wine tours in abruzzo

Nostalgic Wines Born in Stone

To find the best wineries for my wine tours in Abruzzo, I do a lot of research (and drinking!). One of my latest discoveries is Chiusa Grande.

The Chiusa Grande winery started making organic wines before it became a trend. Its owner Franco D’Eusanio is often called a “vinosopher” for his unusual approach to wine making. He descrives himself as a vigneron, who rejects fads and seeks to be unique. Chiusa Grande wines are born as dreams first. Franco says that he creates a wine in his mind, thinks of the emotions it will convey and then he chooses the grape, vineyard and methods for realising his dream. He has the utmost respect for local traditions, draws on rural heritage and weaves both into the production process.

photo by Chiusa Grande

One of his latest creations is In Petra line: two wines, In Petra Rosso and In Petra Bianco, an elegant reverence for the ancestors’ ingenuity. Grapes are pressed and macerated in large stone vats, just as it was done centuries ago in the small village of Pietranico (called Petra Uniqua in the past). From the 1300s to the 1900s, the vineyards in the area were dotted with hand-carved stone vats where local farmers left the grapes to macerate for a short period and then brought the wine home.

The magic happens when the grapes come in contact with the natural stone. D’Eusanio says that it is somewhat of a mystery what exactly occurs in the stone vats at the chemical level but it certainly makes In Petra wines distinctively different from the rest of Chiusa Grande’s offerings. In Petra Rosso is 100% Montepuciano d’Abruzzo DOC grapes grown on the hills around Pietranico. The notes of blackberry, morello cherries, rosemary are balanced with a pleasant hint of spices, a well-pronounced minerality and savoury earthiness. I really like its slightly coarse character that reminds of the old days when farmers used wine to quench thirst while working in the fields.

wine tours in abruzzo

In Petra Bianco is a blend of Trebbiano DOC and Pecorino. Drinking the wine you can easily imagine rolling in a summer meadows fragrant with honey, herbs and ripe figs. The wine’s clear-cut minerality balances out any notion of bucolic frivolity. After all, it is a wine made in Abruzzo, the land of no-nonsense hard-working shepherds and farmers.

Do you want to visit the best local wineries? I run wine tours in Abruzzo. Contact me to book your tour.

vino cotto abruzzo

Vino cotto from Abruzzo: cooked and fermented to perfection

The tradition of vino cotto (“cooked wine”) goes at least a thousand years back. Pliny the Elder mentioned it in his writings in the 1st century as one of the most sought-after drinks of the time. Nowadays, few people know what it is. Historians say that vino cotto was born from the need to preserve wine made from low quality grapes. The best of harvest went to the landowner and hard-working farmers were often left with small sour grapes. Cooking them reduced the volume but increased the sugar concentration, which meant the wine could be stored for longer periods. From late spring to November, when normal wine turned sour (no technology to extend its shelf life existed back then) farmers drank vino cotto until the next harvest. Le Marche and Abruzzo are the two regions where vino cotto became part of the local cuisine. For centuries, a glass of vino cotto and a slice of bread were symbols of a welcoming home.

vino cotto abruzzo

In Abruzzo, the area around Roccamontepiano is where the tradition is still alive. Pressed grapes are cooked slowly in a large copper pot (lu callare) on an open fire. In old days, a piece of iron chain covered with a terracotta plate was placed in the bottom of the pot to make sure that the wine doesn’t taste of metal. After hours of slow cooking, when the liquid is reduced by at least a half, it is left to cool down. Later, an equal quantity of fresh grape must is added and the blend is transferred small wooden barrels to ferment. One of the producers told me that in his family, every year, before going to the Christmas mass, a sip of vino cotto is poured for everyone, including little kids. His grandfather did it, as well as his father and he continues the ritual. For many centuries, locals have made a special barrel of vino cotto when a son is born in the family. It is left to age until the boy’s wedding day.

vino cotto abruzzo

It was impossible to buy a bottle of this ancient wine until a few years ago. Families made the brew for home consumption but were not allowed to sell it. Then a few local enthusiasts in Roccamontepiano got together, applied for funding to buy industrial equipment and opened a small production centre. Now they produce limited quantities of exquisite vino cotto aged for five, eight or 15 years. Although the wine is cooked in a steel tank in less than 30 minutes it is still delicious. Every year they also organise a festival of vino cotto with tastings and demonstrations of how the wine was cooked in old days.

vino cotto abruzzoIn Roccamontepiano, they say that the best cure for a cold is a small glass of hot vino cotto before bed. I love vino cotto with hot roasted chestnuts or almond biscotti dipped in it. Dark brown with an amber glow, the drink is rich without being too heavy. The dry fruit notes are rounded with a warm hint of wood and more than a thousand years of tradition.

Vino cotto is often confused with vin brulé and mosto cotto. What is the difference between them? Vin brulé is a hot spiced wine, like mulled wine. Mosto cotto is cooked reduced grape juice with must that is used for baking in Abruzzo.

You can buy vino cotto in the Centro di Produzione Vino Cotto, C.da Terranova, Roccamontepiano (CH).

Follow the Associazione Produttori Vino Cotto d’Abruzzo on Facebook here

Photos by Associazione Produttori Vino Cotto d’Abruzzo.