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Details for Valle Reale, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo

AppellationTrebbiano d'Abruzzo DOC
Trebbiano Abruzzese
(click to find out more)


The central Italian region of Abruzzo lies on the Adriatic coast, on the opposite side to Rome.  Much of it is mountainous, but it still manages to be a major wine producer.
By far its most famous wine is the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, made from the eponymous black grape that is probably local to the region.  (It is not to be confused with the Tuscan red Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, which is made from Sangiovese.)  Noted for its depth of black fruit, robust but ripe tannins and remarkably moderate prices, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has become the default choice in Italian restaurants the world over.
Its white equivalent is Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, made from a variety of white grapes including Bombino Bianco, Trebbiano Toscano and the ‘true’ Trebbiano Abruzzese (which may in fact be a clone of Bombino).  It can be a fine, ageworthy white, but it suffers even more than Montepulciano from the over-generous yields – some of the highest in Italy – allowed by the DOC rules.
Cerasuolo (“cherry-red”) d’Abruzzo is a dark rosé from Montepulciano grapes, acclaimed as one of Italy’s best.  It can be made anywhere in the DOC region but is a particular speciality of the higher inland vineyards in the province of L’Aquila.

Valle Reale

At the southern tip of the Gran Sasso National Park in Abruzzo lies Valle Reale.  In just a few years since its first vintage in 2003 it has established a reputation as one of the top producers in the region, having three times been awarded the coveted Tre Bicchieri by Italian food and wine bible Gambero Rosso, once for its flagship red and twice for its top white.
The Pizzolo family from Verona acquired the Valle Reale farm in the early Nineties.  It included the abandoned 8 hectare San Calisto vineyard, which had been planted with Montepulciano in 1960 by the previous owners.  In 1998 they began to restore San Calisto, and then planted the nearby Popoli vineyard with cuttings from it, along with a hectare of Trebbiano.
In 2002 they used more San Calisto cuttings to plant the Sant’Eusanio vineyard, at 425m the highest in the estate.  From this they produce their Cerasuolo d'Abuzzo – the rosé version of Montepulciano.
The following year the large Capestrano vineyard was planted with a mixture of Montepulciano and Trebbiano Abruzzese.  This is eight kilometres to the north of the others and rather lower (350m) and warmer.
Most of their vineyards are organically certified, with the rest in conversion, and all their wines are fermented using only wild yeasts.

about this wine About this wine

The green and rugged Abruzzo region lies due east of Rome, on the opposite side of the Italian peninsula. Fully 65% of it is mountainous, and a third of it is set aside as national parks or protected nature reserves, home to the Apennine wolf, Abruzzo chamois and Marsican brown bear.  Despite this it still manages to produce a lot of wine.  You will all be familiar with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, that reliable and cheap standby on the winelist of every Italian restaurant.
There is a white equivalent of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, from exactly the same DOC region.  This is Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, but it is much less well-known than its red brother.  Partly this is because it only accounts for a quarter of the vineyards, but there is also considerable resistance in export markets to the Trebbiano name.
Trebbiano usually means the insipid Trebbiano Toscano, one of Italy’s commonest white grapes yet perhaps its least distinguished.  It doesn’t really taste of anything but has two things going for it: the ability to maintain crisp acidity even in hot climates and, crucially, vast yields.  There’s also lots of it in France where it’s called Ugni Blanc, but the French wisely don’t drink it… not as wine, anyway.  Thin, sharp wine lacking in extract and flavour is the ideal base for making brandy, so most Ugni Blanc gets distilled into Cognac and Armagnac.
Fear not!  Trebbiano d’Abruzzo isn’t Trebbiano Toscano; at least, it doesn’t have to be.  The traditional Abruzzo white grape is called Trebbiano Abruzzese, and it looks a lot like Trebbiano Toscano.  For a long time the two were thought to be strains of the same variety, and during this period a lot of real Trebbiano Toscano came to be planted in Abruzzo.  DNA analysis has now revealed that the two are not the same, but that Trebbiano Abruzzese may be a clone of another similar-looking variety, Bombino Bianco, which is also found in the Abruzzo vineyards though its heartland is further south in Puglia.
Many vineyards contain a mixture of all three, sometimes intermixed with each other as a field blend.  The DOC rules neatly codify the mess by saying that Trebbiano d’Abruzzo must be made from at least 85% “Trebbiano Abruzzese (Bombino Bianco) and/or Trebbiano Toscano”, with up to 15% of other white varieties like Passerina, Cococciola and Malvasia Toscano, which are also quite widespread in the region.
Much Trebbiano d'Abruzzo is undistinguished, especially from the warm and fertile southern coast, but from the right grapes and the right producer, it can be superb.  This one comes from high-altitude vineyards far inland, at the southern tip of the Gran Sasso national park.  Here Valle Reale have established a name for themselves as one of the best producers of both Montepulciano and Trebbiano.
This wine was produced from two organically-farmed vineyards: cool and windy Popoli next to the winery, at around 375m, and the larger and warmer Capestrano vineyard about 8km further to the north and rather lower, at 350m.  The 9 hectares of Trebbiano at Capestrano are definitely Abruzzese, while the single hectare at Popoli is listed merely as Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, so it could be any of the permitted varieties.
In keeping with their organic approach, Valle Reale ferment all their wines with the wild yeasts that occur naturally on the grape skins.  Such fermentations are slow to get going, which can allow spoilage organisms to get a hold.  This is a particular problem for a white like Trebbiano, which is fermented at low temperature to preserve its aromas and in closed vats to protect it from oxidation, both of which slow the yeasts still more.
Valle Reale’s solution is the ancient “pied de cuve” technique, in which a few tubfuls of the healthiest grapes are picked a week or two early to create wild yeast starter batches.  This is far too small a quantity to process with the winery machinery, so each tub is foot-trodden, loosely covered and allowed to start fermenting with plenty of warmth and oxygen to speed things up.  Any that develop off scents or tastes can be discarded, and the best tubs, now full of active wild yeasts, are pitched into the main fermentation vats.
This wine then fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel at 16°C to 18°C for 30 days, before the wine was racked off to age a further two months in stainless steel tanks before bottling.

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