Tiberio Pecorino Colline Pescaresi IGT 2009

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Tiberio Pecorino Colline Pescaresi IGT 2009

Tiberio Pecorino Colline Pescaresi IGT 2009

I swung by Bottega Rotolo the other day looking for some cool black salt they sell and decided to have a look through their wine selection in case there was something interesting.  I walked out with a mixed half-case, and while I won’t write about them all, I’m certainly going to go into some detail about at least a few over the coming weeks.

Today is something that’s rare, even in its home country of Italy, the Tiberio Pecorino Colline Pescaresi IGT 2009.  As is often the case in this blog, the name of the wine really needs to be unpacked a bit to have a better understanding of what we have here.  Tiberio is the producer, Pecorino is the grape, and Colline Pescaresi is the region.  Not one of these names was familiar to me before I found this bottle, though Italy is diverse enough that sometimes there are aspects of it that are unfamiliar even to the experts.  Matt Kramer of Wine Spectator had a similar level of unfamiliarity when presented with this wine a couple of years ago, as detailed here, and he’s what I would regard as very much an expert.

(Funnily enough, some other blogger really didn’t like the article, and seemed to think Kramer was unhappy with unfamiliar regions, varieties and producers – exactly the opposite as to how I read the original article, as I thought Kramer was celebrating them and drawing attention to them.  As for me, I hope my regular readers will know that I take great pleasure in trying new varietals and learning about new regions and producers.)

Italy though I find particularly challenging, and I mean that in a good way.  If you take a map of France and colour in the wine regions, you have a relatively manageable collection of blobs, typically discretely set apart from one another into clumpings, with areas not under vine between them.  So while the Loire Valley is quite extensive as far as subregions pushed together, in order to get from there to Chablis to the east or south toward Bordeaux (or even Cognac), you have an area in between which is not a wine region.  On the other hand, in Italy it is possible to go from the heel of the boot to Turin in the north, covering over 1000km, without leaving wine country.  Granted, it’s not a straight line, and the mountainous spine of the country does not feature vines very often, but still, a wine map of France is a collection of different regions, while a wine map of Italy is a map of Italy.

What drew me to this bottle is the grape, Pecorino.  When I said it was unfamiliar, I wasn’t quite truthful.  Pecorino is a word I know, but it’s unfamiliar as a wine grape, but rather better known as a type of Italian cheese, coming from the root pecora which is “sheep” in Italian but “cattle” in Latin (according to Google Translate).  So what is this grape, and why is it named after cheese or livestock?

The facts online are somewhat sparse, but what’s worse somewhat contradictory.  The grape itself is white, early ripening, with thin skins, medium sized bunches and mid density of grapes on the bunches.  It typically produces medium to full bodied wine, with medium acidity, and while it is secondary to the fruit, minerality is a widely mentioned tasting note.  It’s presently grown in the center of Italy, primarily in Marche and Abruzzo on the east coast, Umbria in the center and Lazio on the west coast.

It’s widely agreed that Pecorino is an Italian grape with a long history, but and that it’s been recently rediscovered in Marche after having fallen out of commercial production.  What’s not clear though is why it fell out of production.  One source cites low productivity, while other sources describe the variety as giving moderate to good yields.  Another source says that the wines were considered too astringent.  Whatever the reason for it falling out of fashion, I’m glad that it’s back, and not just in the “diversity is good” sense, but more in the “I like this grape” sense.  As to why it’s named after a cheese or livestock, your guess is as good as mine.

While there is an appellation for the grape called Offida Pecorino in Marche, this wine in particular is Colline Pescaresi IGT in Abruzzo, the next area to the south.  Colline means hills, and Pescara is a town along the coast, so while I can’t find many details, I am guessing the region is in the hills of the surrounding area.  Vines intermingle with olive trees, oak groves and of course, sheep farms.  The soil is largely red clay, with some grey and bits of limestone here and there.  The climate is classic Mediterranean, with moderating influences from the Adriatic Sea.

The Tiberios are a family with a long tradition in the wine and grape growing trade, though working for others until the present generation’s Riccardo Tiberio planted 31 HA of native varieties in 2000.  Working with the University of Bologna, and oenologist Dr Riccardo Cotarella, they aim to bring back and improve local varieties that have all but disappeared.  They produce six wines, a Chardonnay / Sauvignon (Blanc?) blend, two Montepulciano D’Abruzzo reds, a Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Rosato, a Trebbiano D’Abruzzo, and this Pecorino.  Their vineyards are at approximately 300m altitude on average, and their winemaking seems much more modern than traditional.  This wine in particular was grown on limestone, fermented in steel, and bottled without malolactic fermentation.

(I did first stumble across another Tiberio that produces wine in Italy, but they seem to be a relatively small producer in Tuscany, they don’t list a Pecorino, and their labels look nothing like this bottle, so I kept searching.)

In the glass, this wine is medium lemon green – a bit darker than your standard white wine.  There was a veritable diamond mine of crystals at the bottom of the glass on the final pour, so I’m guessing this wine was not cold stabilized.  The nose was fairly intense with aromas of lemon and toast – a very savoury nose, with some development.  On the palate I found more lemon, lanolin, lime, and grapeseed oil, with a waxy finish.  It was dry, with a rich texture and full bodied, with medium plus acidity, medium alcohol, medium plus intensity, medium minus length.

I really liked this wine – it had the good qualities of a rich Chardonnay or possibly a white Rhône blend.  While it wasn’t hugely complex, it had excellent texture and mouth feel, and the flavour profile was lovely even if not overly complicated.  I can’t find any examples of wine made from this grape outside of Italy, but I do hope that changes as I think it certainly can make a good drop and may have potential in other parts of the world.

Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008

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Colour and type: ,
Varietal:

Masciarelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2008

Masciarelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2008

Having missed actually getting my studies started with France, I’ve gone back, and for the last few days I’ve been digging into Bordeaux. It’s taken forever, and that’s fine because it’s huge. It’s home to red, white and sweet wines. There are blends and wine styles originating there which are imitated all over the world. The wines themselves are prized above almost all others within the trade. There’s at least as much material in our syllabus just on Bordeaux as there is on South West France, Beaujolais, Alsace, Languedoc, Roussillon and Provence put together.

The OCW entry on Bordeaux alone is four and a half pages (three columns per page), plus a full page map. It was seriously slow going. Bordeaux in general, with regard to climate, weather, soil, viticulture, winemaking, and even the business is all fine. However, there’s also a specific list of a few people, a half-dozen companies/families, and a full dozen specific châteaux. I’ll be fine with the individuals, and will be able to write a sentence each about the companies/families, but the châteaux are going to be a challenge. Pinpointing them to communes isn’t so difficult, and their stature (typically first growths) isn’t either, but dates when they were founded, names of the founders, and which have changed hands and when is not sticking easily in my head. Sigh.

A good thing though about doing Bordeaux first is that it both informs my reading about other regions, and I’ve now ticked the box for dozens of entries in the OCW that I’ll come across time and time again (like for Cabernet Sauvignon) and won’t have to reread.

I’m not going to spam this blog with all my notes, but here are some random things I want to remember, if not for the exam, but because they’re interesting:

  • If I have to write about Merlot, be sure to mention Château Pétrus and Le Pin, which are Merlot dominated. Alternatively for Cabernet Franc, Cheval Blanc is the way to go.
  • Under-ripe Cabernet Sauvignon can smell like Cabernet Franc. Under-ripe Sémillon can smell like Sauvignon Blanc.
  • I believe the red Bordeaux ripening schedule is something on the order of Merlot/Malbec, then Cabernet Franc, then Carmenère, then Cabernet Sauvignon, then Petit Verdot. I’ve found very little information as to when Malbec and Carmenère ripen relative to the other varieties, I’m sure due to the fact that they’re so out of fashion.

Tonight’s wine is an Italian, in particular the Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008.  I’ll talk a bit about the wine soon, but first a quick word about why I know I am going to have a difficult time with tackling Italy in a week or two.

Montepulciano is a red grape that’s very widely planted within Italy.  So far, so good.  This wine in particular is from Abruzzo, which is a mountainous region in central Italy, to the east of Rome and with a big chunk of coastline along the Adriatic Sea.  OK, so this wine is described as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, as in the Montepulciano grape and it’s from Abruzzo.  What could possibly be my complaint?

Montepulciano is also the name of a town in Toscana, which is also in Italy, but further north and to the west, with a coastline that looks to the west across the sea toward Corsica.  Slightly confusing, but such is life – Shiraz is the name for what’s known as Syrah in much of the rest of the world and is also the name of an unrelated town in Iran.  But just to confuse the situation further, the town of Montepulciano in Toscana produces a wine, known as Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which is made largely from a completely different grape, Sangiovese.  I know France has things like Pouilly-Fuissé and Pouilly-Fumé to keep you on your toes, but really.

Anyway, getting back to this wine, as mentioned it’s made from the Montepulciano grape, which is red, and produces deeply coloured wines of medium acidity.  While this is a DOC, wines from this region tend to be red fruit driven, often not seeing any oak, and drunk within a few years of production.  This one in particular had 20 months in stainless after fermentation and no oak at all.

Appearance

Bright and clear, deep ruby colour, with thick slow legs.

Nose

Clean, medium intensity and developing.  Aromas of chocolate, red berries, cherry and tobacco.

Palate

Dry, with medium-plus acidity, and medium fine tannins, medium alcohol, medium body, and medium flavour intensity.  There were notes of cherry, chocolate, cranberry, and some pencil lead on the palate with a cocoa finish.  Medium-minus length.

Conclusion

This is a good quality wine, with fruity notes, but in the context of some developed notes as well.  The acidity was strong and refreshing, but the none of the other elements were overly prominent.  There was some complexity with both fresh and developed characters, but both were relatively linear, and the length was not as long as I would have liked.  Still, a very pleasant wine and knowing that it’s a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo it certainly has varietal and regional typicity.  For roughly $25.00 it shows well and is an unpretentious wine which is well suited for the pasta with which we paired it.

It’s ready to drink now, and may well improve over the next year or two, but I would not anticipate any development beyond that.  It’s doing well to be looking as good as it does in its “drink now” style so I wouldn’t push it beyond that.