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.
“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.
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.”
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
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
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.
Senza Alibi 2017 | Montepulciano | Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOP | 15€ | 13.5% abv
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
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).