Southern Italy Punching Well Above It's Weight


There's an adage about infrastructure in Italy that the further south you go the worse it get. When it comes to Abruzzo I would have to agree, the drive up to the winery jumped around from paved roads, to less paved roads, dodging potholes and in a couple of instances it looked like part of the road had just collapsed. I would also suggest that if your driving from Pescara to Rome, please make sure you have a full tank of petrol because service station are not as common as we may expect on a major highway.

The Tiberio winery is located at around 350m above sea level, about an hour drive inland from the region's capital city of Pescara. One of the factors that first attacted Ricardo Tiberio (father) to the place was a patch of very old-vine (60 years) Trebbiano Abruzese, a variety that is unique to Abruzzo and not to be confused with the more neutral Trebbiano Toscano. The inital purchase included 8 hectares of old-vine Trebbiano and an additional 31 hectares suitable for planting. In 2008 Ricardo handed control of the winery to his daughter Cristiana (winemaker) and son Antonio (viticulturalist).

When I arrived at the winery I was met by Cristiana, she guided me around the vineyards and winery.  Explaining how they went through the old vines and removed any of the non-indigeious vines, using massal selection to progate new vines and vineyards. The vineyards are all worked organically, there is no oak used in the winery, and the wines are bottled without fining.

We sat down in the tasting room, located on the ground floor of a large house with a long timber table with windows at the back looking into the vineyards. We tasted through each of the wines and further discuss Cristiana's philosophy on winemaking.  What struck me about her was the global view with which she views her wines and the way it give context and focus to what they are doing. Having spent time working for Jacques Selosse in Champagne, Cristiana is an incredibly astute winemaker, and a very experienced taster of the great wines of the world.

The wines consistently over delivered on their price point, offering quality and personality, which is hard to find. The entry wines are great touchstones for the region, giving a drinker an insight to what the region has to offer. The single vineyard Trebbiano 'Fonte Canale' is being hailed as one of the great whites of Italy, with quality seeming to increase year on year. It is an exciting wine to drink and one that I look forward tracking its evolution in the bottle in years to come.

What I appreciate about Cristiana as a winemaker is that she is alway looking for a challenge, for new ways to improve what she does. When speaking about vintage, she views the great years as 'boring', where the quality of the grapes in good and the wines virtually make themselves. It is the challenging years, where the grapes struggle to reach optimal ripeness whilst being healthy, where the winemakers are pushed to achieve something special in adverse conditions.

`Similar to some of the Grand Cru vineyards in Burgundy, they tend to consistently produce great wines, where as some of the lesser vineyards need a perfect year to make some special.

Tiberio is about to release a single vineyard red from Montepulciano d'Abruzzo called 'Colla Vota' to pair with the 'Fonte Canale'. It's exciting time for the Tiberio winery and I can't advocate enough about these wines.