3 May 2012

People power (Abruzzo, Italy – Day Two)

In my humble opinion, it takes three things and only three to make great wine; all other elements merely support the others. The first is of course the environment, which includes both the climate/weather and the actual earth & surrounding vegetation. The second element is the vine itself, and ensuring that the right variety is planted in the right location. The third element is people, because everything each person does towards a wine leaves an impact. What elements you use to produce the wine is somewhat irrelevant, and is completely up to the producer. At the end of the day, wine is made using the same process of fermentation, regardless of where you are in the world. People may enter the business of wine from many different backgrounds, be they agricultural, business, marketing, sales, or any other unique origin. Many people are lovers of great wine, many enter the business to make money, some may inherit or take after their parents, and still more may desire a complete change of scenery. In many cases people may produce wine around their day-to-day profession, growing grapes and/or making wine as a hobby. Eventually they may leave their other profession to focus solely on the wine, and others may employ people to handle the production of the wine. Regardless of peoples backgrounds or motives, the ultimate prerequisite to work with great wine is passion and commitment, as wine is not a short-term investment, nor are you likely to achieve overnight success. In my quest I have met so many different people who have all left their mark, regardless of their level of involvement or responsibilities. My final visit for Abruzzo was with a family of noble origins, not the first and probably not the last of my trip.

Barone diValforte vineyards

Since the 14th century the baronial fief of Valforte has been in the hands of the Sorricchio family. With land holdings throughout the Teramo hills, their involvement in this part of Abruzzo has been long. In the early part of the 21st century, Guido Sorrichio and his brother decided that no longer would they continue to sell fruit from their vineyards planted across 500 hectares of land. Instead they decided to establish their own winery in Silvi and produce their own wine under the Barone di Valforte name. After engaging a well-respected consultant winemaker from Puglia, they determined their philosophy and style for the wines. The decision was made to focus primarily on indigenous Abruzzese grapes, and to craft wines that best expressed the variety and site. In addition to this, Guido prefers wines, particularly white, that are fresh and vibrant and intended to be consumed young. Thus they invested in a new facility, and in it they put climate-controlled stainless steel tanks to a capacity of 500,000 litres. In addition they designed a computer system that would monitor and control the temperatures of each tank, a modern bottling and packaging line, and spacious and functional analysis laboratory. The limited amount of wine that ages in barrel is stored in the 19th century cellars under the building which houses the administration and entertaining functions. Currently the winery produces 200,000 bottles per year, but Guido is confident that once all of the vineyards are producing this can be doubled, still sell within capacity of the winery facilities. I was offered the chance to stay in Guido’s guesthouse, and enjoy a tasting of the wines over dinner.

Cantine Barone di Valforte
The Pecorino 2011 had recently been bottled, and had a vibrant fresh citrus floral and melon aroma, whilst on the palate showed good concentration, texture, volume and balance, expressing very subtle fruit complexity. Passerina is a lesser known indigenous variety in Abruzzo, and the 2011 Barone di Valforte was considerably softer, cleaner and gentler than the Pecorino before it. On the nose there were subtle peach and pear fruits with a complex reggiano cheese skin, and on the palate showed some creaminess with the delicate fruit notes. The Villa Chiara Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2011 was quite full, broad and rich, had great acidity freshness and approachability, but somehow lacked definition and personality. I’m not sure how this could be achieved, perhaps it is a result of the vine age, or perhaps some lees contact could be introduced to add some more structure and texture. Moving into the reds, the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010 had a bold black fruit and spicy pepper nose, and on the palate was full, intense and warm, very approachable and reflective of the variety, but finished a little short. The Riserva Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2007 was quite different, showing the difference in oak treatment and vintage. It was fuller and heavier, very bold in tannins and texture, with developed red and purple fruit notes, and whilst the oak was intense it wasn’t sweet or clumsy, and added complexity to the wine rather than distracting from the fruit.

Modest Barone di Valforte cellars
Click here to see more photos from Day Two in Abruzzo. Stay tuned for the next region; Puglia!

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