This very smart and tasty red comes from one of the largest groups of vine-growers in the Abruzzo region in the south-east of Italy. A bright and juicy red, it is full of red cherry, raspberry, tea leaf and subtle herbal characters that are far more aromatically present than you'd expect from a wine at this price point. It's little wonder that we first tried this in a restaurant...
A blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese, it is like a mini-Rosso-Piceno and is really versatile when matching food and is just as versatile when you haven't got any food either. Wines like this are the proof that you don't have to make thick sweet wines from the south of Italy to pander to international palates and that indigenous wine styles do travel and are available when you get back home. This is a wine that very clearly offers the spirit of the piazza in the comfort of your home. It's the flavour of RAI1 with RTE1.
The co-operative movement in much of Italy has kept alive the possibility of a 'land of wine' ('Enotrea' was the name that the ancient Greeks gave to Italy - land of wine) in the face of rising costs, competition and a drive to the bottom of pricing barrels from greedy customers. Co-ops allow for those farmers who aren't able to afford to make their own wines or bottle them, to at least earn an income for the grapes that they grow. This keeps many regions afloat and, particularly in the less-affluent south, it has allowed for the production of wine at a scale large enough to be exported at a level beyond the dreams of most of the farmers who grow the grapes in the first place.
Cantina Tollo is one of the largest co-operatives in the region of Abruzzo, with over 800 growers who, between them, have over 3200 hectares of vineyards. All of the growers are certified organic, as too is the winery itself. The range of land allows for some bottlings to label themselves as coming from a more specific sub-zones, like this one for example in the Terre di Chieti. The Abruzzo boasts a large vineyard area that is marked by three climatic influences: its long coast on the Adriatic, the southern Italian temperatures, and the particularly steep and high part of the Apennine mountain range in their area, culminating in the Majella Massif. These features at different times of the year bring wind to cool the vines and rid them of pests and diseases, sun to ripen the grapes and a large diurnal difference on account of cold nights at high altitude, right the way through the ripening period, which gives the grapes thicker skins and darker colouring. It's a fantastic region for producing very high quality wines, but it still suffers from its reputation as wine for the trattoria. What I'm really saying is grab it while you can!
Just a note on the organic: you won't find an organic certification mark in the bottle, but you would if you went to the winery, or to any of the 800 growers. That's a funny thing, you might say, but in fact it's just a commercial decision. It costs a huge amount of money to convert to organic viticulture, even though it saves money (potentially) in the long-run, so in order to get growers to adopt what is good for the environment there are funding mechanisms in place, often from the EU, that make it a no-brainer for the growers to achieve. However, like a hand that giveth and taketh, in order to have certification on the actual bottles themselves, you have to pay a fee back to the certifying authorities, which would increase the cost of the wine by about three euro a bottle. They do have organic certified wines, but we think that this range is the one that gets the message across at the best price going. You can thank us later.
Region: Terre di Chieti
Grape(s): Sangiovese, Montepulciano
Style: Vibrant, Smooth, Organic, Medium Bodied, Juicy, Herbaceous, Fruity, Fresh, Fleshy, Engaging, Bright, Balanced
Best food matches: Wild Boar, Tapas, Steak, Sausages, Roasts, Ribs, Red Meats, Poultry, Pizza, Lamb, Hard Cheeses, Grills, Grilled Vegetables, Cheeses, Charcuterie, Casseroles