Wine Deliveries and Wonderful Memories

It’s amazing how, even after so many years, wine deliveries can still excite me. Especially when the wines bring back as many lovely memories as these…

I recently discovered that some of my best-loved wines from Abruzzo, from what might just be my absolute favourite producer there (Tiberio), are now available here in Belgium. Needless to say that I simply had to put in an order – the first of many, I suspect 😉 – and the cases were delivered on my doorstep a few days ago. Happy times!

I met Cristiana Tiberio (and had my first taste of their wines) in January 2020, right before the Corona pandemic hit widely and shut everything down. Thanks to Ian D’Agata, amazing wine teacher and mentor, we got to spend a few days in the lovely town of Cugnoli, Abruzzo, where we got to know some of Central Italy’s most exciting wines.

Cristiana and her family made a huge impression from the start, welcoming us so warmly, and sharing their boundless love for their vines & wines, their knowledge of the region, its food & winemaking culture, and much more. They arranged for our group to taste so many great local specialities, prepared on site by some of the best at their craft, ánd Mrs. and Mr. Riccardo Tiberio even prepared us a few scrumptious family favourites.

On a side note: an honourable mention goes to their beautiful dog Quarmari. Confession time: I love animals, but dogs easily spook me (I’m a total cat person). But Quarmari, he is the gentlest giant you could meet, and an indispensable part of the heart and soul of the estate. Does this gorgeous face radiate ‘come pet me’ or what? 🙂

The Tiberio Estate

Cristiana and Antonio’s father Riccardo used to be the export manager for a winery in the region. But one day he discovered a rare plot of old Trebbiano Abruzzese vines, a high-quality white grape which is not related to many of the other Trebbianos that are out there. In 2000 he managed to buy this 8 hectare vineyard, together with about 30 hectares of land, which he planted with other native grape varieties, such as Montepulciano, Pecorino and Aglianico.

A number of years later, his son Antonio took over responsibility for the vineyards, and daughter Cristiana became the winemaker. They decided to work even more with local varieties, which lead them to plant more Pecorino and Trebbiano Abruzzese vines, from planting material obtained by massal selection from their own plots.

To read more about their vineyards and viticultural practices, check out this very interesting 2019 Forbes article about vine growing and wine making traditions in Abruzzo, in which Cristiana talks in great detail about their choices and experiences, and in particular about the pergola Abruzzese training system in their oldest vineyard.

The Tiberio Wines

Now let’s talk about their wines. From the entry level to the high-end prestige bottlings: these are pure gems. To name but a few: a gorgeous fresh and zesty Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (grape variety: Trebbiano Abruzzese); a spectacular intense and layered Pecorino; a lipsmackingly vibrant Cerasuolo, and a rich yet elegant and intriguing Montepulciano. 🍇🍷

Worth looking out for, and more than worth the detour if you’re anywhere near Abruzzo!

Tasting Notes

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2020

This is a lovely fresh and fruity wine, with a beautiful light golden hue in the glass, and aromas and flavours of green and red apple, pear, lemon, lemon blossom and grapefruit zest, layered with fennel notes and a touch of bitter almonds.

On the palate it shows vibrant, juicy acidity, lots of focused pure fruit flavours, and a delicate round mouthfeel. It’s a wine that’s very good to drink now, but which will easily keep for a few more years.

It’s a versatile wine too: to savour on its own, or as an accessible yet interesting food partner for all seasons. You can pair it with a wide range of antipasti, with seafood carpaccios or ceviche, sushi & sashimi, barbecued seafood or poultry. Or – like we did last night – with a wintery dish of carrot mash, pork sausages and a citrussy green herb salad. Simply delicious!

Pecorino 2020

Even though you can easily drink the 2020 Pecorino now, I would recommend giving it at least 1 or 2 more years in the cellar so it gets a chance to show its true character. Or decant it, as you wish. 😉

Another beauty in the glass, with that attractive light golden hue that evokes warm spring afternoons, and aromas and flavours of pear, yellow apple, fresh figs, melon and citrus zest, over herbal tones (sage, thyme), almond blossoms and lightly toasted bread. Zippy acidity cuts through the concentrated flavours and round, creamy texture, and it ends on a mouthwatering saline note.

This is a great cheese pairing partner (and not just because of the grape variety’s name), especially with semi-hard and hard cheeses, including aged and crumbly styles. But it will match equally well with creamy and cheesy pastas, spaghetti carbonara, chicken or veal fricassee, as well as with sushi and sashimi (incl. the more intense marinated and glazed versions), yakitori, grilled whole fish with lemon and herbs, cassoulet or even refined renditions of caesar salad.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2020

Opening this wine now is kind of committing vinfanticide (tipping my hat to Keita here, who introduced me to the term on Vivino many years ago). Even though it’s already whispering of its potential, it is too young to fully showcase it now. So if you’re a tad impatient like me: decant the wine for at least a few hours before diving in.

This is an intriguing Montepulciano, and in a blind tasting I would have suspected it got some oak ageing, which is – as far as I know – not the case. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts, in stainless steel tanks, and briefly matured in stainless steel and in bottle afterwards. There are delicious notes of coffee, cloves and cinnamon in there, which support the lively acidity and rich fruit into a medium-length, fresh, layered finish. The tannins are ripe but still at the forefront, so they could use either a few years of bottle ageing, or a good red meat dish, to mellow out.

But the most powerful feature of this wine is its wonderful red and black fruit character: dark cherries, plums and dried cranberries, interlaced with orange zest, dark chocolate, baking spices, candied violets and a sprinkle of dried herbs (oregano, fennel). At its current young age: pair with a wide range of meat dishes, from great steaks and well-made burgers to flavoursome herb-rich / ragu-style / tomato-based sauces and stews. In a few years, it will match beautifully with cured meats, grilled mushrooms and all kinds of well-seasoned plant-based dishes as well.

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