The story of Azienda Agricola Faraone is a story of steady evolution over a period of over one hundred years during which the character of Italy has changed hugely. Alfonso Faraone, Federico’s great-grandfather, emigrated to America in the early years of the 20th century. However, he returned in 1916, having made some money, and he purchased the land which has proved to be the bedrock of the family business over four generations.
Azienda Agricola Faraone has developed along with Italy over this period whilst holding true to traditional values rooted in their own 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 own 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.
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 which are forty and sixty 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.
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 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.
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.
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, indeed, a very traditional business model that still works well in the modern world.
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