Have you been to Italy? How about the Adriatic coast, on the eastern side? I’ve been to Italy several times but never to the areas of Abruzzo and Le Marche, nestled between the Apennine Mountains and the sea. Both are special to wine lovers because of the unique grape varieties that flourish there. Pecorino is one such grape.
Not familiar with it? You’re not alone; in fact, most of us probably associate Pecorino with the sharp, sheep’s milk cheese of the same name. The grape, which almost dwindled out of existence, was named for the local sheep (pecore) that grazed in the vineyards. Apparently, they developed a fondness for the ripening berries, vexing farmers and winemakers alike.
The Italian Food Wine & Travel gang decided it was time to shine a light on Pecorino, the grape. Lynn from Savor the Harvest, our host this month, shared a bit of the grape’s history, where it’s grown, and what it tastes like, in her invitation and preview posts. In just a few minutes you’ll know the basics on Pecorino and why we chose it as our theme.
Our group will gather tomorrow, May 4th, at 11 am ET for a Twitter chat on what we love about Pecorino. You’re welcome to join us! Our chat follows the hashtag #ItalianFWT, so be sure to add it to your tweets – otherwise we won’t see them.
Here’s a sneak peek at what we’ll be talking about:
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla will dazzle us with “Oven-Roasted Trout with Citrus Salsa Crudo + 2017 Lunaria “Civitas” Pecorino”
Gwendolyn, the Wine Predator is “Pairing Pecorino d’Abuzzo from Ferzo: Lemon Caper Shrimp #ItalianFWT”
Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “Sheepish about new kinds of wine? Try Pecorino! #ItalianFWT”
Cindy at Grape Experiences does a “Twirl. Sip. Savor. Creamy Garlic Shrimp with Linguini with 2016 Tenuta Cocci Grifoni Offida Pecorino Colle Vecchio”
Susannah from Avvinare shares “Pecorino from the Lady from Le Marche – Angela Velenosi- Velenosi Vini”
Jeff at Food Wine Click goes “On the Hunt for the Pecorino Grape”
David from Cooking Chat shares “Roasted Asparagus Pasta with Pecorino”
Jennifer at Vino Travels discovers “Grape of the Sheep with Umani Ronchi Pecorino”
Steven from Steven’s Wine and Food Blog cooks up a “Brodetto di Pesce Wine Pairing #ItalianFWT”
Katarina at Grapevine Adventures discusses “Le Marche & Abruzzo – Two Regions… Two Expressions of Pecorino”
Kevin from SnarkyWine is sharing Pecorino – Welcome to the Fold.
Lynn at Savor the Harvest, is “Discovering the Pecorino Grape #ItalianFWT”
Tenuta Santori – Keeping Tradition in Le Marche
Comprising just 25 hectares of vineyard area in Ripatransone, Italy, Tenuta Santori began with a small plot of vines that had been farmed by the Santori family for generations. Over the years, they purchased additional plots as they became available, eventually transitioning all the land to organic farming.
The focus here is on autochthonous (aka, native) grape varieties such as Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Passerina, Pecorino, and Trebbiano, with vines interspersed among groves of olive trees. My guess is the landscape probably looked much the same 100 years ago as it does now, with vineyards draped loosely across the hillsides, framed by mountains and the sea.
Tenuta Santori is led by Marco Santori, who took the reins in 2012, just after completing his degree at the University of Viticulture and Oenology in Teramo. He believes wine is nothing without a strong sense of origin; a tale that weaves together how sunshine, slope, and soil leave their imprint on aroma, taste, and structure.
Even the Tenuta Santori label image reflects this philosophy: each bottle features a large, veined grape leaf, a symbol of what Marco calls “a reflection of the truth of the earth and the quality of the wine.”
The winery currently offers the following:
- Rosso Piceno Superiore DOC, based on Montepulciano (65%) and Sangiovese (35%);
- Offida Passerina (100%) DOCG white wine;
- Offida Pecorino (100%) DOCG white wine;
- Luna Passerina Spumante Brut sparkling wine.
2017 Tenuta Santori Offida Pecorino DOCG (13% abv; $15 retail)
Pecorino is a low-yielding grape that favors cooler climates, especially those that experience a large diurnal temperature shift. That makes it a happy camper in the Offida DOCG which, as I’ve mentioned, benefits from cool sea breezes and the elevated slopes of the Apennine foothills, as well as lots of sunshine. Pecorino farmed here gives rise to fuller-bodied wines with high acidity, a combination much-favored by many wine lovers.
Tenuta Santori’s Pecorino grows on predominantly limestone soils perched at 300 meters above sea level, with excellent exposure to sunlight and the salty sea breezes that moderate warm summer temperatures. Grapes are harvested by hand. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks to preserve primary fruit aromas and flavors.
Color: Deep lemon, almost all the way to the rim.
Nose: Ripe yellow apple and pear; lemon peel; wet rocks; white flowers.
Palate: Right away I notice the mouth-coating texture of this wine: it has weight without being heavy and offers a clean edge of acidity that cuts through the unctuousness. Flavors reflect the nose, with ripe yellow fruit and citrus. The finish is long, with hints of saline, lemon, and fresh basil. There’s quite a lot going on in the glass! As it opens, there are more soft herbaceous notes (imagine a just-opened box of arugula) and a mineral-petrichor element. Super wine.
The Food Pairing
I was inspired by the harbingers of spring that graced the shelves at our local Whole Foods: fiddlehead ferns, ramps, stinging nettles, Jersey asparagus. We don’t get that stuff in Miami – at least not locally – and I know the season doesn’t last long in New York either. So I went for it. I bought a bit of everything!
My creation was a spring green pizza. I started with pre-made dough that I rolled out into a thin, oval shape. On top went a few dollops of crème fraîche spread evenly, some fresh Pecorino-Romano cheese, and salt and pepper. Over that I put fiddlehead ferns (that I had parboiled then sautéed); stinging nettles (blanched and shocked); sliced shallots (that I grilled first); and ramp leaves (that I also grilled). Before sliding the pie into the oven, I sprinkled on more Pecorino-Romano and a handful of diced Serrano ham. Prior to serving I grated a little lemon zest on top. (Note: I saved the asparagus for another meal!)
Spring bounty on a plate!
The verdict: First of all, the pizza turned out better than I expected. In fact, it was a huge success! The flavors and textures came together for the perfect spring meal. The combination of smoky, salty, herbal, tangy, and fatty elements brought out similar aspects in the wine. Each sip seemed to deliver another experience when tasted with the pizza. It’s a match I would look forward to making again.
About the Italian Food Wine & Travel Group
We are a bunch of wine-loving foodies who gather the first Saturday of each month to discuss Italian food, wine, and travel. (I know, hard to figure! 😊) Next month we set our sights on Lambrusco with our host Katarina from Grapevine Adventures. Stay tuned for her invitation post and get ready to revisit a wine that deserves a second look.
See you next month!