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Between Tradition and Innovation for the Unique Colline Teramane DOCG

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Colline Teramane DOCG is an appellation in Abruzzo that comprises the province of Teramo. It stretches from the Apennines with the Gran Sasso and Maiella at about 3000 meters altitude in the inland to sea level along the Adriatic coast. The wine area borders the province of Pescara in the south and Le Marche in the north. It is a diverse area with a significant diurnal range, especially closer to the Apennines, winds blowing both from the mountains and the sea, and a milder climate closer to the Adriatic coast.

At the beginning of March, the preview tasting of the Colline Teramane consortium took place in Giulianova in Abruzzo. To a certain point, it was a historical tasting this year because the Colline Teramane consortium had just signed an agreement to join the overall Abruzzo consortium – Il Consorzio di Tutela dei Vini d’Abruzzo – and they will not be an independent entity anymore. The DOCG appellation, of course, remains as it is, they will just have better resources and support by joining forces with the regional consortium.

The Colline Teramane DOCG was instituted in 2003 by a group of wine producers who believed in the local territory and its unique characteristics. They wanted to create a network to together promote the wines produced in the Teramo province.

Historically Speaking…

Abruzzo is a region that can draw its viticultural and winemaking history as far back as the Iron Age, but it was during Roman times that authors and personalities such as Ovid, Polybius, and Pliny the Elder wrote about viticulture and winemaking in Abruzzo.

Ovid, a native of Sulmona in Abruzzo, passionately depicted the vineyards in his homeland, particularly in the valley of Valle Peligna, within his celebrated work, Metamorphoses. It was also in Sulmona that Michele Torcia, King Ferdinand IV’s archivist, made the first historical observation and mention of the Montepulciano grape in his travel diary in 1792. The Valle Peligna has historically served as a crucial hub for the cultivation of the Montepulciano grape, predominantly in the Valle Peligna area and surrounding hills of Pescara. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the cultivation of Montepulciano expanded along the entire coastal and inland regions of Abruzzo.

A Change of Perspective in Abruzzo

Last year, there was a significant change in the Abruzzo wine world when Alessandro Nicodemi, a small, private winemaker, was elected as the chairman of the consortium. This was the first time that someone from a smaller winery had been elected to this position, as it was traditionally held by individuals from larger cooperatives and bottling companies. Usually, the chairman would steer wine production in a specific direction, but with this recent election, there may be a shift in approach.

For many years, the wine industry in Abruzzo was primarily controlled by large wine cooperatives, focusing on the mass production of mostly Montepulciano wines. Although mass production still exists, the early 2000s marked the beginning of a shift towards higher-quality wine production.

Alessandro Nicodemi believes that his presidency and innovative ideas are part of a larger development in wine production known as the “Abruzzo model”. The goal of this model is to work towards a regional identity that highlights the distinct characteristics of individual terroirs, making it easier for consumers worldwide to recognize and understand different wines. The younger generation of wine growers and entrepreneurs will be the central players in this development, which focuses on indigenous grapes, sustainability, biodiversity, and the promotion of organic and biodynamic agriculture.

To simplify the wine classification process, eight existing IGT designations have been merged into one overall IGT Terre d’Abruzzo designation, which took effect last year (2023). The idea behind this change is to make it easier for consumers to understand the different wines. The five DOC designations will also be part of this simplified classification system.

The vineyards of the winery Cerulli Spinozzi

Tasting Colline Teramane DOCG wines

The Anteprima tasting of Colline Teramane DOCG took place in Borgo Spoltino which is close to Giulianova in Abruzzo. We had an interesting tasting of Colline Teramane DOCG wines that was concluded with a fun dinner party at a restaurant on the beach in Giulianova.

I have chosen a few wineries and their wines to mention here.

Cerulli Spinozzi, Grué, Canzano, 2021

We visited the Cerulli Spinozzi winery briefly the last morning we were in Abruzzo for the Colline Teramane DOCG event. The farm dates back several generations but the winery business as it is today was set up in the mid-20th century. The winery building we visited was constructed in 2003, and today it is run by Enrico Cerulli Spinozzi who as a young guy was very close to being the spitting image of the famous football player Kevin Keegan.

The winery is located in Canzano in the province of Teramo enjoying the winds both from the Adriatic Sea and the Gran Sasso. I tasted their Gruè Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC or DOCG 2021, it is mentioned as DOC on their website but as DOCG during the tasting. I liked it for its wonderful fruity notes combined with floral and more herbal hints. It was juicy both on the nose and on the palate. The balance between acidity and saltiness, its smoothness, it all made it into a pleasant tasting experience.

Fattoria Nicodemi, Notari Colline Teramane Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOCG, 2021

Fattoria Nicoedmi is an organic winery in Notaresco in the province of Teramo that is run by the siblings Elena and Alessandro Nicodemi. It is a family estate that goes back several generations, but it was only in the 1970s that it became a modern winery. Then in 2000, Elena and Alessandro took over and focused on being organic, sustainable, and growing native grapes. I visited the winery last year, and it was interesting to see the vineyards and their modernized version of the pergola training system, especially for the Trebbiano grapes, and to hear about their story.

Notari is the ancient name of the Notaresco village and the wine has been produced since 2003. It is made with a selection of grapes from three of their oldest vineyards. Montepulciano is a very powerful grape with a lot of tannins that are not always easy to tame into an elegant wine. Elena says that her initial idea was to produce elegant Montepulciano wines with a “lighter texture”. Notari 2021 has lovely notes of fruit such as blackberry and currant, followed by species, licorice, herbal hints, and maquis.

Terraviva winery, Lui Colline Teramane Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOCG 2020

Terraviva is a winery in Tortoreto in the province of Teramo in Abruzzo that comprises 22 hectares of organically grown vineyards. I do not know much about the winery because I have never visited them. On the website, it says they grow only native grapes such as Trebbiano, Pecorino, Passerina, and Montepulciano and that the older vines still have the pergola training system.

I liked their Lui 2020 for its freshness, fruit-forwardness with pleasant notes of red and darker fruit such as sour cherries and blackberry, spices, underbrush, an earthy touch, and maquis. The tannins still need some time even if they are fairly smooth already. They do wild fermentation and mature it only in steel tanks.

Fosso Corno, Orsus, Colline Teramane Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOCG 2020

Fosso Corno is a winery in the Roseto degli Abruzzi area where they view both the Adriatic Sea and the Gran Sasso. It comprises 30 hectares of vineyard. The Biscardo family from Veneto decided to invest in Abruzzo and bought the estate in 2001, today it is the two siblings Sabrina and Marco Biscardo who run the farm. I haven’t visited the winery yet so I can’t say that much about it. It seems that they do not use herbicides but they say nothing about whether they are organic or not, so they are probably not.

However, I liked their wine Orsus, Colline Teramane DOCG, 2020 which matures for 14-18 months in tonneaux of French oak. it has a distinct freshness and saltiness with notes of red and darker fruit such as plums, maquis, licorice, and earthiness. I enjoyed the structure and smooth feeling on the palate.

Patrizia Pepe at the dinner party of Colline Teramane.
Katarina Andersson

Seen often at wine events streaming live, Katarina is a wine writer, wine educator, social media strategist, and translator. She is the founder of WinesOfItaly LiveStream. She has been a guest at The Cellar, hosted by Richard Glover, at Wine Two Five, a podcast hosted by Stephanie Davis and Valerie Caruso, and at the Twitter chat #WiningHourChat founded by Li Valentine.

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