Driving around the countryside in Abruzzo is magical. Everywhere I looked I got the feeling that nature was slowly reclaiming the landscape, that the people here were intimately connected to their surroundings, rather than seeking to dominate them.
After a brief nap I sat down to enjoy a glass of the 2009 Masciarelli Trebbiano di Abruzzo in the tasting room at Castello di Semivicoli, I was surprised by it’s acidity and the presence of an underlying mineral tone. I have often in the past thought of Trebbiano as potentially round, creamy, and flabby – but this was a food wine.
As we enjoyed our glasses, we were joined by Angela Acquaviva – a beautiful soul with a large smile, Angela was eager to show us a local festival that just so happened to be occurring on our way to dinner.
We were invited back into the tent along side nearby grilling sausages and hanging meats (we entered a prosciutto lottery) before the igniting of a towering bonfire; this was a tradition that was being revived – a harvest time celebration featuring an inferno of olive cuttings and branches.
In the tent we were given a hushed pre-taste of some local wine in large white jugs. Here began my re-education of Montepulciano; with this first sip I realized that I may have completely misunderstood this grape.
At it’s most basic this wine can be marvelous – firm with tight acidity, smooth body, and generous fruit. Deep and inky, but almost tasting like a wine made with whole grape fermentation, I kept looking in my plastic cup wondering what I was drinking.
I was eager to try more when the starry night sky began erupting with a symphony of fireworks, a local accordion troupe, and the aforementioned inferno which warmed everyone, even from a considerable distance.
The biggest surprise of the night for me was the 2012 Masciarelli Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. This same wine I had tasted earlier came alive in the glass with the 2012 vintage. Vibrant crisp fruit and even more of the aforementioned acidity, a wine that begs for food and is not violated by the overuse of oak – a clean statement of the grape that worked incredibly well with our first course.
Anytime I go anywhere where someone asks me, “Do you like liver?” I tend to get excited, but the food here was just top notch. A highlight was the liver and spinach pizza with citrus zest, simply fantastic flavors. The olive oil here also a big standout for me, so fresh and peppery with heady aromatics.
My favorite course might have been the simplest – a Bufala Affumicata e Prosciutto San Daniele, the ham cured for 18 months and the cheese smoked. At first bite I paused and thought – we most certainly are in Italy. The bread was light, airy and crispy, soaking up the olive oil perfectly maintaining crunch and chew.
Stay tuned for more on the wines and the countryside of Abruzzo!