Ultimate Guide to the Abruzzo Wine Region

Abruzzo Wine Region Agriculture

Abruzzo is full of lush foliage -- it has the most national parks and fore­sts of any Italian region -- and has been nicknamed "the lung" of Italy. Although it is temperate overall, temperatures can change dramatically between night and day because of the high altitudes.

The mountains dominate; Abruzzo is nearly two-thirds mountains. The low hills around Teramo have some of the best conditions for grapes (the name of the region's DOCG wine, Colline Teramane, means "hills of Teramo"). In fact, grapes are Abruzzo's most important crop [source: Consortium for the Protection of Abruzzo Wines].

Most of the local grapes are Montepulcianos, which come in two varieties: Rosso and Cerasuolo. The robust Rosso is the source of the Colline Teramane DOCG. The lighter Cerasuolo -- whose name means "cherry red" -- is closer to a rosé. The Cerasuolo is unusual in that the skins are typically included in the beginning stages of fermentation.

Other Abruzzo vineyards produce white Trebbiano grapes. For blending, Abruzzo grows some other varieties such as Sangiovese, Merlot, Pecorino, Coccilina, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

Traditional Abruzzo viticulture trained the vines up pergolas, narrow overhead arbors. One of Masciarelli's major innovations was to switch to row farming and New World pruning techniques. The change can reduce the incidence of some fungus, but it also changes the sun exposure the grapes receive [source: Winkler].

Another important part of wine production is the aging process. DOC designations mandate minimum aging times, as well as the material of the vessels in which the wines age. Abruzzo Cerasuolos are usually aged in nothing but stainless steel. Another producer confines his organic grapes to glass; the product is an overwhelming favorite that ages well and can retail for more than $200 a bottle [source: Sonkin].

For wines that age in wood, the type and age of the wood plays a major role in the wine's flavor. Most Abruzzo reds age in oak. Gianni Masciarelli, seeking to imitate the rich flavor of burgundy, imported French oak [source: Ellsworth].

How does this play out in the different certified wines of Abruzzo? Read on.