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A Very Tasty Trebbiano

Many of us are conscious of the ties that bind Italy and the United States. Sometimes this awareness is limited to the effects of movies like The Godfather - however, of course, the truth is very different and in many ways more fascinating. Just the figures alone are jaw-dropping; between 1880 and 1914, when World War I brought mass emigration to an end, more than four million Italians left their homeland for Ellis Island and the promised land. Given that the population of Italy was only around thirty five million in 1913, this really brings home the scale of the exodus.

Of course, the American/Italian ties go back much farther - right back to Christopher Colombus and other Italian explorers, in fact - but this recent explosion of migration that only finished just over one hundred years ago still resonates today with many families cultivating and indeed exploiting their transatlantic connections. Many of these emigrants came from the overcrowded south of Italy but what is less commonly known is the number that, having made some money, returned.

Faraone Trebbiano

Nearly 50% of immigrants between 1905 and 1920 made the return journey and amongst them was Alfonso Faraone, the great-grandfather of Federico who today still runs the family farm. Alfonso returned from the United States in 1916 and obviously brought some money with him because he was able to purchase the land that has proved the bedrock of the family business over four generations.

Faraone Trebbiano

This is a story of steady evolution over a period of over one hundred years during which the character of Italy has changed hugely and Azienda Faraone has developed along with it, while at the same time holding true to traditional values rooted in their ethical business practices. The first vines were planted in the 1930s and up to the 1980s it was still a mixed farm, the wine being sold locally in large flagons. In the 1970s they first moved into bottling their wine. It was only then with the growth of world-wide demand for wine and the development of Italian wine as a quality product that the family moved to exclusively producing wine and in the 1990s the new cellar was built. So there has been careful incremental growth with each generation building on the efforts of their progenitors. A trip round the production area with Federico is like a trip through time following the development of the business through the physical changes and extensions to the buildings.

Faraone Trebbiano

Today, from 10 hectares of vines they produce around 50,000 bottles of wine. Here, right in the north of Abruzzo, we are only 20 miles south of the Marche and a couple of miles inland from the coast so the sea breeze keeps the vines clear of moulds and brings a salinity that adds a certain piquancy to the white wines. The age of the vines reflects the growth of wine production on the farm; the oldest three hectares have vines 40 and 60 years old.

Federico has already made a big contribution to the family patrimony with a marvellous new glass-walled tasting room and it was there where we tasted a selection of the white wines that he produces. We started with a spumante that Federico is justly proud of. The Passerina grape is principally grown in the Marche but grapes know no artificial borders and here, just south of the boundary, it thrives. The family always thought that because of its high acidity there was the potential for this grape to make a sparkling wine but it took some years of experimentation before in 1983 they became the first producers in the region to make a spumante wine that received official recognition. Today, this is a wine that is 100% Passerina and is produced in the metodo classico which means that it spends time in the bottle on the lees - in this case 40 months - during which time the secondary fermentation develops the carbon dioxide that will produce the bubbles that are so beloved and the flavour slowly matures. The colour is a rich gold with a bouquet of mandarins and a hint of salinity that continues on the palate where a lemon flavour comes through. It is completed by a fine perlage. This wine will make a great aperitivo or accompany fish dishes.

Faraone Trebbiano

We then tried two Trebbiano d'Abruzzo DOC wines. This is where things become confusing because under the wine laws governing the production of this wine there is no definition of Trebbiano and back in 1971, when the family registration of their vines was accepted, there was no DNA analysis and so what later proved to be Passerina grapes was allowed to be used to produce this wine. In a very Italian solution to this anomaly, it has simply been allowed to continue based on historical precedent.

The first of the two is called Le Vigne and after fermentation in steel it spends six months on the lees. The 2019 has a beautiful pale gold colour and on the nose there are green apples which are there again on the palate with a pleasing salinity.

Faraone Trebbiano

The second Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is called Santa Maria dell’Arco and this is only produced in the best of years. It spends 12 months on the lees and at least two years in the bottle before being released. Due to the high acidity of the Passerina grape, this is a wine that will improve with age and certainly has a life in excess of seven years and possibly more, depending on the year. The 2017 has the same pale gold colour as Le Vigne but the bouquet is very different with almonds and vanilla. In the mouth it is rich with the citrus taste of lemons and orange. Pairing this will obviously depend on its age but at the moment I could easily enjoy it with white meat or soft cheese.

Faraone Trebbiano

The Faraone winery is the result of a family building for itself a legacy that can be handed down through the generations, each new steward adding to the sum total of everything that his predecessors have constructed. This is a very traditional business model that still works well in the modern world. Alfonso would be proud to see what his descendants have achieved.

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