Monday, June 11, 2018

An Introduction to Abruzzo at Fattoria Nicodemi

My first stop on the Abruzzo wine tour was at organic wine producer Fattoria Nicodemi which is located in the town of Notaresco in the Colline Teramane DOCG. This DOCG was originally part of the larger Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOC but became its own distinct growing area with new stricter regulations in 2003. The name translates to the hills around Teramo and is considered to have a more favorable climate that leads to superior tannin development. The production area is small with less than 300 acres under vine, rules involve smaller yields and a longer required aging period. Fattoria Nicodemi has almost 75 of these hillside acres and produces about 200,000 bottles a year.

Elena Nicodemi met our group and took us out onto a terrace that oversees the vineyards to share her thoughts on the terroir of Colline Teramane. The vineyard sits at 1000 feet above sea level and has a medium textured mix of limestone and clay soil which, she said, is typical for the area. The vineyard area appeared lush and green, almost surreal like a painting of what a perfect vineyard should look like. The vineyards are farmed organically with no chemical herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers and new vines are sourced from their heirloom vines through mass selection when new plantings are needed.

Her father, Bruno Nicodemi, started the winery in 1970 after receiving the estate from her grandmother which at the time was just a typical country farm. He wanted to produce quality wine for bottling versus selling his grapes for bulk wine production, this was an unusual idea at that time, the region was not known for quality producers though there were already some with the same vision. He converted the land to vineyards and produced his first vintage under his own label in 1977.

Though neither she nor her brother planned on becoming winemakers, Elena was an architect and her brother an economist, they both changed their plans and joined the winery in 2000 to fulfill their father's dream. They replanted some vineyard plots to gain more southeastern exposure, designed new labels and expanded the range of wines being produced. They were careful to maintain their oldest pergola trained vines which they use for their Riserva bottling. Fattoria Nicodemi only produces wine from their own land, they do not buy additional grapes from growers. Their goal is to produce wine that is an expression of their land, their vines and their culture. The production is only from native varieties, 70% Montepulciano and 30% Trebbiano.

They are trying some experimental winemaking with alternative neutral vats made from sand, cement and brick fragments that allow for micro-oxygenation over a two year time period. They are different than the tera cotta urns more often seen in that they are not baked. Elena described the material as more like what the ancient Romans used to build the aqueducts. The wine was not at a point to be tasted yet but they are excited to see the end results.

After our tour, we went into the beautifully designed tasting room with its expansive vineyard views to try the wines of Fattoria Nicodemi.

Le Murate Trebbiano d'Abruzzo 2017 - Fresh, crisp and tangy with lemon citrus and a light herbal component, an easy drinking wine for light seafood salads, vegetarian fare or seafood crudo.

Notàri Trebbiano d'Abruzzo Superiore 2017 - This wine was aged on its lees for 3 months longer than the previous wine and had a three months longer bottle aging period. Elena said this white was more typical of the style that most Abruzzese drink. Similar to the first wine with citrus and herbal notes, this wine also had a bit more of a floral character, a softer texture and a more distinct and lingering mineral finish. An ideal wine for heavier seafood dishes, saffron chicken or grilled polenta.

Le Murate Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo 2017 - Fruity aromas and flavors of pomegranate, raspberry and orange peel balance perfectly with fresh acidity, a round feel and a lingering mineral finish, a perfect choice to pair with either charcuterie or salad.

Le Murate Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Teramane 2016 - From a cooler year, this wine showed intense dark fruit aromas and flavors of black cherry and blackberry with floral hints of rose and spicy cinnamon adding interest. Rich and flavorful yet still elegant with fresh acidity, velvety tannins, and a persistent finish. Serve this with barbecue, roasted meats or savory meat based sauces.

Notàri Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Teramane 2015 - From a warmer and drier vintage, this wine displayed pronounced blueberry aromas and flavors with hints of lavender, cloves and a balsamic note, fresh and tangy with smooth ripe tannins and a deep blackberry mineral-laced finish, a classic choice for for the lamb dishes of the area or a great wine to try with spicier cuisine.

Neromoro Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Teramane Riserva 2013 -  Sourced from a single plot of 45+ year old pergola trained vines, this wine showed mixed black cherry and berry aromas and flavors with a light floral note, red pepper and a balsamic essence in the long finish. Intense and rich yet still fresh, smooth, and well balanced, this wine is perfect for classic pasta dishes or roasted or barbecued meat.

All of the above wines are highly recommended, they reflect the passion and the elegance of the family and give a true taste of this special area of Abruzzo.