By: Rachel Vadaj, ISDA Contributor
With its abundance of succulent vineyards, Abruzzo has become a successful wine region of Italy’s east coast.
Geographically speaking, Abruzzo is the picturesque setting for grapes to flourish. The region is nestled between the Apennine mountain range and Maiella massif on the west, and the Adriatic sea to the east. This area has a rugged, mountainous region full of lush landscape that meets a long coastline. Vines rooted in the high altitudes of the mountains experience drastic temperature variations throughout the day because of the sunshine and cool mountain air currents. With an enviable amount of sunshine, refreshing rainfall and variable climate, these vines can thrive in their perfect mesoclimates.
Evidence shows the region was growing a sweet, Moscato-style grape called Apianae as early as the fourth century BC. However, winemaking traditions were already a part of the Abruzzo culture for two centuries prior when the Etruscans helped introduce viniculture to the region.
Back in the sixth century, the Peligna valley in the L’Aquila providence was the center of Abruzzo’s vineyards. Since then, much more of the region was cultivated.
Going back to the importance of the mountains, most Abruzzo grapes are gown on the hilly areas of the region. Three-quarters of Abruzzo’s vineyards are grown in the province of Chieti. The other 25% are nestled in L’Aquila, Pecara, and Teramo. Together, Abruzzo’s viniculture takes up about 90,000 acres.
It’s not just where the vines are grown that is fascinating, but how they are grown. Nearly all of Abruzzo’s vines grow upwards toward narrow arbors on pergolas. The vines that are planted in rows are newer, and account for only an estimated 20% of Abruzzo’s vines.
On Abruzzo’s soil, you’ll find one DOCG and three DOC wine designations that call the region home. DOCG stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, translated to Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin. When a bottle is labeled DOCG, it is the highest designation of quality among Italian wines under Italian wine law. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, meaning Denomination of Controlled Origin. The notable grapes grown in Abruzzo are the native Montepulciano and white Trebbiano.
When touring the wineries, you won’t just find international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot. Your taste buds will also be introduced to native wines such as Cococciola, Passerina, Pecorino, and Sangiovese.
However, Abruzzo’s viniculture wasn’t always flourishing. Historically, the region has struggled economically. As the population declined, the viniculture was sidelined for centuries. The resurgence only came 40-50 years ago through the economic endeavors of winemakers in Chieti. With the success of those operating wineries, others popped up throughout the region.
Now, there are about 90,000 acres of vineyards throughout Abruzzo that altogether produce about 92,500 gallons of wine. This is the fifth highest amount of wine produced by an Italian region, coming behind Sicily, Puglia, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna.
One of the biggest importers of that Abruzzo wine is, you guessed it, the USA, and Canada and Germany. However, the demand for the products of Abruzzo’s viniculture is also on the rise for Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the UK.
As Abruzzo’s viniculture was revived by the success of shipping wine by the bulk, the need for wineries to revamp their image and continuously produce higher quality wines rose. To date, tourists can visit around 20 wineries throughout the region, including a good number of boutique wineries.
The natives sometimes consider these tourists to be on a pilgrimage, especially those working in the Dora Sarchese winery. Now, having a fountain flow with free wine to salute to nestled in the beauty of the countryside is every wine connoisseur’s dream. The Dora Sarchese winery makes that dream come true for travelers each and every day.
The winery says the iconic Wine Fountain was born from the intuition of two passionate walkers named Dina and Luigi from Ortona. While they were on their pilgrimage to the tomb of Santiago de Compostela, they came across a wine fountain that quenched the thirst and eased the troubles of all the tired pilgrims.
Dina and Luigi’s experience made them want to recreate it on the long path they helped create called il Cammino di San Tommaso. This passage lies between Rome and Ortona, connecting the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Thomas.
Dora Sarchese winery lies just a few kilometers from Ortona on the path of San Tommaso, a location the winery says is “the right place to realize our fountain of wine, where pilgrims from all over the world could be refreshed by the fatigues of the long trip.”
This popular pilgrimage pathway is known as the “way of St. Thomas.”
If you need a better visual without looking at a map, the fountain is located just south of Rome.
The Wine Fountain is open to all pilgrims during the same hours of operation as the winery.