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Driving through the hills behind the coastal plain of Abruzzo it is impossible not to feel a certain timeless quality in the gently rolling countryside. The fields, the olive groves, and the vineyards seem to be such an integral part of the landscape that surely they have been here forever. It was in these hills in the year 2000 that Riccardo Tiberio, who had years of experience in the wine business, discovered an eight-hectare plot of Trebbiano Abruzzese grapes, a rare variety that had been swamped by the more common Trebbiano Toscano.
Ricardo bought that plot of 60- year-old vines, together with an additional 30 hectares, and a new business was born. Today, Azienda Tiberio is run by his son, Antonio, who looks after viticultural matters and his daughter, Cristiana, who, with her chemistry degree, is in charge of wine-making.
That these are genuine Trebbiano Abruzzese grapes has been established by the modern technique of DNA analysis but to preserve them Antonio and Cristiana use the age-old process of propagating from cuttings from the old vines rather than the modern process of buying clones from nurseries. This may be more time-consuming but preserves the integrity of the vines that have become habituated to their environment over the years. Tradition is maintained as they also continue to use the pergola method for training the vines, securing them using environmentally friendly raffia ties. Antonio and Cristiana have introduced other varieties onto the burgeoning estate but only native ones like Montepulciano and Pecorino.
There are now thirty hectares of vines but annual production is low at around 80,000 bottles and Cristina explained the reason for this as she showed us the modern winery gleaming with stainless steel. Their wines are made with free-run juice only. This means that after the harvest as the grapes are placed in a tank they split under their own weight and the juice is released. This is the must that is then fermented without extracting the last drops using a press.
To preserve the integrity of their wines, Antonio and Cristiana eschew the use of oak, preferring to leave them in steel to mature – four or five months for the white wines and up to a year for the reds. To sample the results of their meticulous attention to detail we settled down in the comfort of the tasting room. The Trebbiano d’Abruzzo was from 2021 and had a beautiful golden colour. Cristiana explained that this was because the year was hot and this had thickened the skins of the grapes. The bouquet was full of pears and almonds and on the palate there was good acidity and the saltiness that comes from vineyards caressed by sea breezes. This is a wine that has excellent structure but at the same time it is bright and fresh. It would be a fitting accompaniment to fresh cheese, shellfish, chicken, or rabbit.
She then went on to explain the history of Cerasuolo. It originated in the mountains where the Montepulciano grapes did not have time to fully mature before the harvest. This resulted in a light but vibrant red colour that is a characteristic of this wine. Time and global warming have now changed this but Cristiana and Antonio achieve a similar result by the use of free-run juice. Their wine is a startlingly bright, almost luminous red with cranberries and pomegranates on the nose. In the mouth the red berries continue balanced with medium tannins and a bright acidity. This is a versatile wine that will go well with a stir fry as well as roast red meats.
The final wine was a 2020 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Deep ruby in colour, but with hints of purple for it is still young, this has a bouquet rich with cloves, cherries, and pepper. On the palate there are black cherries with tannins that are still strong and a good balancing acidity. This is a wine that has good ageing potential but would pair well today with roast red meat.
Cristiana and Antonio have taken over the reins of the business established by their father but are clearly intent on following the path laid out by him. These are excellent wines made with no concessions to the whims and fancies that sadly too often permeate modern wine-making.