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Abruzzo: The Great Divide
By Eric Guido
“Speaking of terroir in Abruzzo, the drastic difference that I witnessed when driving from Loreto Aprutino (think Valentini, De Fermo and Torre Dei Beati) to Ofena in the Tirino Valley (home of Cataldi Madonna) was eye-opening. Only 45 minutes by car, yet over a mountain away, the gentle hills of Loreto Aprutino and Cognoli give way to mountain scrub, firs and packs of wolves before descending toward the hillside town of Ofena on a highway that could easily be used as the location of a high-speed chase in any upcoming James Bond flick. This is known as “Abruzzo’s Oven”. As you can imagine, the valley floor is one of the warmest locations by day, yet with drastic diurnal shifts due to the surrounding mountains, as much as 20 degrees, which help to keep the vines healthy. In addition, the higher-clay content in the soils aids in retaining water. Cataldi Madonna remains one of the most dependable houses for Montepulciano, which has a richness and depth of fruit that has to be tasted to be believed. This is the mark of terroir, as the wines are matured in all-neutral vessels. Cataldi Madonna has also taken Pecorino to a very serious level. A total of three different bottlings, each one from a more rigorous selection of their older vines and those planted more recently through massal selection. Back to the Montepulcianos…the average consumer would assume these couldn’t age well due to how enjoyable they are in their youth; however, this critic was wowed by a number of mature bottles tasted at the estate.”
2021 Pecorino Giulia – 91 points
The 2021 Pecorino Giulia impresses with a stunning mix of candied lime, crushed green apple and fresh mint. This is packed full of savory mineral tones and zesty acids that create a sizzling of spicy tension on the palate. There’s a sweet and sour citrusy interplay that lasts impossibly long through the finale, like biting into a lemon pith followed by a healthy swig of juice. Very nice.
2019 Pecorino Supergiulia – 92 points
The bouquet on the 2019 Pecorino Supergiulia balances confectionary richness with intense citrus concentration, complemented by gingery spice. It enters the palate silky and smooth, yet quickly reveals its power as tart orchard fruits cascade across a salty and crunchy core of minerals. The 2019 becomes perfumed and finessed through the finale, while leaving a pleasantly bitter twang that provides a nice punctuation to an already highly pleasurable experience. The Supergiulia is a selection in both the vineyard and then on the sorting table, which is refined in steel tanks on the fine lees for one year.
2020 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Malandrino – 93 points
The 2020 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Malandrino gets an official “wow” from the first tilt of the glass as violets and lavender give way to crushed blackberries, blueberries and hints of sweet spice. This is elegance personified, with a juicy core of acidity that enlivens its near-velvety textures and wild berry fruits. It finishes lightly structured, concentrated and long yet perfumed, making the 2020 a pleasure today, but also capable of medium-term cellaring. This is another outstanding vintage of Montepulciano Malandrino which, for all of its depth, has been refined completely in stainless steel tank since the 2012 vintage.
2018 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Toni – 93 points
The 2018 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Toni is dark and brooding, smoldering up from the glass with balsam herbs, black currants and hints of menthol. This is silky and opulent in feel with depths of mineral-tinged, red wild berries and sweet, inner herbal tones. It saturates the palate with soft tannins and a primary concentration of fruit, showing significantly more power than your typical 2018, yet also balance. Somehow, Cataldi Madonna has packed both near-term appeal but also the ability for a slow and steady evolution into this vintage of Toni. This is the only Montepulciano of the estate that is matured in wood as it is refined entirely in one twenty-five-hectoliter cask (the only barrel in the cellar).