In my last blog, I broke down the Italian wine classification system. Italian wine regions are as distinct as their regional cuisines. For the next several blogs, I will highlight various Italian wine regions for their great wine and food pairings. Today’s focus: Abruzzo (Abruzzi in Italian), situated in the central part of Italy, to the east of Rome on the Adriatic Sea.
Abruzzo boasts a simple cuisine including hand-made pasta accompanied largely by fish at the seaside and lamb and goat further inland. One regional specialty is “guitar” noodles, made with a special tool that creates sauce-grabbing textured noodles. Spices such as garlic, chili and saffron feature prominently in the simple fare, probably due to the proximity of historical traders bringing exotic spices to their shores.
On the wine front, Karen MacNeil points out in her wonderful book The Wine Bible that Abruzzo is a poorer, more rural region. So quantity is more important than quality. MacNeil says that most of the wines in Abruzzo are “simple characteristicless red and white table wines based on grapes at staggeringly high yields.”
With that said, the Abruzzo wine that is considered the best, and can be very delicious and quite affordable, is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Given the similar names, it’s easy to confuse this wine with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a wine made in Tuscany primarily from the Sangiovese grape. The two wines in fact have no connection. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is made in Abruzzo from a local grape called Montepulciano.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a dry, rustic, soft and slightly tannic red wine that is highly aromatic, with a lot of pepper and spice, earthy notes and deep berries. The wine has a dark, inky color with a thick, almost syrupy mouthfeel. It pairs nicely with the local cuisine.
Other local wines of note are Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, a delicately perfumed white to pair with fish or pasta and mussels, Contro Guerra, a dry to slightly sweet white, flavorful and super with hors d’oeuvres and fish, and Contro Guerra, a red, which ranges from dry to sweet, pairs beautifully with delicate meat and fish dishes.
If you have spent time in the Abruzzo region, or have tasted any of their wines, I would love to hear from you about your experience.
Next time ~ more regions, more cuisine, more wine pairing!