The town is called Collecorvino. In Italian it means Crow Hill. Most people, especially the 5,000-strong villagers, forget about the menacing black crows circling above the blue Adriatic sky. They are concentrating on the last part of the Latino word – vino (meaning “wine”). When talking Italian tourism, this is a key selling point.
The Apennine Mountain range, nicknamed La Bella Addormendatta (Sleeping Beauty), guards over the village. The mountains also look on the multitude of green valleys and hills with lush green acres of farmland. There are endless rows of green olive trees and purple grapes. Then there is an ancient vineyard with an intoxicating bouquet in the old country named Contesa.
No mask needed
“You’re safe here, so you don’t need to worry about wearing a bacterial mask,” says the enologist and vineyard owner, Rocco Pasetti. The 64-year-old enologist met with Regarding Luxury magazine recently after La Siesta. He gladly gladly gave us a tour of his 125-acre vineyard that he has been cultivating for nearly all his life. Some day he will pass this down to his sons. That will make it a family business running into its third generation.
A tale of two grapes
Curling up with a good book and a fine glass of wine is the basis of Contesa’s new marketing plan. Contesa is a window into the wine industry here. It’s a must-stop on any Italian tourism calendar. Italy is the world’s largest wine producer.
(For more on Contesa wines at the LCBO, head here.)
“We’ve had several good and fruitful years. So we wanted to brand two lines with something poetic to the market,” says Pasetti. “My sons had the idea to name these two special wines after their favourite American author.”
“Ask the Dust” (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC) is the latest red wine Contesa has launched. The name is taken from John Fante’s 1939 novel, set during the Great Depression. This deep ruby-red wine has notes of ripe cherries. There is the characteristic primary grape aroma. Then there are light notes of violet, strong liquorices and spicy aromas. The wine has a harmonious and well-balanced tannin. It is also selling at a bargain price – €50 per bottle ($78 CDN).
“Wait Until Spring” (Abruzzo Doc Pecorino) is also taken from John Fante’s novel. It deals with a turbulent teen trying to break out from his family, poverty and religion in a small town. This white wine has a bright yellow colour with gold tinges.
The wine is aromatic with an intense bouquet of Mediterranean shrubbery, where mints and salvia stand out. It has a very pleasant and well-orchestrated taste. This is the second bottle to join the list and comes in at half the price €25 per bottle ($40 Canadian).
“Nature has rebelled and exploded this year with healthy grapes, free of any diseases and smog,” says Pasetti. “This is perhaps the only good thing about the pandemic.”
Adrift at sea
Exports and consumption of Italian wine has taken a brutal hit this year due to the health crisis. This has not been seen since World War II. “It’s a catastrophe,” says the president of the Abruzzo wine association, Carlos Cassanta. “Take away country fairs, music festivals, weddings and events, and you suck out the economy.”
According to Cassanta, initially during the lockdown, wine producers were fearing a 70 percent drop in sales. But it’s only been a 40 percent loss. In France some wine producers have resorted to converting their wine distilleries into places that produce disinfectant hand gels. That tells you how drastic the economic situation has become.
“Shopping online and e-commerce has done little to boost sales. The worldwide pandemic has crossed international borders,” says Cassanta. “Italians don’t want to work in the fields. And there are many legal complications with hiring migrants to help with the harvest.”
Intoxicating to the senses
For over a decade, Contesa has been offering wine tasting tours. They have offered buffets and visits to their wine cellars at €60 ($94 Canadian). Unfortunately, this year’s wine events have been put on stand-by.
“We hope we can start up again,” says Rosetti. “We offer a cultural experience and a good happy hour.”
Contesa’s red wines can be appreciated with pot roast meat and succulent dishes. It can also be enjoyed with chocolate and classical music.
Ask the Dust
With their white wines, good cheese, pasta with fish sauce make the perfect blend.
Italian tourism, and the wine industry, has certainly taken a major hit in 2020. The vineyard has a good amount of rolling hills and lakes. So Rosetti hopes to expand the tours to glamping events.
“One can always dream,” he says.
The Judgment of Paris in 1976 shattered the French illusion of having the best wines. A blind tasting of red and white Californian and French wines was held. California won the test (Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Chateau Montelena). There is an illusion that Abruzzo region lives under the shadow of Tuscany, Italy, when discussing quality wines. That has been shattered as well.
In 2012, however, Trebbiano d ‘Abruzzo Cantina Valentini was awarded the title of Best Italian wine. The competition was organized by the sommelier Luca Gardini and critic Andrea Grignaffini. There was a jury of Italian and foreign wine experts and critics.
The noble family Valentini, of Spanish origin, resides in Loreto Aprutino. That’s the town adjacent to Collecorvino. They are another one of the top wine producers in Abruzzo. Another must-stop when talking wine and Italian tourism.
“We are friendly competitors,” says Pasetti. “We hope to also win the next wine title.”