For day 2 of Italian Wine Week, I made the switch from red to white. (It’s hot here down the shore, people. I’m really glad I didn’t decide to dedicate this week to drinking more Port or Zinfandel.) I also moved from Piedmont to Abruzzo, in east-central Italy, abutting the Adriatic. The wine in question here is a 2008 Gran Sasso Pecorino IGT Terre di Chieti ($15.99). A little parsing here: Terre di Chieti is a sub-region of Abruzzo, and IGT stands for Indicazione Geografica Tipica, a designation for wines that fall outside of the more tightly controlled DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) system. It provides flexibility for producers who want to experiment, including tinkering with new–or old, in the case of Pecorino here–varieties. Like Ruchè in Piedmont, Pecorino is very much an old regional specialty, largely confined to Abruzzo and neighboring Le Marche. I’d love to tell you why the grape is named Pecorino and if it has something to do with the cheese, but I got nothing. (If anyone does have something, please write a comment and let me know.)
This wine surprised me right out of the gate. The color was a bit deeper and darker than I expected, lemon with a slightly golden cast. Toasted almonds, lime zest, and minerals featured heavily on the nose. Forgive the fancifulness here, but on some whites I get a smell I can only describe as wet slate paving stones on a hot summer day. (I told you it was fanciful.) I think it’s the combination of minerality + ripeness that does it for me. On the palate, this was verging on full-bodied, and the alcohol (13.5%) seemed a tetch high–not an observation I often make about Italian whites. This guy could stand up to a lot, like a heavily sauced fish dish, if you go in for that sort of thing, or a simple pork chop. In my case, I enjoyed it with this:
Yes, a turkey sandwich. (What can I tell you, I’m at the beach.)
Probably my favorite thing about this wine is that it would make an excellent “gateway drug” for Chardonnay lovers looking to expand their repertoire. There’s a lot to be said for lesser-known wines that offer a similar taste profile to more familiar ones. No one will ever go straight from drinking Clos du Bois Chardonnay every night to quaffing $100 bottles of Slovenian Ribolla Gialla. But turn them on to something that has a few of the qualities they like about Chardonnay–the full body, for example–and you’ll pique their curiosity. You’ll also save them a few bucks. While I’m sure you could find more complex and compelling examples of Pecorino, this wine is a pretty good value at $16.