Abruzzo (Abruzzi)

Abruzzo is a fascinating region for many reasons but perhaps it's most compelling characteristic is its desire and ability to remain unique, austere, and somewhat separate from the rest of Italy. This is partially due to its location and mountainous topography which makes the area not easily accessible as other regions of Italy; more importantly it is the people who have remained dedicated if not consciously, to remaining independent.

From ancient invasions by various competing tribes to later Roman control, to modern Abruzzi, the people have resisted conformity, rule and protocol. The independent traits carry forward in their very culture, and yes their wine and food as well. Welcome to Abruzzi the land of yesteryear. The land of simple, pure, not mass produced ingredients, natural organic farming, small independent industry, time tested hearty yet homemade recipes and small production traditional wines with flair and character.

It's interesting because although the Abruzzese people remain somewhat isolated and dedicated to tradition they are also strangely progressive as the younger generation seem compelled to stay within the region while also somehow remaining traditional without becoming outdated. A few interesting wines from the region include Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Cerasuolo DOC, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOC, and Trebbianod'Abruzzo DOC. The red of Abruzzi are rich, deep, earthy, flavorful wines while the whites are grassy, tasty and fresh.

Regional delicacies and foods include pepperoncini or diavolicchiod (hot peppers), saffron (which is a cash crop for the area), wild and cultivated spinach, as well as various fresh vegetables, and various cheeses and cured meats. these include delicious regional specialties such as fegato dolce a dry cured salami which possesses a unique combination of sweet and savory (it is a specialty of Aquila comprising of livers and other parts of free range pigs perfectly seasoned with salt, pepper, honey, pistachios, pine nuts and occasionally dried, candied fruit).

Another exceptional example is fegatazzo di Ortona which is more of a dried sausage with ample fat content ; it also commands a sweet savory blend and features garlic, black pepper corn, pepperoncini and orange peel (trust me you need to try this). Then there is something the local refer to as 'ndocca (crazy), which is a play on the fact that the sausage is made with a mish mash of "crazy" left over parts of the pig such as ears, snout, liver, spleen, and generally any other part deemed as seldom used (it's interesting to note that some of these "crazy" parts of the pig are considered delicacies by other towns and regions). Cheese typical of Abruzzi includes Mozzarella di Bufala, Aquilano, Caciocavallo, Caciofiore, Caciotta, as well as Pecorino to name a few.

Key Grape varieties: White (Bianco), Trebbiano. Red (rosso), Montepulciano
Wines of interest: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is the most well known and appreciated and is an excellent Italian wine that goes well with many of the authentic “mountain” dishes prepared however there many worthy wines from Abruzzi including wines from the IGT appellations of Colli Aprutini, Terre di Chieti, and Valle Peligna to name a few.
Specialty foods of the region: From dry cured meats such as Mortadella, to liver sausage (salsiccia di fegato), the region boasts and assortment of meat dishes with special emphasis on lamb; the area is rocky, not overly fertile and mountainous thus there is an emphasis on root vegetables, pasta dishes, and spicy foods utilizing local pepperoncini. Other highlights include dishes containing saffron, licorice, as well as stews, roasts and soups as and various cheese specialties which include Scamorza (a soft relatively young cheese that is shaped like a pear and made with sheep milk) and Pecorino.

Wine and food pairing:
The beginning and end of wine pairing when it comes to the Abruzzese is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo; the foods of this region are simple, rustic, authentic, yet tasty. Think farm to table, or sitting down to dinner at a chef’s table at his private villa and farm. The farm would include goats, chickens and all sorts of livestock; in addition a very large garden would supply all the greens, root vegetables and wheat for flour. A typical meal would include a first course of pasta with spicy sauce; secondi may include cheese, olives, and dry cured meats. The main course would include roasted lamb served with roasted marinated vegetables, accompanied by a bottle or two of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Lastly you would be served garden salad. It is noteworthy that there is a real emphasis in this region on organic farming, authentic foods and the dedication to becoming bio-diverse.

Wine zones:
DOCG wine zones: Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Teramane
DOC wine zones: Controguerra, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo Terre dei Vestini, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Casauria, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, Tullum,
IGT wine zones: Alto Tirino, Colli Aprutini, Colli del Sangro, Colline Frentane, Colline Pescaresi, Colline Teatine, Del Vastese or Histonium, Terre Aquilane, Terre di Chieti, Valle Peligna

Areas of Interest in Abruzzi
Areas of interest include the slopes of Ortona (which offer fantastic skiing hiking and activities), the seaport and beaches near Pescara and the small city of Chieti which houses the church of Santa Chiara. Another important site within Chieti is the church of Saint Pietro e Paolo which holds substructures, brick walls and foundations that date to the 1st century. These structures were most likely owned by Vectius Marcellus as well as Helvidia Pricilla. Other interesting aspects of the region include a dedication to organic farming, traditional foods, and artisanal wine making as well as the distinct feeling (which is accurate by the way) that this area is basically stuck in time. It is a throwback, set in its ways, from its land to the buildings to the people, food and language the area is largely unchanged by time. In is an interesting place where you have some of the best ski slopes in the world but also by contrast the region also has stunning beaches. Historical structures, art and culture are also abound while the areas best asset may be its seemingly endless numbers of castles, it is said that the area has as many castle’s as it has sheep. In Abruzzi a simple drive through the countryside can make for a fantastic experience.

Provinces of Abruzzi: L’Aquila (AQ), Chieti (CH), Pescara (PE), Teramo (TE)
-Population: 1.3 million
-Capital: L’Aquila

White (Bianco), Trebbiano. Red (rosso), Montepulciano

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is the most well known and appreciated and is an excellent Italian wine that goes well with many of the authentic, simple “mountain” dishes prepared however there many worthy wines from Abruzzi including wines from the IGT appellations of Colli Aprutini, Terre di Chieti, and Valle Peligna to name a few.

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