Uncovering Small Wine Producers: Vinicola Petrini in Abruzzo

Stefano Petrini’s grandparents were farmers in a small mountain community rich with history in Italy’s Abruzzo region. Paleolithic cave paintings and Roman ruins were fuel for young, energetic boys to explore. And explore he and his brother did. But it was the contact with nature and vineyards that set their current stage: producing organic wine in Abruzzo’s Pescara and Chieti provinces just fifty-minutes from the Adriatic Sea.

From Memories To Action

Petrini told me stories about spending weekends and summers with his grandparents preferring the countryside to the city where his family lived.

Petrini senior spends time observing and looking over things in the winery. He is the boss!

     “My grandfather had hens for eggs, turkeys, chickens, pigs, rabbits, a horse, and he cultivated 
so many vegetables, olive trees, and the vineyard, all in a natural way and often we went there in the middle of the earth to help him. I watched him work patiently and saw the great respect he had with nature.”

These experiences helped he and his brother understand the difference in simple yet distinct flavors in food without realizing it. And it was growing up this way that he refers to when asked why organic.

    “It was the only way to proceed. We want to keep respecting nature as much as possible! I ate my first industrial chicken at the age of 18 and bought vegetables at the supermarket when I went to study in Milan at the university. I couldn’t believe the difference, no taste at all. No comparison.”

After school he happily made his way back to Abruzzo where it all started. And this is where he and his brother launched Azienda Vinicola Petrini.

In The Vineyard

They follow in their grandfather’s footsteps using what the land provides. Manure from nearby farms fertilizes the soil. No artificial pesticides, no artificial nothing.

They use sulfites, however for them, harvesting by hand means less are necessary because the grapes haven’t been harmed. Their current use is minimal and they hope to use less each year.

Petrini’s organic Montepulciano vineyard in Nocciano waking up with some fabulous Abruzzo sunshine!

Becoming Organic!

Their operation obtained the ICEA organic certificate (Certificato Biologico) early in 2017, a certification that takes three years to obtain. And it was this year they released their small portfolio of wines happily adding the indication to their labels.

Petrini believes by working with only what nature supplies you get great fruit.

    “Sometimes you have less quantity but that’s ok, because it’s about quality. We want the flavors and essences of our wines to start from the plant and not artificially in the cellar. It’s best to treat the earth like my grandfather did, naturally. We do use technological advances but our goal is to rediscover these flavors in the grapes.”

The ICEA organic symbol is displayed in green.

 His eyes sparkled with pride and accomplishment when sharing. I could see this certification and their hard work means a great deal to him. Equally important are challenges. So far the biggest challenge is helping people understand the difference between a product grown organically and industrially. I laughed softly to myself when Stefano said, “It’s not just a fashion statement”. I laughed because I get this. Organic is a statement and increasingly used as a marketing tool to sell wines. More than one winemaker shared renditions of this with me. Sadly it seems some people do things when no one is looking.

His hope is for people to see their wines as artisanal with a history.

    “It’s difficult because you have to convince people paying 2-3€ more is justified because you know what you are drinking: clean, naturally made, artisanal wine, no fashion statement, just the truth”.

The brothers are renovating their winery and replanted vineyards (old and new). They have one hectare of Chardonnay, five hectares of Montepulciano, and two hectares of Pecorino. Their goal is to welcome visitors by 2020.

It Started With Pecorino

pecorino azienda vinicola petrini abruzzo DOC

Stefano Petrini proudly sharing family wines.

 Not for the Petrini brothers but for me! Of the bottles at the Wine Paris Petrini Booth in February, one was Pecorino. This is a higher-acidity grape I’m fond of with various expressions depending on where it grows and winemaking styles. Generally you have floral notes (acacia, jasmine), from citrus to apple to stone fruit, herbal (chamomile, licorice), and often a saline quality.

If you’re interested to learn more about Pecorino wine, the Italian Food, Wine and Travel group recently explored Pecorino from Abruzzo and Le Marche region. You can read more about it and find links to other wine writers here.

Portami Al Mare 2018 | Pecorino | Colline Pescaresi IGT | 15€ | 13% abv

Petrini Pecorino Portami al MareThe grapes were hand harvested the third week of September, de-stemmed, then a short ten-hour cool maceration on the skins before fermentation and pressing into stainless steel tanks.

Aromas of citrus, tangerine, papaya, and sea spray on wet stones jump from the glass. This is a medium bodied bright and balanced wine sharing lemony, tangerine, and flinty flavors that slowly soften and linger with a slight creamy quality. The medium-high acidity doesn’t detract from its elegance; it makes you want another sip.

The Petrini Portami Al Mare Pecorino was a hit with sushi. It would be equally nice with grilled vegetables, seafood or fowl.

Senza Alibi 2017 | Montepulciano | Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOP | 15€ | 13.5% abv

‘Senza Alibi’ means no alibi, true for this wine, it doesn’t have to make any excuses.

After destemming the Montepulciano grapes, a temperature controlled (28-30C) 25-day skin maceration takes place before fermentation. The wine is pressed into stainless tanks for malolactic fermentation then aging for ten months before transferring into second use oak barrels for two months.

The wine pours slightly pale ruby with cherry, red plum and herbal aromas. The first sip hits with a rush of acidity opening to cherry, plum, and dried oregano. It’s medium bodied with firm yet fine and well-integrated tannins.

Montepulciano isn’t a shy wine thus needs food that will stand up to it. We sipped it with aged Pecorino cheese then a Beef Bolognese main dish, both were exceptional.

Ideale 2018 | Montepulciano | Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOP | 15€ | 12.5% abv

Sometimes you just want color in your rosé and here you have it. A lighter red cherry versus pale pink, it’s beautiful to look at and just as nice to sip.

Ripe cherry, raspberry and blackberry open to fresh acidity and a brush of tannins. Round and bright, the finish has bitter almond and floral hints. This rosato is substantial enough for a variety of grilled items- vegetables, seafood or burgers- but again, definitely a nice sipper too.

We Will Meet Again

At the end of my tasting with Petrini at Wine Paris I knew I made a new friend. We laughed at cultural differences then he got serious explaining why going back to the land was so important to him. We agreed it’s never been more important to decrease our use of chemicals, plastics and things that are harmful to the environment. And we agreed we will meet again to eat good food and drink his wine in Abruzzo~~~

Note although Petrini wines are not yet available in the US, the brothers can potentially send wine while they secure an importer. You can contact them via their website.

More on the Pecorino grape and wines: Discovering Pecorino

Other Info for Curious Minds

  • The small mountain town the Petrini brother’s grandparents lived is Civitella Messer Raimondo.
  • Abruzzo lies between the Adriatic Sea and the Apennines with topography 65% mountains and 35% hills.
  • It is almost directly east of Rome and only one hour by car. Various local carriers (RyanAir, Air Alps, Lufthansa) fly into the Pescara and/or Ancona airport.
  • The main grape variety in Abruzzo is Montepulciano. It’s a red grape native to Abruzzo. Note it has nothing to do with the town of the same name. It’s the base of almost all Abruzzo red wines.
  • Other grape varieties include Trebbiano Toscano (white), Trebbiano Abruzzese (white), Pecorino (white), Passerina (white), Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Merlot and Cococciola (white).
  • Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOP is a rosato only DOP. When someone says Cerasuolo in Abruzzo it usually means a rosé wine (cerasuolo means cherry). If bottled under this DOP it must contain 85% Montepulciano. Cerasuolo is known for being savory, a bit structured and complex.
  • Don’t be confused by a different Cerasuolo- Cerasuola di Vittoria is a red wine only DOCG in Sicily. The two allowed grapes are Nero d’Avola (50% minimum) and Frappato (30% minimum).

8 thoughts on “Uncovering Small Wine Producers: Vinicola Petrini in Abruzzo

  1. Lauren Walsh

    I really enjoyed this post, Lynn. From Petrini Senior (who is still, most definitely, the boss!) to the fun-loving names of the wines, it sounds as though you had a great time chatting and tasting. While I’m in NYC I’m imagining a glass of Portami al Mare and wishing it would indeed take me to the sea!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Thank you Lauren, I hope one day these wines will make it to the states for you to try. In the meantime, dreaming is nice too!

      Reply
  2. Grace

    What a great picture of the boss! It’s nice to read about someone passionate about the land from which they and their family come and wanting to go back. Nice to learn of this smaller producer. I wish them luck getting their wines into the US!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Thanks for your comment Grace. Yep, I also couldn’t resist sharing the boss! But I bet he’s a sweetie 😉

      Reply
  3. Allison Wallace

    What a wonderful sounding experience! It’s stories like these that give me hope that for all the technological advances we’ve made as a society we need to respect the planet/land and not dismiss the value of things done naturally. We would love to visit here one day…

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Getting back to basics, back to roots, back to doing things naturally as you say. Hope we both get there!

      Reply
  4. Robin Bell Renken

    First…I love their labels! Second…I am so glad you are highlighting this region! I would love to try a Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo! And good for them growing Pecorino (not Trebbiano!)
    The comment “It’s not just a fashion statement”, so true! Getting that certification is not easy. It takes hard work and dedication most especially for a small vineyard!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      I know Stefano and his brother will love your comment Robin, they certainly work very hard!

      Reply

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