When you think of Italy, what places come to mind first? Rome, Venice, Pisa, Pompeii perhaps? But probably not Abruzzo. And that’s okay, because I’m here to tell you to start remembering this region just east of Rome. In the wine world, it is most commonly known for the Montepulciano red grape, which you will see as: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo on the label. And the easiest way to pronounce it is…. Mon-tay-pool-chee-ano ! Got it? Good! This red wine is an easy drinking red wine, and not usually expensive. But this is not the only wine that comes from this region.
Let me share with you some beautiful wines I was able to enjoy at a winery dinner during the Vancouver International Wine Festival at the end of February. And note – the largest consumer wine festival in North America!
Jasci & Marchesani was the 1st organic winery to be certified in Italy back in 1978!! So it makes sense why it’s the most recognized winery in Abruzzo. It’s location between the Adriatic Sea and the Apennine Mountains, offers a perfect home for their vineyards.
“Wine. One of the oldest things created by man, that we are still enjoying today.”
Curious? I hope so! Here are the courses and the wine pairings to go with each one. Enjoy!
First Course: Chicken liver mousse, morello cherry gelée, pickled mustard seeds, black pepper crostini & Marinated beetroot, labneh, pistachio, radicchio
Wine Pairing: Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC Rose 2017
Notes: First of all, this Rose was my favourite find at the Wine Festival last year! It’s made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo red grapes, and kept on the skins for 6-7 hours to get that pink color, then it sits in stainless steel for 6 months before being bottled. It paired so nicely with the earthy notes and nuts of the beetroot dish – that one just did it for me. Where as the chicken liver mousse was a nice dish on its own, and with the Rose it just balanced the experience. This wine is soft, yet juicy with complexity – not often found in a rose!
Second Course: Scallop crudo, extra virgin olive oil, crispy wild rice & Cropthrone Farms radish salad, buttermilk and black pepper dressing
Wine Pairing: Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC 2018 & Pecorino Abruzzo Superiore DOC 2017
Notes: Whoa, Whoa, Whoa! Probably my favourite course! The Pecorino was finesse in a bottle, the acid matched the delicate scallop dish so well… eating as slowly as possible to experience this pairing over and over again was my mission. The buttermilk in the radish salad was perfect for the fresh, crisp and light Trebbiano. If only we had more Trebbianos in our market like this one. We would all be drinking it way more often. It’s so approachable and easy to pair with food yet offered just enough complexity.
Third Course: White wine braised rabbit legs, dijon mustard, cipollini onions & Wild mushroom gnocchi, Grana Padano
Wine Pairing: Rudhir Chardonnay Histonium IGT 2017
Notes: This was a treat for sure. One wine we do not have in our market was brought in by the Italian Embassy specially for this dinner. The cork is made from recycled cane sugar and corn. And this Chardonnay was aged 18 mos. in Acacia wood which offers vanilla, sweet honeysuckle, and a dusty sweet dried flower note. Very unique from the kind of wood we are used to. The “happy rabbit” was mild, simple, lean and meaty which paired well with the floral notes of the Chardonnay. And the earth and nutty notes of the gnocchi paired well with the sweet floral notes of the wine. This was a wonderful experience for my palate!
Fourth Course: Roasted Yarrow Meadows duck breast Blue Hubbard squash puree, madeira jus & Braised radicchio, orange segments, toasted walnuts
Wine Pairing: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2018 & Nerubè Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2016
Notes: The gamey notes of the duck breast paired really well with both wines, the duck breast was served med. rare and was very tender (according to the table) – but unfortunately this girl had a hard time enjoying duck medium rare! But don’t worry I made up for it by tuning in to the wines! It was a challenge to see who preferred which wine at the table. I would say the 2016 wine with a deeper, smoother mouthfeel was the table favourite. However, I really enjoyed the younger 2018 with notes of dirty berries, meaty, earthy, chocolate, raspberries with a bright acidity and only sees 6 months in oak. Regardless, the Nerubè is from older vines and smaller production and it was a real treat to be able to pair both with our meal.
Fifth Course: Blue d’Auvergne, apricot and fennel mustard, lavash & Chocolate and almond financier
Wine Pairing: Janù Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2016
Notes: Well, you know you are in for something special when this wine label has been given 99 points out of 100! My favourite pairing of the two was the Chocolate and almond with this tannic, hot beauty. But both pairings were a great match.
After this meal, I had to walk back to my hotel. I was stuffed. I had shared the evening with a wine writer colleague – Julie Pegg and the Italian Deputy Consul General and his partner. I left in a state of, bliss. I consider a state of “bliss” to be when good people come together, have good conversation, share good food, and good wine with a lovely ambiance. This was that.
I hope you will seek out Abruzzo wines, from Montepulciano d’Abruzzo to Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and everything in between. Better yet, ask your favourite liquor store to order Jasci & Marchesani in for you, you will not regret it!!!
Until next time, keep exploring wine from around the world. Cheers!