The Wines of Abruzzo and Molise: New and Recent Releases

In this article Ian D’Agata writes about the exciting and many excellent new releases of Abruzzo and Molise’s wines ranging from inexpensive and easygoing to age-worthy and collectible.
by Ian D’Agata

Abruzzo and Molise are two neighboring regions (larger Abruzzo is located immediately north of the much smaller Molise) that are often discussed together but in fact are quite different. And such differences are present in their wines as well. While Abruzzo is mostly concentrated on its “big three” wines (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and various IGT Pecorino wines) with an ever-increasing attention being paid to newer wines made with recently rediscovered grape varieties such as Passerina and Cococciola. Molise is a hodgepodge of varieties where the indigenous red grape Tintilia (especially) and the just as indigenous white grape Cococciola and their wines are trying to assert themselves.

Though nowhere near as well-known by foreign tourists and vacationers as are Tuscany and Sicily, Abruzzo is in fact one of Italy’s most beautiful regions, offering a litany of national, regional and provincial parks, dreamy seaside landscapes and gorgeous mountain habitats. The food is also among the most interesting in Italy and  first rate ingredients are commonplace: for example, many of Italy’s famous white truffles come from Abruzzo (and not from where you think they might) and one of the world’s highest quality saffron also grows in Abruzzo. In many respects, Abruzzo is also one of Italy’s potentially most interesting wine regions, with fresh and age-worthy whites and luscious reds. Unfortunately, that potential has not yet been fully realized, a typical enough scenario where poverty has loomed large until recently. But there are very encouraging signs, none the more promising than the many new lighter-styled, clean Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and fresh, also clean, white wines being made today. Undoubtedly, the new generations of young viticulturalists and winemakers taking over their family estates have had a very positive impact on the region’s wine production that has honestly never been better.

And so, whereas once all one could hope for from Abruzzo was an inexpensive white and a chunky red, all that has changed nowadays. Pecorino has emerged as one of Italy’s best native white grapes, and its potential to make lemony, high acid, powerful white wines that smell and taste like what an ideal cross of Sauvignon Blanc and a good Pinot Grigio/Gris might has been recognized by everyone, in Italy and abroad. Forget about the atypical banana-pineapple concoctions and concentrate on Pecorino wines that remind you of a more powerful and luscious but less pungent Sauvignon Blanc and you’ll have found a very good Pecorino wine indeed. Trebbiano d’Abruzzo has never been better, and finally, at long last, there are more than just Valentini’s and Tiberio’s to rave about. And once again, I’m not referring to laughable tropical fruit bombs that have in my mind nothing to do with the Trebbiano Abruzzese grape, but to those delicately herbal, nuanced, mineral wines that will remind you of a good Chablis. And do not forget about Passerina and Cococciola, two white grapes that deserve the increasing attention and care bestowed on them: both appear to be able to give very interesting fresh whites that are capable of delivering something that goes well beyond the easygoing neutral white wines with which they have long been associated. Last but not least, remember that Abruzzo makes what are most likely Italy’s best Rosé wines (the famous Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, that are deeper and richer than most pink wines you will have tried), or at no worse, tied with Puglia’s Salento area for “best of class”.

Molise is also starting to emerge from its wine doldrums, with an ever-increasing number of producers making very fine Tintilia wines, a red grape that delivers wines that are somewhat like what a blend of Syrah and Grenache might taste like. The white Cococciola grape is also very promising here, while wines made with the likes of Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, thought they have a logic behind them when such grapes are planted at higher and cooler elevations, have yet to perform especially admirably. But at least there is an interesting side to them, while wines made with the likes of Fiano and Falanghina, which are associated mostly with other regions, really do not have any place in Molise at all, and are made mostly just to cash in on the easy recognizability of those grape variety names.

The recent vintages

The 2019 growing season was preceded by a snowy winter and spring that allowed for the buildup of soil water reserves. Spring was quite rainy, and the rain lasted until May, meaning that flowering was delayed by up to two weeks and disrupted to a degree, with uneven fruit set ensuing. Pressure disease was high right throughout June, that was also marked by frequent rain showers. By contrast, July and August were dry and heat. Such that early-ripening varieties like Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio were picked as early as August 20 along the coastline and around August 26 in the more inland areas of the region. Most red grapes were picked within normal time frames in September and October. Yields were generally higher than in 2018, and quality is very high overall.

The 2018 vintage was a generous one, at least compared to the difficult  2017 vintage (with roughly a +15% increase in crop production in 2018 relative to 2017) and marked by that rainfall that was practically absent in the very parched 2017. Budburst and flowering occurred without problems, but copious rain fell through May, June and early July, meaning that peronospora (downy mildew) and oidium (powdery mildew) posed a problem for farmers everywhere.  Wines appear to be of good quality if perhaps slightly more dilute than in 2019.

The 2017 growing season in Abruzzo will always be remembered as a difficult one. The winter leading up to it was marked by one of the heaviest snowfalls of the last one hundred years, followed by early season frost episodes and summertime heat waves where daily temperatures of 35-39 degrees Celsius were frequent (mercifully, the cold winter and snowstorms had caused a delay in flowering so that when the frost hit on April 18 damage to the vines was minimal). The heat wave was noteworthy for a lack of rainfall and one small hail episode in the southern Chieti territory and young vineyards suffered throughout the region. In fact, the harvest for early-ripening grapes started already in the first week of August!  Overall the white wines lack a little acidity and reds can be marred at times by gritty tannins, but the winemaking and viticultural improvement in Abruzzo and Molise has been such in this last decade that there are many very fine 2017 wines to be found.

The wines in this report were tasted in Italy when I once used to live there and in my office in Shanghai over the course of the last ten months.

Tasting Notes and Scores

Barone Cornacchia

2019 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo  Casanova              90

Pale-medium yellow. Forward nose offers grapefruit, floral honey, and herbs. Broad, open-knit and quite fresh, showing more fruit than volume today. High-pitched citrus notes persist nicely on the lively if very easygoing, uncomplicated finish. Boasts serious size for a Trebbiano d’Abruzzo wine, but without falling over the cliff into atypicality. Drinking window: now-2023

2019 Pecorino Controguerra  Casanova              88

Moderately saturated yellow color. Subtle aromas of citrus peel, herbs and white flowers, plus a whiplash of menthol. Supple and pliant, with balancing acidity nicely framing the reticent flavors of lime, apple and sage. Finishes nicely dry on the medium-long finish, but with a rising underlying green edge. Drinking window: now-2023

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Casanova Bio              88

Deep ruby with purple tinges. Aromas and flavours of plums, coffee, leather and herbs. Sweet and plump on entry, then more austere in the middle, but the medium-long finish has a bitter note. I for one wasn’t thrilled with this bitter element, though I imagine some might appreciate it more than I; in any case, the wine is well-made and ripe, and not green. Drinking window: now-2024.

2016 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva Vigna Le Coste              92

Good full ruby. This is quite good. Clean, fresh and lively aromas and flavours remind of dark plums and cherry, tobacco, licorice and violet. The finish is long and juicy, with piercing, almost biting acidity that nicely extends the flavours on the long back end. For all its acidity, this has turned out quite harmonious. Drinking window: now-2026

2015 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane Vizzarro bio              89

Saturated red-ruby. Subdued aromas of blackberry, raspberry, anise, violet and celery seed. Sweet and fruit-driven on entry, then rather tannic, but with good length to its textured dark fruit and herbal flavours. The rising mouth-coating tannins suggest this will benefit from a few more years in the cellar in the hope that the tannins resolve and are’ the sign of physiologic stress due to summer heat. Drinking window: 2024-2027


2019 Cococciola Colline Pescaresi              91+

Luminous pale yellow. Fresh lemony and saline nuances to the white flower and pear aromas and flavours. A hint of carbonic gas adds freshness on the long saline finish. Very lovely and fresh, this delightful wine goes down not by the glass but by the bucket.  Drinking window: now-2023

2019 Passerina Colline Pescaresi               92

Green-straw yellow. Vibrant, mineral-dominated nose evokes notes of fresh green apple, lime and talc. Then just as racy in the mouth, with flavours of apple and pear turning sweeter and riper with aeration, veering towards juicy yellow melon reminders. I like this wine’s balance of energy and depth: you can tell there is old vine-derived density here. Passerina is not at all typical of the Chieti area where the Cingilia estate’s vineyards are located, but owner Fabio Di Donato stumbled upon an old vineyard of Passerina and decided he couldn’t do without making a wine from it. Good for him, uprooting these old vines would have been bordering on the criminal. Drinking window: now-2024

2019 Pecorino Colline Pescaresi              88

Gold-tinged straw yellow. High-toned aromas of soft citrus fruits, balsamic oils and marzipan. Supple and rich but a bit foursquare, even stunted today. Possesses the structure and size that ripe Pecorino grapes can deliver in spades but not much refinement presently. I’d cellar this for another year  to let it develop more nuance. Drinking window: 2023-2026

2019 Rosato Colline Pescaresi              89

Bright dark pink. Strawberry and fresh unripe red cherry nuances are complicated by pink flowers on the pretty nose. Then similar flavours to the aromas, with a medium-long suave finish. Perhaps just a little simple, and denoting a clever use of residual sugar, but it’s hard to argue with this wine’s up-front, delicious personality. Drinking window: now-2023

2018   Montepulciano d’Abruzzo              92

Moderately saturated deep ruby. Aromas and flavours of red cherry, dark plum, tar and violet. Harmonious acidity provides good clarity and cut on the long youthfully chewy finish. Strikes me as being much cleaner than the 2017. Currently a very good pizza and pasta wine, or steak and potatoes if you prefer, but I think a little more cellaring might help this gain more depth and size. A lovely wine that is a steal for the price, Cingilia is one of Italy’s up and coming wine estates and one that’s worth following closely. Drinking window: now-2022


2019 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo La Collina biologica              90

Bright straw. Lemon, white flowers and herbs on the nose and in the mouth. Offers more texture than fruit flavour, finishing quite dry, but clean and nicely persistent. Drinking window: now-2024

2018 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo La Collina Biologica              88

Vivid deep straw yellow. Sweet apple and pear notes dominate on the nose. In the mouth, tastes more tannic and less fruity, leaving a clenched impression on the medium-long, dusty finish. Drinking window: now-2023

2019 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo La Collina biologica              92

Moderately saturated ruby. Perfumed nose combines blackberry, black cherry and spices, complemented by earth tones and tar. Juicy and spicy, with good vinosity and cut to the dark berry and spice flavors that persist nicely on the firm finish. Maybe not the last word in complexity, but this is lovely, and you’ll find you won’t want to put the glass back down when you start sipping (always a good sign, in my books). Drinking window: now-2027

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo              91

Deep ruby with purple tinges. Woodsy underbrush, minerals and coffee complement the dark cherry and smoked plum aromas and flavours. Very typical Montepulciano wine that teeters dangerously close to falling over into animal notes, but stays clean, suave and juicy, with building, chewy but ripe tannins that ensure a likely good eight years of life ahead. Now I might very well be mistaken, but it seems to me like Cirelli has come up with some very impressive reds of late. Drinking window: now-2026


2018 PecorinoAbruzzo Superiore Aspetta Primavera              90

Orange-tinged straw yellow. Lemon and butter on the nose, plus hints of sage, pineapple and spices. Juicy and fruit-driven, with a touch of sweetness, this fairly sizable Pecorino wine picks up a more herbal personality with aeration. The aftertaste is savory and persistent. Drinking window: now-2024

2015 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Terre dei Vestini Riserva Chiedi alla Polvere 91

Good full ruby. Clean and fresh bramble, dark berries, and tamarind dominate the nose and the mouth. Very smooth from entry to finish, with good harmonious acidity nicely supporting the ripe dark fruit and spice flavours. Really quite good. Drinking window: now-2026

Emidio Pepe

2018 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo              94

Deep yellow. Knockout aromas and flavours of custard cream, lemon curd, pear and sweet herbs all nicely complicated by hints of butter and fresh herbs. Rich deep and suave, this is an absolutely lovely, serious Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. Drinking window: now-2030

2018 Pecorino Coli Aprutini              89

Dark yellow. Aromas of ripe yellow apple, pear and chestnut honey. Enters big and chewy, with varietally accurate flavours of ripe pear and herbs, but finishes slightly bitter. This rather big-bodied wine really needs food to show best. I never cease to be amazed by how much Emidio Pepe’s white wines have improved over the last ten years, but the Pecorino is still the wine bringing up the rear at the estate more often than not.

2019 Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo              95

I have said it once and I will say it again. The Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is Emidio Pepe’s best wine, and by far. Deep pink, it offers intense, deep aromas and flavours of red cherry, sweet spices and minty herbs, complicated by white and pink flowers, plus hints of marzipan and orange peel. Finishes long and suave, not to mention extremely pure and vibrant, without any of the funkiness that often affects the estate’s much-lauded Montepulciano wine. This deep, flavorful Cerasuolo is once again a simply great rosé wine that puts to shame the litany of insipid watery rosés that plague wine store shelves and wine lists everywhere. Drinking window: now-2025

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo              94

Good deep ruby. Roasted, smoky aromas of black cherry, redcurrant and crushed herbs, with a liqueur-like nuance and a hint of complicating potpourri. Supple, lush and sweet, with good acid cut providing energy to the middle palate. This delightful Montepulciano finishes with sweet, youthfully chewy tannins and hints of coffee and tar. Made from the estate’s younger vines, this boasts plenty of stuffing to age but at the same time also plenty also of upfront appeal. Drinking window: now-2034.


2019 Pecorino Colline Teatine Ursonia              90

Vivid straw yellow. Lime skin and iris on the nose. Bright, fresh and sweet on entry, then slightly hard-edged, turning firm but with the nicely dense orchard fruit and herbal flavours persisting nicely on the long suave finish. Drinking window: now-2024

2018 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Ursonia              88

Bright straw colour. Lemon, orange peel and sweet herbs on the nose. Cleanish and with a slightly off-dry quality, but only modest flesh to the apple and pear flavours. Could also use a bit more length. Drinking window: now-2024

2018 Pecorino Colline Teatine Ursonia              89

Medium-dark straw yellow. Yellow fruits and herbs on the nose, lifted by a hint of grapefruit and kiwi. Ripe, sweet and broad, with decent delineation of its orchard fruit and sweet herb flavours. Finishes medium-long with spicy, dusty nuances. Drinking window: now-2025

2017 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Fonte Venna              88

Good moderately deep ruby. Dried cherry, dark plum, toast and nuts on the nose. Juicy and dry, with modest texture and flesh to its flavours similar to the aromas. Finishes with decent length but really not much complexity. Drinking window: now-2024

2017 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Feuduccio              87

Good full ruby. Ripe black and red fruit aromas and flavours. Fat and sweet on entry, then risingly tannic and harsh, with a smoky richness that persists on the long finish. Drinking window: now-2024

2016 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Ursonia              91

Deep opaque ruby. Dark cherry, smoky plum and pungent minerality on the nose. Then more mellow and subdued in the mouth, with very good sweetness and balance to the black cherry and mineral flavours. Spreads out impressively to smoothly coat the palate on the rising finish. Lovely Montepulciano d’Abruzzo that is good to go now but that will age another five-six years easy. Drinking window: now-2027

I Fauri

2019 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Baldovino              90

Luminous straw colour. Aromas of apple, freshly cut hay and minerals. Clean, fresh and precise, offering classically dry, clean, good flavours of lemon, herbs and orchard fruit. Drinking window: now-2024

2019 Passerina Colline Teatine              88

Medium-dark orange. Herbs and peach skin on the nose. Softly textured and ripe, with broad but short flavours reminiscent of the aromas. Slightly macerated, this is neither as fresh as a classically made white wine nor as deep and complex as some other wines kept long on the skins. I used to be a big fan of I Fauri’s Passerina, often finding it to be the estate’s best wine; but this strikes me as having undertaken a different course. Drinking window: now-2024

2019 Pecorino Abruzzo              89

Medium dark yellow. Lemon, ginger and a faint lactic nuance on the nose. Supple and sweet, with decent concentration to the apple and herb flavours. Conveys a nicely pliant texture but not much depth or complexity. Drinking window: now-2024

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Baldovino              89

Deep ruby. Initially quite reduced, but the animal notes blow off with aeration revealing red and dark cherry aromas and flavours that are nicely pure and persistent. Drinking window: now-2024

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Ottobre Rosso               91

Good full, deep ruby. Aromas of black cherry and licorice, with a hint of reduction but that decanting ahead will resolve without difficulty. Sweet black cherry and tarry flavors are complicated by game, woodsy underbrush and smoke. Has a noteworthy underlying tannic spine but stays on the right side of smooth on the long finish. Drinking window: now-2027


2019 Pecorino Conroguerra              91

Pale yellow-gold. Expressive notes of fresh soft citrus scents, toast and herbs. Classically dry and fresh, with very good cut and freshness to its apple and lime flavours. For a basic Pecorino bottling, this boasts noteworthy power and precision. Drinking window: now-2024

2019 Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo Campirosa              90

Bright deep pink. Buttercups, pink roses, redcurrant and a whiff of wax the nose. Then juicy and pungent on the palate, with sour red cherry and vanilla flavors dominating. Offers good clarity and cut on the long slightly saline, juicy finish. Drinking window: now-2024

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Lumeggio di Rosso              90

Good ruby-red. Dark cherry, plum, and spices on the nose. Round, lush and pliant in the mouth, with a soft, ripe red plum flavour and sweet tannins, not to mention very good freshness. Nicely persistent, this offers early pleasure and an easygoing personality that’s hard not to like. Drinking window: now-2025

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riparossa              90

Deep ruby. Herbs and tar on the nose complicate floral red berry aromas and flavours on the nose and in the mouth. Nicely dense and texture on the long fruity finish. Always a sure bet and a good buy, Riparossa comes through again in a slightly difficult vintage. Drinking window: now-2024

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Ilico              88

Dark ruby. Bitter cherry, mint and herbs on the nose. Perfumed flavors of tart red and dark berries and a complicating note of eucalyptus. Not especially sweet but not tough either, but an underlying green streak detracts from this wine’s pleasurability. Drinking window: 2024-2027

2015 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane Riserva Zanna          92
Moderately saturated bright medium ruby. Ripe but lively aromas of red cherry, blueberry and sweet oak. Floral and red berry flavors are sweet and fresh but with an inviting underlying creaminess nicely supported by a suave tannic spine. Sneaky depth and concentration on the long smooth lively finish. Drinking window: 2023-2027

2015 Controguerra Riserva Lumen              91

Opaque ruby. Ripe plum, smoke, minerals, flowers and coffee on the nose. Densely packed but a bit youthfully clenched, with black cherry, cocoa and licorice flavors complicated by a faint meaty quality. Finishes with substantial but polished tannins and a hint of botanical herbs. Drinking window: now-2028

La Valentina

2019 Pecorino Colline Pescaresi              89

Bright straw-yellow. Fresh aromas of apple and nectarine are complicated by herbs and honey. Easygoing and uncomplicated, with a hint of wild fennel and chamomile complementing the orchard fruit flavours. Finishes fresh but a bit short. Drinking window: now-2024

2018 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Spelt               91

Vibrant straw colour. Aromas of lime, menthol and pear. Expansive but cool in the mouth, with harmonious lemony acidity keeping the menthol and herb flavors under wraps. Hints at underlying depth and the creamy mouthfeel lingers nicely on the aftertaste. This improved with just a little aeration so open it at least a half hour ahead. Drinking window: now-2024

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo              91

Vivid red. High-pitched, floral aromas of fresh raspberry and dark cherry. Juicy, open-knit red fruit flavors show good precision and tangy flintiness. The floral note repeats on the lively finish. This is a lovely, easygoing Montepulciano d’Abruzzo that’s fun to drink. Well done.

2017 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva Spelt              87

Bright saturated ruby. High-toned aromas and flavours of black cherry, blueberry, bitter chocolate and licorice. Enters sweet, ripe and lush if a bit chunky, but then turns astringent in the middle and finishes with noteworthy bitterness. A big wine that will have its share of admirers, this will undoubtedly taste better with food that will help mask the grittiness of the tannins, a hallmark of many reds (and not just from Abruzzo).

2016 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva Bellovedere              92+

Deep red-ruby. Blueberry, blackberry, licorice, flowers and oaky spices on the nose. Juicy and penetrating in the mouth, with good verve to the fleshy flavours of bitter chocolate, licorice and dark berries. The tannins coat the palate on the chunky finish. I think this will improve considerably with a little bottle age: well done. Drinking window: 2024-2029

2016 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva Binomio              89

Fully saturated purple-ruby. Aromas of blackberry, sweet spices, vanilla and balsamic oils are complicated by herbal and peppery nuances. Thick, dense and very ripe, with fleshy but ultimately straightforward flavors of medicinal dark fruits, cloves and woodsy underbrush. Stumbles on the back end, unleashing a note of cough medicine and a strong whiff of alcohol. By no means bad, but far too big and ripe for its own good, this ultimately palate-fatiguing wine that is in need of less size and more verve, though I am sure those who like their wines big and fleshy will think more of this than I. Drinking window: 2023-2027


2019 Bianco Villa Gemma Colline Teatine              88

Good full yellow. Vivid lime notes lift the aromas of peach and ripe citrus fruit. Juicy and firmly built, with a saline nuance to the lemon and lime flavors. Finishes with good grip and ripe notes of orchard fruit. Drinking window: now-2024

2019 Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo Villa Gemma              93

Deep pink. Perfumed aromas and flavours of red cherry, redcurrant, violet, plus a complicating hint of woodsy underbrush. At once penetrating and luscious, lively acidity nicely extends the juicy fruit on the long back end which features a mounting bittersweet note. I have long thought that Masciarelli’s meaty but fresh Cerasuolo is the best wine in the Villa Gemma lineup, and this gorgeous Cerasuolo adds more evidence to my pile of proof. Absolutely delicious pink wine. Drinking window: now-2025

2018 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Riserva              88

Full yellow colour. Aromas of pineapple and spices are complemented by a floral topnote. Classically dry and verging-on-austere, with the spice and stone fruit flavours slightly drying on the dusty finish. I would have liked a little more sweetness of fruit. Drinking window: now-2024

2017 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo S.Martino Rosso              88

Good full purple-ruby. Big full wine on the nose and in the mouth, but for all its ripeness and sweetness, it ultimately strikes me as slightly charmless. And despite all that ripeness, it finishes very acidic on the medium-long finish. Undoubtedly, the 2017 vintage was a difficult one. Drinking window: now-2024

2015 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva Villa Gemma              89

Bright deep ruby-purple. Ripe aromas of blackberry, loam, coffee and black olive. Deep and chewy and quite firmly built, but its solid tannic structure leaves an astringent, overly-tannic sensation on the thick back end. Drinking window: now-2026


2019 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Le Murate              88

Bright straw yellow. Aromas of orange, apple, and flowers. Tight and lean in the mouth, with slightly hard-edged acidity leaving this wine rather austere, but with aeration gains a little fat. Closes zesty and long. Drinking window: now-2023

2019 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Superiore Notàri              90

Luminous yellow. Apricot, apple and a whiff of loam on the nose. Fresh apricot flavours are enlivened by juicy acidity and complicated by a suggestion of creamy egg custard on the medium-long finish. Rounder than the 2019 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Le Murate. Drinking window: now-2024

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane Le Murate              90

Deep ruby. Lively aromas and flavours of red fruit and herbs, lifted by a touch of violet. Easygoing and simple on the medium-long zesty finish. Drinking window: now-2024

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane Notàri              90

Moderately saturated ruby. Aromas and flavours of dark berries, earth and coffee. Finishes long and smooth with repeating notes of coffee; though not the last word in complexity, this boasts good overall sweetness.

2016 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane Riserva Neromoro              89+

Fully saturated ruby-purple. Sweet aromas and flavours of ripe dark fruit, sweet spices, and balsamic oils. Dominated today by sweet oak and relentless tannins, but there’s enough fruit here to have me hope that the tannins won’t win out in the end. Try cellaring for a couple of years and see if the oaky clasp resolves somewhat. Drinking window: 2024-2028


2019 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Bio              88

Vivid straw colour. Slightly reticent on the nose, with hints of apple and pear. Youthfully imploded, but with good floral cut to the flavors of peach, apricot and cut grass. Finishes juicy, dry and medium-long, with a hint of earth. Drinking window: now-2024

2019 Pecorino Controguerra Bio              89

Bright medium yellow Pungent aromas of nectarine, orange oil and spices. Then quite pliant and open-knit today, with easygoing, round flavours of nectarine, yellow peach and nutmeg emerging on the zingy finish. Drinking window: now-2024

2017 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane Bio              87

Good full ruby-red. Brooding aromas of black cherry, coffee and bitter chocolate. Broad and sweet on entry, but turns slightly tough and backward on the palate, with a slightly austere and medicinal cast to the flavours of menthol and cocoa. Drinking window: now-2024


2019 Passerina Abruzzo 12.1              90

Pale bright yellow. Juicy and fruity on the nose and palate, hinting at ripe apricot, yellow apple, minerals and honey. In a rather sweet, soft style typical of the variety, with plenty of verve if not mind-blowing complexity. Drinking window: now-2024

2019 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo              92

Clear straw yellow. Very intense apple pie and bittersweet herbs complicate ripe orchard fruit on the nose and in the mouth. Smooth, multilayered and quite deep on the long finish. This is excellent. Drinking window: now-2025

2019 Pecorino Abruzzo              87

Orange-tinged colour. Strongly macerated aromas and flavours nullify the characteristics of the grape, leaving little interest in its earth, cider and herbs that are typical of all such macerated wines.

2018 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Mario’s 46              88

Golden-tinged yellow. Then almost orange wine-like in its aroma and flavour profile, finishing bitingly tannic and medium-long. Those who like macerated wines will like this more than I, but this is too macerated for me.  Drinking window: now-2024

2019 Pecorino Abruzzo ‘Ekwo              91

Very good straw colour. Nicely intense and full-bodied, with lovely anise, menthol, and lemony aromas and flavours. Closes medium-long and slightly tannic. Drinking window: now-2024


2019 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo              92

Delicate straw-green colour. Refined aromas and flavours of apple, pear and minty herbs are lifted by notes of white flowers. Long and lively on the minerally-accented finish, there’s sneaky concentration and lovely purity to this wine. Drinking window: now-2024

2019 Pecorino Abruzzo              93

Medium-dark straw yellow. Sage, chamomile, rosemary and white peach dominate the nose. Then similar flavours in the mouth, with complicating hints of tangerine and orange cordial adding body. Closes long and fruity, but with a multilayered quality. This very successful wine smells and tastes like what an ideal mixture of Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc might taste like and is a real crowd pleaser. Drinking window: now-2026

2018 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Fonte Canale              95

Full straw yellow-with a green tinge. White peach, jasmine, lemon verbena, minerals and musk on the nose. Concentrated, sweet and deep but surprisingly open-knit today with flavours similar to the aromas. A building saline quality adds an element of interest to the lingering finish that features a strong note of lime. This seems approachable now but has the stuffing to age. Drinking window: 2023-2030

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo              94

Bright ruby. Pungent, very penetrating but perfumed floral nuances complement decadent red cherry, plum and herbal aromas and flavours. Fresh and juicy, but with very good stuffing and smooth tannins providing support on the long, lively finish that features a rising, mildly aromatic note of varnish and pine cone. Ever since I tasted the 2018 Tiberio Montepulciano from tank I have been impressed by its perfume and sweetness; there is a decadent, super-ripe quality to its aromas and flavours that is not just intriguing (in that it is at once so atypical and rare) but also decadent without falling into the overripe or caricatural. In effect, some of that sultry sweetness has given way to more resiny, pine cone notes, but the overall olfactory profile is unique and almost Pinot Noir-like. The wine smells as if it were made with whole bunches or put through at least a partial carbonic maceration, and yet neither of those two techniques have been used here. Go figure: what can I say? Not much, except very well done. Drinking window: now-2026

2017 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Archivio              96

Luminous deep ruby. Very expressive, complex and deep nose of smoky dark and red cherry fruit, sweet spices, flint and cocoa, but with the tell-tale Tiberio refinement. Then very smooth and creamy, but with a ripely penetrating quality to its multilayered dark fruit and sweet spice flavours: the oak here is not obtrusive at all but adds an extra dimension and another layer to the wine. The finish is long and suave. This is the first ever vintage of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Archivio, the Tiberio’s brand new Montepulciano d’Abruzzo that is a Riserva in everything but name. It is also the first wine the estate has ever aged in wood (30% of the wine is aged in French oak barriques, 33% of which are new), made with grapes picked from 65 years old Montepulciano vines growing in a specific 1.2 hectare section of a larger 2.5 hectare vineyard. These vines are of four different old Montepulciano biotypes that the brother and sister team of Antonio and Cristiana Tiberio have saved and nurtured over the years; this explains the wine’s name, archivio, or archive, that refers to what is in effect an archive of rare Montepulciano biotypes. Drinking window: now-2032

Torre dei Beati

2019 Pecorino Abruzzo Giocheremo con i Fiori              92

Deep bright straw yellow. Honeyed and rich, with good perfume and density to the apple and pear aromas and flavours. Closes long and fresh. This is quite good. Drinking window: now-2024

2018 Pecorino Abruzzo Bianchi Grilli              89

Medium-dark straw yellow. Aromas and flavours of yellow flowers and ripe orchard fruit complicated by balsamic oils. Enters big but turns slightly candied and finishes short. Drinking window: now-2024

2019 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo              91

Deep purple colour. Black cherry, smoke and loam on the lively nose. Round and smooth with slightly simple flavours of red cherry raspberry. This is very good for an entry-level wine but then again, Torre dei Beati has a real knack with the Montepulciano grape.

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cocciapazza              92

Deep opaque purple-ruby. Licorice, coffee and smoke aromas and flavours have a slightly sweaty nuance. Finishes long and youthfully chewy and a touch of alcohol-derived warmth. Drinking window: now-2028

2017 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Mazzamurello               90

Fully opaque. Red cherry notes dominate the nose and the mouth. Enters sweet and smooth, but then turns very tannic, finishing with noteworthy alcohol warmth and a tannic peppery bite. Really needs food to show well; maybe a few years in the cellar will help this smoothen out, but right now this is very tough going. Drinking window: 2024-2029

Valle Reale

2019 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo              90

Deep purple. Flinty aromas and flavours of dark cherry and herbs. This is lovely, round and smooth, slightly simple with a slight touch of alcohol on the long refined lively finish. Drinking window: now-2024

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Vigneto Sant’Eusanio              93

Deep vibrant ruby. Complex aromas and flavours of dark berries, red cherry, violet, minerals and espresso coffee. Multilayered and deep, harmonious acidity really provides utmost clarity, cut and focus. Finishes very long, with bright floral lift and a strong saline edge. This is a really beautiful example of cool climate Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Drinking window: 2023-2029

2016 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Vigneto di Popoli              93

Deep inky-ruby. Cool aromas of flint, blackcurrant, coffee and licorice. Smooth and light on its feet, with a steely quality to its blue and black fruit flavours nicely framed by zingy acidity and polished tannins. The long close repeats hints of flint and dark fruit, as well as of herbs. Very precise, clean, vibrant Montepulciano d’Abruzzo that shows the more refined side of the grape. Drinking window: 2024-2029


2016 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo        94

Luminous straw yellow with golden highlights. Lemon, apricot, white chocolate and herbs explode from the glass, and then similar flavours greet the taste buds. Long, precise and dense, this is textured, multilayered white wine that will age effortlessly. Beautiful stuff. Drinking window: 2024-2036

2019 Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo        94

Medium pink colour with a garnet tinge. Aromas and flavours of red berries and herbs, plus a hint of red beans and whte flowers. At once fresh and juicy, with a saline bite on the long back end, this complex, building pink wine strikes me as one of the best Cerasuolo’s Valentini has made in recent years. Dinking window: now-2028

2015 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo          96

Deep ruby. Fragrant aromas of red cherry, dark plums, tar, licorice, woodsy underbrush and minerals. Textured and layered, with harmonious but lively acidity nicely framing and extending the ripe red fruit flavours on the long back end. There’s real clarity and cut here for what is most likely going to turn out to be Valentini’s best red since his magnificent 2006 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Truly bravissimi as always! Drinking window: 2025-2040

Cataldi Madonna

2017 Pecorino Supergiulia                93  

Bright straw yellow. Varietally accurate aromas and flavours of yellow orchard fruits, sage and thyme, with a twist of lemon for added lift. Clean and pure, with a nicely textural mouthfeel, this lingers impressively on its fresh long finish. Drinking window: now-2026

2018    Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo Pie’ delle Vigne                92 

Deep pink. Atypically amssive Pie’ delle Vigne, which takes Rose’ wines into a whole other dimension. Red cherries, rosehips, herbs and flint all combine on the nose and in the mouth to leave a lasting memory. This is a very serious pink wine that will outlive many reds. Well done. Drinking window: now- 2028

2017    Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Malandrino             91 

Deep ruby. Bright and crisp aromas and flavours of red cherries, plums, licorice and tar are lifted by zingy aciodity. Not the most complex red you’ll ever drink, but Malandrino’s charms reside in its juicy upfront fruity personality and its accessible nature. Another winner from Cataldi Madonna. Drinking window: now-2020


2019    Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo Superiore            91 

Luminous dark crimson-pink. A whiff of funkiness blows off quickly with aeration, leaving behind clean aromas of red plums, peach and herbs. Smooth and juicy, with varietally accurate red fruit flavours and a lingering stoniness on the zingy but textured finish. This is a pink wine that will stand up to many meat dishes. Drinking window: now-2025

2015    Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva              93

Good full ruby. Deep aromas and flavours of dark plum, licorice, tar, wild herb and woodsy underbrush need plenty of air to show their best. Multilayered and tactile, this Montepulciano wine lingers impressively on the long, still youthfully chewy finish. Drinking window: now-2026


2019 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Bio              89

Bright straw yellow. Apple, pear and tangerine on the lively nose. Then at once creamy and fresh in the mouth, with lingering floral and fruit nuances on the bright finish. Drinking window: now-2024

2018 Pecorino Abruzzo Octava Dies              90

Vivid pale golden-tinged yellow. Chamomile and fennel complement hints of ripe tropical fruit and apple. Then slightly more herbal in the mouth, with lively flavours similar to the aromas. The aftertaste is medium-long and fresh. Drinking window: now-2024

Ian D'Agata

Editor-in-Chief of Terroir Sense Wine Review
President of Terroir Sense Academy
Vice President of Association Internationale des Terroirs
Chief Scientific Officer of TasteSpirit

Ian D’Agata has been writing and educating about wines for over thirty years. Internationally recognized as an distinguished expert, critic and writer on many wine regions, his two most recent, award winning books Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs (both published by University of California Press) are widely viewed as the "state of the art" textbooks on the subject. The former book won the Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year in 2015 and was ranked as the top wine books of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times and the New York Times, while the latter was named among the best wine books of the year by Food & Wine Magazine and the NY Times.

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Ian D'Agata