - 26 months on the lees. There is a hint of pink in the colour. A touch of ripe red fruit aroma with a hint of the bready-yeastiness. In the mouth there is a savoury and mineral note to the wine. Paired with the buffalo mozzarella and truffle this is a hit. A delicious combination.
Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Di Sipio 2014
Fabulous montepulciano served with Pallotte cacio e uova, that’s cheese and egg balls in tomato sauce to us British. The Di Sipio montepulciano is of the elevated style of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo I am now coming to love. It’s rich in dark cherry, a hint of soft spice and silky tannins. Alluring, seductive and definitely demanding another glass to achieve satiety.
For some reason this dish with the cheese and egg balls stayed in my mind and is one that I have to reproduce at home. The combination was really delicious and, as a quick search on Google informed me, not unknown elsewhere. That’s a tip!
The winery is undergoing some work so it wasn’t appropriate for us to visit. At least that is what we were told. Instead we were whisked away to a mountainside retreat that the young winemaker Valentina Di Camillo uses for parties / entertaining. I think all of us were seduced by the charms of the surroundings as the undulating vine covered hills rolled back from the breakfast tasting lain table. We were hungry as it was early in the morning and we were thirsty because that is the nature of the visit.... so:
Tenuta i Fauri Pecorino
Fresh ripe banana aroma. Really unusual and equally lovely. Nicely balanced acidity with mineral characteristics. Young and ripe and really delicious with the pecorino cheese. Pecorino from Farindola where the earthquake struck taking the lives of 30 people. The cheese is now extremely rare as the sheep are too stressed to produce the milk.
Baldovino Rosé 2016
Light red cherry in colour, strawberry aroma. Dry and refreshing to taste. Like the touch of bitterness of the finish. Nice and clean.
October Rosso Montepulciano 2016
Ripe cherry, chocolate spice finish. A touch of Turkish delight in there. Silky tannins make this extremely pleasant with the liver sausage and salami. Another high class Montepulciano D’Abruzzo.
Okay, this isn’t wine but it is worth a mention. For our breakfast meeting we were lucky enough to meet the local distinguished pastry chef Emo Lullo. He produced a plate of triple tipped peaks that resembled the finely formed breasts of a petite lady. Thus they are known as nuns breasts. Of course the triple peaks refer to the three high mountain peaks that crown the region and lend it the air of dreamlike magnificence. However, on a fertile hillside, intoxicated midmorning with wine, cheese, figs and soft sweet pastries, we’ll go with nuns breasts.
If you are visiting the area then the Pasticcerialullo is a bakery you must visit. Don’t miss out on Emo’s delights.
Zaccagnini winery sits nestled into the side of a broad valley between mountains that are carpeted with vines and forests. From the front of the building where the driveway curves around, the vista opens up giving us a widescreen breathtaking view. In the vines in front of us a giant chicken stands there idly taking in the view from another perspective. The scene is surreal from the outset but that is just a clue as to what is inside.
We are met by the charming and knowledgeable winemaker Concezio Marulli. He takes us through the whole operation that produces around 3 million bottles a year. Created in 1978 as a family business the founders immediately fostered a connection to the fine arts. As we get into the cellars we start to see the evidence of collecting and commissioning of artworks.
For many art lovers the connection with 20th century art star, Joseph Beuys will be of great interest. Beuys visited Zaccagnini winery several times and in his usual engaging way set about making his mark. He planted trees, painted murals, gave talks and engaged with the creative atmosphere of the place. The residue of Beuys visits here remains in some walls paintings and many fabulous large-scale photographs. The posters advertising the events are also very cool and should be reprinted as open editions for us visitors to purchase.
So art pieces aside.. what about the wines?
Zaccagnini Pecorino 2015
Lovely fruit, touch of tropical, citurs, bright acidity with fresh mineral character. This was delicious with mozzarella balls and the saltiness in the Parma ham.
Zaccagnini San Clements Montepulciano 2013
Dark oily colour, moreno cherry, hints of bark and chocolate with silky tannin. Excellent wine.
Zaccagnini Clematis Passito Rossi - the fruit is dried on the vine. Super concentrated and seductive oily texture in the mouth with flavours of dark red fruit, cherry, raisin. Terrific length. This is a big occasion wine.
What is Battonage?
The process of stirring the dead yeast cells (called lees) on the bottom of the barrel is what the French call "battonage". This process is sometimes used by winemakers to cause an interaction between the lees and the wine. The result is richer aromas, flavours and greater body.
A young venture with bags of style. If labels and packaging play a role in boosting sales (which of course they do) then Platinum will go far. The main range we are tasting is called ‘Sogno’ which translates as “dream”. The branding design for the packaging is an elegant pattern that represents the jewel given to a mans family before marraige, the “presentosa”.
Currently producing 400,000 bottles per year Platinum have a tidy range of very good quality wines.
Do we drink from wine boxes?
An interesting element of the Platinum offering is the attention given to presenting the Sogno range of pecorino (white), consuolo (pink) and montepulciano (red), in both bottles and boxes. This may raise some eyebrows but after a good tour around the winery and especially the box producing area, this could do with a dedicated article. The technology being used is the same that would be used for carrying blood in the medical profession. To counter the effects of the wine needing to aerate once opened or stored for a period in bottle under cork, the valve through which the wine flows is perforated around the rim so that air is drawn through the liquid giving it a boost in opening up.
I have tried similar gadgets that use the same physical effect and the difference is profound between those wines that are aerated and those that are straight from a sealed source. I think we’ll be seeing more of these boxes in the future.
But putting boxes aside, the winery is impressive. There is a great deal of very slick engineering in Italy and certainly no shortage here in Abruzzo. This winery has it all.
The owners are growers turned producers and are taking enormous pride in taking their wines to the marketplace. So… what do they taste like?
Unusual from these parts but it was it says it is. White soft smooth peach and apple aroma and taste. Simple, clean and attractive. One to enjoy when ever the feeling takes you.
Sakura Spumante Rosé Extra Dry
Listing this as an unusual wine but very attractive. Balsamic aroma dominates over the red fruit. Lively but not over the top acidity. Mouth-filling pleasurable roundness from the fruit. Long tapering finish. Great summer pool-side bubbly.
Instant tropical aroma that seems to be the signature of the pecorino style. Good balance of ripe tropical fruits, a small hint of citrus and mineral character. It’s fresh, clean and ready to go. Perfect aperitif or serve with small plates of soft cheese, salad, cold fish, cured ham.
Lovely deep pink colour. Fresh strawberry aromas. Perfect red fruit sweetness but dry finish. Clean; would happily drink all summer long.
3000 bottle production. Inky black opaque wine. Highly concentrated blackcurrant nose so notably different from nearly all other reds we have tasted this trip. Mouth coating soft textured wine with gentle easy tannin. I could drink this easily with heavier dishes like meatballs in tomato sauce or even the local egg and cheese balls. Great stuff.
Platinum are currently exporting to 18 countries but not the UK… why?
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Talking food and wine & Carluccio's motto: "MOF MOF"
Carluccio's deli and restaurants are a high-street staple, where great flavours in food blend easily with quality wines on the list. Following the death of the charismatic founder, Antonio Carluccio, his spirit lives on in style and philosophy. Nick Breeze talks to Head of International Operations (especially where wine is concerned!), Mike Stocks about wine-list tips, food matching and the great man of "mof mof":
Wine Tasting in Abruzzo - tasting notes
Winemaker and owner Nicola D’Auria greeted us at the entrance of this fascinating cantina. The winery and cellars have been designed by Rocco valentini in the shape of a vertical barrel in order to immerse the tasters senses in wine.
Abruzzo: fine wine in an Italian idyll
East from Roma to Abruzzo
From Rome we headed east to Abruzzo, a region of Italy that rises up like a burly landlord to greet the traveller. The Apennine mountains at their tops are stark and beautiful, lonely, yet fulsome. Rustic doesn’t quite do this landscape justice. It’s a place for pilgrims, peace lovers and, of course, we followers of Bacchic and gastronomic pleasure.
Watch: Wine Tips from the Grape-Pickers Party
After days of picking grapes in one of the world’s most famous wine regions, the pickers get together to drink, chat and enjoy the drinks they are meticulously involved in the making of.
Also check out local winemaker, Nico’s, top tip for a white Burgundy from Saint Aubin that you don’t have to travel to Burgundy to get!
From Picasso to Pecorino Wine (not cheese!!)
What started in El Quatre Gats tapas bar in Barcelona, soon became an adventure in the Marche region of Italy, that lies along the east coast facing Albania across the Adriatic Sea. El Quatre Gats is famously where Picasso had his first solo exhibition as a young edgy artists in the Catalan capital and I was there dining with Dr Pia Casarini Wadhams, Director of Italy’s only Polar Institute, Il Polo.