Say Abruzzo in some corners of the wine-loving world and you’re likely going to be met with derision.
Fairly or otherwise, the region has developed something of a reputation over the last few years. It’s not a reputation that many in the Italian wine industry would want to have.
Simply put, many see the wines from the region as “pizzeria” wines. They’re the sorts of wines that sit just above the cheap house wines on a restaurant’s menu.
That’s assuming that they make it onto the menu at all.
Many point to the lax DOC policies that surround the region. For whatever reason, Abruzzo is the only region in which wines can get the DOC label even if the bottling of them takes place outside of the region.
That’s a problem for many. In fact, some will tell you that this practice has given rise to a number of cooperatives that are less interested in making amazing wines and more interested in taking advantage of Abruzzo’s fertile lands to mass produce.
Some even go so far as to say that it’s these cooperatives that do a lot to drag the Abruzzo name through the mud.
After all, how can a wine be a reflection of the region if it came from if it’s not even bottled in that region?
It’s always been a little puzzling as to why the DOC allows this practice for Abruzzo and nowhere else. It’s also clearly led to a very negative – we would say unfairly so – view of the grapes and wines that come from the region.
Producers in Abruzzo struggle against this stereotype every day. A wine that’s legitimately made in the region gets classed in the same way as one made by a cooperative outside of Abruzzo.
And the cooperatives make more, which means it’s more likely that it’s their wines you’ll drink.
No wonder Abruzzo winemakers feel frustrated. Some of the grapes grown in the region don’t even get bottled in Italy! It’s not difficult to find wines made in Sweden, Germany, and the UK that use grapes from Abruzzo.
It’s a lack of quality control that’s had severe effects on the region’s reputation. But it’s an issue that winemakers in Abruzzo are determined to resolve.
The winds of change are in the air for Abruzzo. Today, we’re seeing the region attempting to make a shift back to respectability in the Italian wine industry. And with any luck, that shift will lead to international renown and popularity the likes of which the winemakers who call Abruzzo home have deserved all along.
Simply put, there’s a movement to take the region back from the cooperatives that many believe have held it down for so long.
Abruzzo’s winemakers seem to have collectively decided that now is the time to show people what wines from the region really have to offer. And we’re already seeing signs of their efforts bearing fruit.
For example, May 2017 saw the first every major tasting of Abruzzo wines held in London, England. This was a pretty major event for the region. Many Abruzzo wines never find their way to UK shores, which is a major blow given the amount of wine the British people consume each year.
Abruzzo wasn’t just failing to make its mark in the country. It wasn’t even represented in the first place.
This wine testing thus gave people the chance to experience wines that they’d never tried before. The “real” Abruzzo region was demonstrated in full force with 50 wines that highlighted a level of quality that many didn’t realise the region had.
The event also highlighted the trends taking over the region right now. There’s an ever-growing collection of private and family winemakers who are trying to make names for themselves. They’re doing that by introducing a wider variety of grapes to their wines and producing bottles that blow past many of those produced by cooperatives, at least in terms of quality.
That tasting in London was just a precursor for a more concerted push into international waters. A government-funded effort followed that included a set of trade and press trips around the UK. We even say several noted sommeliers offering their expert opinions on the wines produced in Abruzzo.
To lend credibility to a region that’s often massively underestimated in the annals of Italian wine. And we’re sure the producers that featured during this press tour appreciated the greater renown and exposure that it provided to their wines.
We’re even seeing some changes in a few of the cooperatives that have caused so many issues in the past. Take Tenuta Arabona. For about four decades, this company worked as a cooperative that made what many would consider low-grade Abruzzo wines.
But it’s undergone a transformation.
Today, the company isn’t just dedicating itself to the region. It’s also decided to go organic in an effort to appeal to an even wider international audience.
Of course, we must also give mention to the likes of the Masciarelli Tenute Agricole company and the Pasetti family. They’ve made it their mission over many years to prove to people that Abruzzo wines are so much more than the cheap table wines that many assume them to be.
Finally, it seems like the rest of the region has joined them.
The Final Word
The Abruzzo region still has a lot of preconceptions to conquer if it’s to reclaim its rightful place in the pantheon of great Italian wine regions. The cooperatives have by no means disappeared, even if some of them have shifted focus in an effort to produce more quality wines.
But there’s a definite push, both from those in the region and the government, to make Abruzzo a respected wine region once again. Pushes into international territories, such as the tasting in London, will surely help.
However, the burden primarily rests on the producers shoulders.
If Abruzzo keeps making quality wines, it will eventually cast off the shackles that have held it down for so long. And in doing so, it will open the door to international recognition.