Chapter 10 – Abruzzo
In this week’s episode of our regional tour of Italy through food and wine, me and Carlotta decided to explore one of the most powerful sides of our country’s gastronomic heritage: the popular cuisine.
That kind of food where recipes are not written in fancy cookbooks but they are verbally passed down from our Grandma’s. And that there was the main dilemma, which kind of wine can you pair with this kind of food?
My answer was that the perfect wine to pair with Nonna’s recipes is of course “Nonno’s wine”, and if Nonna was most likely a housewife, tradition wants Nonno to be the farmer, that’s how we imagined our perfect marriage for this week’s wine and food pairing.
Like in most Italian regions also in Abruzzo almost each family used to make its own wine for the house.
Winemaking traditions in Abruzzo date back to the sixth century BC thanks to the Etruscans, who played a major role in introducing viniculture to the area. At that time Abruzzo’s vineyards were generally focused around the province of L’Aquila.
Unfortunately, viniculture was sidelined for many centuries as the Abruzzo region’s population went into decline. The last 40-50 years have seen a renaissance in winemaking through the endeavors of co-operative wineries concentrated in the Chieti province.
The main importers of Abruzzo wine are Germany, the USA and Canada. Volumes heading to the UK, Sweden, Denmark and Norway are also on the rise.
With the revival in viniculture came bulk wine, which dominated the region for a considerable period. However the region has now revamped its image, gradually moving towards producing more quality-driven wines, with an increase in boutique wineries.
Masciarelli, Valentini, Emidio Pepe, just to name a few of the most important and well known producers of this region.
The geographical makeup of Abruzzo is quite remarkable. A rugged, mountainous region with a lengthy coastline, its lush, green landscape is scattered with national parks and forests. Abruzzo is ideally situated between the Adriatic sea to the east, and the Apennine mountain range and the Maiella massif to the west. The region is home to Gran Sasso, one of Italy’s highest peaks at 2912m (9554ft). It is not surprising that Abruzzo provides a perfect haven for grape growing. Vines flourish thanks to the terroir, the abundance of sunshine, the generous rainfall and a variable climate. On the coast it is warm and dry on the coast; inland it is more continental (hot in summer and cold in winter).
The majority of grapes grown come from the hilly areas of Abruzzo. 75 percent of vineyards lie in Chieti province. The remainder are situated in Pecara, Teramo and L’Aquila.
Today’s wine comes from the area near Pescara, where Andrea and his wife Daniela moved a few years ago to start their new life and to follow their wine-dream.
I had the chance to meet Andrea, for sure not representative of a grandfather in terms of age, maybe in terms of wiseness and connection with the land, but the concept he clearly had in his mind, when deciding to move near Pescara to make his own wine, was to make a genuine and honest wine, like the once every Nonno used to make for his family and his table.
Andrea worked as Sommelier in some of the most famous and fancy restaurants of Italy and Europe. In Montalcino he had the chance to meet and work for some great producers like Soldera and Marino Colleoni, who became his mentors and nowadays he is still following their guidelines in his new adventure as winemaker.
With Daniela they founded Colle Florido winery, where they have around 4 hectares of vineyards, all Montepulciano and Trebbiano, two native grape varieties of Abruzzo.
The philosophy is to make wine in a very artisanal way, following the seasonal procedures only marked by the rhythm of nature, with low human intervention in the vineyards and in the cellar.
Erba salata, their Montepulciano, which is labeled as Vino Rosso (red wine, without the DOC Montepulciano d’Abruzzo) was absolutely perfect pairing with the Pasta with pallotte di Teramo made by Carlotta.
The wine and the food together express a great tradition of a more popular Italian tradition, made of Sunday lunches, where the family reunites together around the table to celebrate with delicious pasta and wines.
The wine is very artisanal, simple, genuine and sincere with a true taste that is not somehow artificial or built up, but is exactly how it is, a pure expression of its terroir and its tradition.
It’s not the wine for fancy sommeliers, not the wine that you will never forget, but probably is the wine that I would like to be at my table almost everyday.
The colour is deep and dark, with purple hints and nuances. The nose is rustic, with notes of ripe dark fruit, a lot of plums and blueberries, balsamic, with some notes of undergrowth, mushrooms and liquorice. The mouth is extremely juicy and round, acidity is medium low and tannins are silky and smooth. The finish is quite long and in the mouth the notes are still fruit driven.
Perfect choice to accompany our pasta because both the wine and the food had a similar structure so none of the two could cover but only exalting each other, bite after bite and sip after sip.
Carlotta’s food story
A region which ranges from mountains to a vast, largely untouched coastline dotted with picturesque fishing trabucchi: wooden constructions a few meters above sea level, upheld by stilts, on which fishermen used to station themselves and catch their fresh bounty.
There are many more wonderful sights to see in Abruzzo, and I can’t wait to visit them all for myself as soon as virtual trips can transform into real trips. A few other must-see places are the towns of L’Aquila, Chieti, and the ancient settlements of Civitella and other 22 medieval towns which belong to the prestigious list of Most Beautiful Villages in Italy.
Similarly to all other Italian regional cuisines, Abruzzo has a rich and varied cuisine, thanks to its varied landscape. Lamb and Mutton from the region’s high pastures on the Apennine mountains form the majority of Abruzzo’s staple dishes, including Arrosticini, the delicious and juicy grilled skewers. Fish and seafood are an equally important part of the region’s cuisine, from seafood soups like brodetto di pesce to fish ragu’s as condiments to pasta.
Pasta lies at the heart of the regional cuisine, with a few dishes enjoying world fame, such as Spaghetti all’Amatriciana, from the small town of Amatrice, and Spaghetti alla Chitarra, the focus of today’s recipe and food pairing.
Pasta dishes which are named something other than the ingredients used to make them (e.g. cacio e pepe) usually derive their names from the area where they were first cooked or became renowned, such as gnocchi alla sorrentina, from sorrento, casunziei ampezzani, from Cortina d’Ampezzo, and so on. A popular alternative is to name pasta shapes with the name of the instrument used to produce them, the case of today’s recipe: spaghetti alla Chitarra.
If you would like to discover the full recipe check out Carlotta’s blog here.