A taste of terroir: Abruzzo
Mighty mountains calm and elevate
Wednesday 03 January 2024
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The Mediterranean climate of Abruzzo is what makes it so beautiful—sunshine, warmth, and plenty of rain during the wet season to keep everything lush. To the west of the region are the high peaks of the Apennines, the spinal mountain range that runs down the centre of Italy’s long landmass. To the east, the sparkling coast, where seaside towns and sandy beaches attract tourists all summer long. In-between is where you’ll find the vineyards, rolled out over the gentle hills like bolts of green corduroy. Here, sandwiched between the sea and the mountains, Abruzzo’s wine growers take advantage of the climate calming influence of the Apennines, which act as a windshield against storms that move over continental Europe and down through Italy’s western side. Rainfall is reliable here thanks to the proximity of the Mediterranean, and while it can occasionally provide an unwanted déluge, the protection of the mountains is usually sufficient to make this the perfect place to grow the region’s famous grapes—Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, and Montepulciano.
The best soil here is clay and limestone, especially in the north, providing minerals and essential water retention during the hot summer season. Wines made in these soils gain excellent concentration of flavour, but they are precious, and therefore make up the DOCs of the Abruzzo region rather than the general terroir. It’s a varied place, which ensures wines made in different areas of Abruzzo are distinct from each other, and gives the region its famous differences in terroir. In wines outside of the clay and limestone areas, sandy loam and clay loam is the usual soil type—still good for growing grapes, providing excellent drainage.
Something worth pondering in Abruzzo is the height of the mountains the closer you get to them. Not only do they alter the weather patterns of the region, but they can affect the effectiveness of the sun itself. These are some mighty mountains. Shade cast by vast limestone peaks can cause grapes to ripen later or retain their acidity—both good and bad things, depending on which winemaker you ask.
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