I first tasted wine made from the Italian Pecorino grape at Vinitaly. It grabbed my olfactory system and took it for an aromatic, bright ride. That grape fueled my curiosity and led me down the Pecorino path.
This month the Italian Food, Wine, Travel group of writers (scroll to the bottom for links to all writers) highlights Pecorino to find examples of the wine from Italian regions it grows most: Le Marche and Abruzzo. We have a challenge because not much is exported out of Italy. Here in Bordeaux it’s almost impossible to find.
According to food and wine expert Darrell Corti, Pecorino is not at UC Davis in California and would have to be quarantined six years before being planted. He’s not aware of it growing in the United States period. If anyone knows of its existence outside of Italy, please let us know!
Discovering Uva della Pecora
At Vinitaly, Mark and I attended a master class featuring Italian white varieties from central and southern Italy. Sponsored by Doctor Wine we tasted fourteen wines and three were 100% Pecorino. Liking each so much, I took this picture to remember the variety.
What This Grape Is About
Pecorino is both a hardy (in bad weather) and fairly resistant to mildew. It likes higher altitudes and cooler areas. Having a low yielding quality is probably what caused farmers to turn their noses up and look towards higher yielding grapes. Thankfully a few saw great potential and focused their energy on producing single variety Pecorino wines. There is, however, debate on which region produces the best Pecorino.
Some say the best expression lies in Le Marche where the grape is commonly bottled under Offida Pecorino DOCG. It’s also used in the DOC wines of Falerio dei Colli Ascolani, Colli Maceratesi and Offida, and IGTs in this region. Others say the northern Abruzzo region where it’s bottled under Abruzzo DOC or one of the IGPs is where it truly shines.
No matter where it grows, it likes higher altitudes: this is where it’s found in Abruzzo and Le Marche. In truth, it comes down to winemaking styles and personal preference. I’ve tasted fantastic Pecorino from both areas. It’s up to you to find wines you like! The grape is truly an oenological success story!
Tasting More Pecorino
Both the wines I tasted for this article come from Abruzzo. No particular reason, I stumbled upon them and glad I did!
~ Azienda Vinicola PETRINI ~
Stefano Petrini is one humble yet passionate guy. He and his brother farm Pecorino, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Chardonnay in the northern Abruzzo (Pescara and Chieti provinces). They are certified organic by ICEA (Istituto per la Certificazione Etica Ambientale), a non-profit organization recognized by the European Union.
What drew me to their booth at WineParis last March was Pecorino. This wine is appropriately named ‘Portami Al Mare’ or Take Me To The Shore. They are in the foothills, 31 miles (50k) from the ocean. Stefano explained that for him, the citrus and crushed seashell aromas and saline quality of the wine remind him of the sea.
Portami Al Mare 2018 | Pecorino | Colline Pescaresi IGT
Aromas of citrus, tangerine, papaya, and sea spray on wet stones jump from the glass. And it has a slight creamy quality.
The palate is bright with a medium, lemon, tangerine, and flinty body then slowly softens and lingers. While it has medium-high acid, it’ very elegant and balanced. It paired nicely with olive oil drizzled avocado crostini, but rich seafood would be the ultimate match. I’d also be happy just sipping it. The most stunning part is the cost: just under 10€. This is one of the highest quality-to-price ratio wines I’ve had in some time. Azienda Vinicola Petrini.
~ Azienda Agricola Marina Palusci ~
Fourth generation Massimiliano Palusci is winemaker and also produces world-class olive oil on their Pianella farm in northern Abruzzo. The operation consists of 4.5 hectares (3 hectares of Pecorino, 1 hectare of Montepulciano and 0.5 hectares of Passerina) divided into 8 plots of land surrounded by olive trees, vegetables, and both arable and fallowed land. They are 20 kilometers from the sea on one side and mountains on the other. Sea breezes and mountain winds help to keep mildew in check.
All vineyards and olive groves are organically farmed; they are members of VinNaure and RawWine. Wine fermentation is spontaneous via wild yeasts. They don’t fine, filter or stabilize the wines.
Tasting Senzaniente Pecorino – Colline Pescaresi IGP 2017
All Marina Palusci grapes are hand-picked. This wine is spontaneously fermented with indigenous yeast and vinified in stainless steel on lees for three months. It’s another great value wine at between 12€.
A hint of sulfur is part of its initial presentation. This aerates quickly uncovering citrus, crushed stones, dried sage, floral (acacia) and a honey character.
The palate is a lively, medium weight with stone fruits, citrus- lemon and lime, under-ripe peach. It’s has more of a savory charm and is slightly bitter on the finish.
It would pair with a variety of foods from white asparagus currently in season to roasted and grilled vegetables. Richer seafood dishes- crab, lobster, scallops- to mussels and more.
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Pecorino leans toward food friendly yet it’s great as an apéro sipper too. For other Pecorino wine discoveries, recipes and information, head to other Italian Food, Wine and Travel writer articles at the links below. We are live on Twitter today- May 4th at 11am ET, 17:00 in Italy- chatting with the hashtag #ItalianFWT.
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla will dazzel us with “Oven-Roasted Trout with Citrus Salsa Crudo + 2017 Lunaria “Civitas” Pecorino”.
Gwendolyn, the Wine Predator is “Pairing Pecorino d’Abuzzo from Ferzo: Lemon Caper Shrimp #ItalianFWT”.
Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “Sheepish about new kinds of wine? Try Pecorino! #ItalianFWT”.
Lauren at The Swirling Dervish asks “Looking for a New White Wine to Serve this Spring? Try Pecorino from Tenuta Santori in Italy!”.
Susannah from Avvinare shares “Pecorino from the Lady from Le Marche – Angela Velenosi- Velenosi Vini”
Jeff at Food Wine Click goes “On the Hunt for the Pecorino Grape”.
David from Cooking Chat shares “Roasted Asparagus Pasta with Pecorino”.
Jennifer at Vino Travels discovers “Grape of the Sheep with Umani Ronchi Pecorino”.
Steven from Steven’s Wine and Food Blog cooks up a “Brodetto di Pesce Wine Pairing #ItalianFWT”.
Katarina at Grapevine Adventures discusses “Le Marche & Abruzzo – Two Regions… Two Expressions of Pecorino”.
Kevin from SnarkyWine shares “Pecorino – Welcome to the Fold”
And here at Savor the Harvest, I’m “Discovering the Pecorino Grape #ItalianFWT”
Next month on June 1st we focus on the Lambrusco set of Italian grapes with Katarina from Grapevine Adventures hosting.
In my preview post I discuss its origin. Historically the Ascoli Piceno province of Le Marche is where sheep were farmed, and where the grape is thought to come from in Italy. Sheep farmers appropriately called it Uva delle Pecora, meaning ‘of the sheep’. Note the name Pecorino has nothing to do with the cheese of the same name. Here’s a nice article about Pecorino Cheese from Flavor of Italy.