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Discovering the Magic of Abruzzo

by Fermented Boss about a year ago in travel
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History, Culture, Food & Wine

Trabocchi Coast

In the heart of Italy, snuggled between the majestic mountain ranges of the Apennines and washed by the azure Adriatic Sea lies Abruzzo, one of the most authentic and green regions not only in all of Italy, but in the whole of Europe. Painted with swaths of stunning natural landscapes, uncontaminated vistas, and thrilling wildlife, Nature has created some of its best masterpieces here. From the rolling hills to the high plains overlooking verdant valleys, olive groves that harmoniously blend with vineyards, orchards, and colorful flowerings create a picturesque backdrop for the authentic, rural slow-paced life. Besides being a journey through one of the most pristine natural areas of Italy, the land of Abruzzo is also a journey to an enchanting world of strong warriors and saints. Each period has left a timeless and indelible mark. The medieval villages perched on peaks preserve the folklore, while impressive castles and remote hermitages set in the rocky mountainside have all survived through long centuries, existing in perfect synergy with the idyllic landscape.

As one-third of Abruzzo consists of national parks and protected nature reserves. Its identity and geography pay tribute to Nature. In fact, its emblem is a Samnite shield divided into three diagonal fields- white, green, and blue - separated by gold bars. Each of the colors represents the land’s extraordinary natural richness: the white is for the snow-capped mountains, the green represents the lush forests and hills, and the blue band denotes the sea. This arrangement perfectly reflects the succession of mountains, hills, and sea, according to the natural geographical and morphological course of the region.

Bordered by the Marche to the north, Lazio to the west, Molise to the south, and the Adriatic to the east, Abruzzo is quite a small region. Despite its geographical size, its history is millennia-long and turbulent and has shaped every aspect of its cultural heritage, including art, architecture, and cuisine.

For a deep comprehension of Abruzzo's history, legacy, and natural evolution, it is necessary to go back to ancient times when a large variety of Italic people inhabited the territory. Human settlements have existed since at least the Neolithic period, and disappeared primitive people have left traces of early human activity and thriving agricultural prosperity. Important artifacts such as different kinds of lithic tools and animal bones have been found, testimony to the presence of ancient civilizations.

Spread through the territory, semi-isolated Italic tribes were closely connected by ethnic relations and cultural affinities. The Sabines and Piceni tribes occupied the northern part of the region while the Equi and Vestini, the central one, and the Marsi, Peligni, and Frentani settled in the south. But in early BC, as on the west the Romans had gained power and started an expansion, the Italic people were conquered and became part of the Roman Republic, and later the Empire.

The chronicles of Abruzzo continued to be tempestuous after the decline of the Roman Empire, when a string of invasions ruled the region. From the Longobard to the Normans, Spanish, and Bourbons, it changed hands numerous times over the centuries. Once part of the wealthy and populous Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Abruzzo had received a significant influence. Given its centrality, it is now considered part of Southern Italy because of its cultural, demographic, and linguistic links. Undoubtedly, many changes marked the territory during different eras, but what has never changed in Abruzzo are the resilient people who have withstood every turmoil over the centuries, keeping the warrior spirit and local traditions alive, as well as the native longstanding agrarian society and viticulture.

In the area between the Adriatic Sea coast and the rugged Apennines mountains, growing grapes and winemaking is a well-established tradition that dates back thousands of years, and it has deeply marked the development of the region. The fascinating and long journey of winemaking, as we know it today, is the natural progress of many civilizations. Each glass of wine produced in Abruzzo, through its aroma, flavor, and nuance, recalls the ancient inhabitants of this land. Historically proven, the expansion of the vine cultivation along the Adriatic area can be attributed first to the Piceni and later to other Italic tribes who left evidence across the region. Over the following centuries, with the arrival of the Romans, the vine culture in Abruzzo witnessed many benefits. As Romans considered wine as a drink of the body and soul and knew the secrets of grape cultivation and winemaking, they introduced new, more systematic ways to improve vine production in the area. Later, when the Roman Empire began to falter, inevitably, it brought moral, religious, and above all, economic problems to the colonized areas. The difficulty of continuity had an immediate effect: an agricultural crisis hit the wine production, and it passed through some dark times.

During the Renaissance, when demand increased, viticulture and winemaking flourished. In this period, grape-growing in Abruzzo was mostly concentrated in the Peligna Valley, in the province of L'Aquila, which together with the upper Pescara Valley, represented the region's largest production area. Until the first decades of the twentieth century, when a massive phylloxera infection destroyed most of the vineyards and caused immense losses and the century-long agricultural tradition.

After this period, the enology in Abruzzo advanced and became specialized. It gradually abandoned the hard cultivation areas and focused on more suitable ones. In recent years, the vineyards extend from the coastal hills to the Adriatic Sea, where most of the production concentrate, to the massifs of Gran Sasso and Majella.

This revival of the vinicultural industry raised awareness among people from the entire territory of the quality and potential of its grapes. As a result of continuous development, research, and passion, today, the small mountainous region of Abruzzo has increased its reputation and leadership position as a unique wine region at the forefront of world viticulture. The dedication and determination to protect and preserve the quality and identity of a millennia-long tradition handed down from generation to generation make the red and white wines of Abruzzo some of the best expressions of Italian enology.

The grapevine in Abruzzo thrives according to geological, geographical, soil, and climate features. The wine production area is variable since it reflects the origin, quality, and traceability of the wine. The uniqueness of each wine summarizes a combination of many different factors from geomorphology, pedology, and climate, to local history for grape production culture and terroir peculiarities. The wine landscape in the region goes from the hilly slopes, with the presence of vineyards up to 800 m asl., down to the Adriatic coast. As a result of the transaction between the dramatic mountains with vast karst and dense woods in its hinterland to a spectacular seaside strip on the east, Abruzzo has a highly varied seasonal climate. The continental climate in the inner part of the region is in perfect synergy with the Mediterranean near the Adriatic coast. The balance between these two environments has shaped the area with an ideal microclimate for growing rich, aromatic grapes, with well-balanced in acidity, and structured wines. The humidity, average temperatures during the year, ventilation ensured by sea breezes, and the significant temperature difference between day and night are suitable for vineyards, although they are occasionally affected by the northeastern winds.

Besides the microclimate, another element of importance in achieving a high-quality product is the characteristic and structure of the terrain. The particular morphology of the Abruzzo region makes for diverse soil profiles; and as a consequence, each of them has a different impact on productivity and fertility. Of note, the region is divided into three areas. The first one is the mountainous reliefs, which are the most widespread and where the soils have higher gravel content. Quality viticulture is possible but in the more temperate areas, with more commitment, because of the terrain’s harshness. The second one is the area of high-hills reliefs made up mostly of marl and sandstone soils, with a high presence of clay. The last one is the coastal hills belt parallel to the Adriatic Sea. It is the area where most of the grape-growing in Abruzzo is concentrated. It is a result of a fluvial geomorphological process that has affected marine sedimentary rocks. Plus, it has contributed to the formation of quaternary continental sedimentary deposits. These new terrains are covered by loose clayey, silty, and sandy soils, rich in clay minerals. In some areas, like the river valleys or closer to the beach, the percentage of sand is higher. The roots of the vine penetrate deeply into these soils, which are easy to work with thanks to their low cohesion. Besides, the minerals and vine skeleton ensure excellent drainage and capillary distribution of water to the soil, making the coastal hills terrain permeable to moderately impermeable, with moderate water retention. All these characteristics make the hilly landscape of Abruzzo perfect for growing delicate and fragrant grapevines. Undoubtedly, wine-growing today is the key sector in the context of its regional agricultural production.

This small region kissed by the sea and nestled next to the mountains is truly a land of treasures. With varied landscapes from sandy beaches to deep woods that blend perfectly with authentic traditions and delectable food, Abruzzo is a piece of the seductive south, where a journey turns into a story that endures.

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Fermented Boss

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