#Giro2020: Into the Mountains We Go, Toward the Wines of Abruzzo

I’ve just finished watching the replay of Stage 8, which wound north, up the Adriatic coast of Puglia. The tag-team from Israel Start-Up Nation, namely Alex Dowsett and Matthias Brandle, successfully outwitted the rest of the break-away to take the stage victory.

Dowsett was upfront about his intentions to escape the peloton in search of a stage win during a pre-race interview. It was exciting to watch him cross the finish line with nary a challenger in sight.

Check out his triumphant arrival in Vieste here :

None of the jerseys changed hands today: João Almeida remains in pink and holds claim on the maglia bianca; Arnaud Demare in the ciclomino; and Filippo Ganna in azzura. Tomorrow all that could change as we take our first trip into the Apennine slopes.

As good as the stage was, my overall winner on the day was the coastline of Puglia, which is just unbelievably gorgeous! Gabe and I pondered the possibilities of moving there, ensconcing ourselves in a hillside cottage overlooking the sea. Silvery green olive groves contrasted with white limestone cliffs; all of it highlighted by the bright blue water.

Gargano on the Puglian coast (photo: IdeeFix via Wikimedia commons)

Wanderlust is on fire, for real!

Stage 9 and the Apennine Mountains of Abruzzo

Stage 9 Profile Map (www.giroditalia.it)

As you can see from the map, the race begins on a slight incline and only gets worse as the day goes by. We’ve had some shadow-boxing among the GC contenders thus far but Sunday should bring real attacks by those who feel strong and want to gain some time. Simon Yates will not be among those contenders, unfortunately; at the end of Stage 7 he felt ill and visited the doctor. Turns out he has tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to abandon the race. Well-wishes to Yates and his team, with strong hopes that this will be the last of it.

Fingers crossed . . .

The Wines of Antica Casa Vitivinicola Italo Pietroantonj in Abruzzo

Vineyards at Italo Pietroantonj (winery photo)

As the name implies, the Pietroantonj family has ancient roots indeed, dating back to 1791. Now the eighth generation directs operations of the estates in Vittorito and Corfinio. Land holdings expand to 100 hectares, 60 of which are planted to wine grapes.

Ancient cellars at the estate (winery photo)

These 60 hectares give rise to native grape varieties such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Malvasia, Pecorino, and Passerina. Soils here are predominantly clay, which gives the wines richness and texture. The altitude of the hillside plots offers grapes optimal exposure to sunlight while keeping them cool in the hot growing season. A large diurnal shift (difference between day- and night-time temperatures) ensures that ripening happens slowly and that the grapes hold onto much-needed acidity. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, the flagship grape of the region thrives here for just these reasons: its wines are structured, with noticeable tannins, high acidity, and just-ripe red and black fruit flavors. Perfect for food pairing!

Montepulciano also stars in the unique pink wines (rosato in Italy) called Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. In some ways more like red wines than traditional rosés, they have more tannin and fuller body. Pair them with a grilled steak, herb-crusted pork chops, or a charcuterie plate. I absolutely love these wines and drink them all year round.

Deeply colored, grippy tannins, lovely cherry fruit – maybe the perfect pink wine!

2017 Italo Pietroantonj Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo (13% abv; retail about $15)

Deeper in color than most rosés, this is more magenta than pink. On the nose there are notes of red cherry and raspberry, plum, and herbs like thyme and rosemary; maybe even a hint of lavender. A sip confirms the nose; the wine has medium+ acidity, medium+ tannins, and medium+ body. It is delicious as an aperitif or paired with grilled meat; it would even be great with seared tuna!

Thanks for traveling along with me during the Giro2020. Monday is our first rest day but I’ll be back to give you a heads-up on Tuesday’s stage.

I hope you find a delicious Abruzzo wine to keep you company as you watch the race. Cheers!

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