In a mass confusion of interplanted, interrelated white varieties, Cocci Grifoni decided to dedicate himself to finding a grape that better expressed his land and climate. Then he heard about an 80 year old farmer in Aquata del Tronto who owned an abandoned vineyard perched at 1000 meters above sea level planted entirely to a forgotten variety called Pecorino. The result is now a fabulous range of producers working with the grape and discovering just where it can go. It continues to show fabulous promise due to the fact that it retains acidity well in heat, and flaunts minerality and herbaceousness.
Francesco Cirelli graduated from studying business and finance but abruptly changed course right out of college when he heard the call to return to his homeland in Abruzzo and put his farmer roots into the soil. In 2003 he bought a parcel of land in the midst of a biological preserve and established “La Collina Biologica,” an agricultural institute dedicated to studying sustainable, organic farming in the hills of Pescara. The farm spans over 50 acres with only 14 acres planted to vineyards, and just a tiny parcel of 5 acres are dedicated to Pecorino. The rest of the land is lush with wheat, legumes, cereals, olive groves, pastures, and plenty of geese. The soils are sandy clay on limestone, and Francesco feels the calcareous crust lends acidity and finesse to his wines. He states as matter-of-fact as you can get:
“My goal is to make wine that will reflect the features of the terroir as much as possible, which will tell the story of a particular crop, climate, our soils. And everything else does not interest me.”
As clear and transparent as the winemaker’s vision, this wine walks the line between utter mineral and fruitfulness. There’s both a bright green herbaceousness and a limestone crunch, like salted fried parsley teetering on top of a hearty helping of floral beeswax and white nectarine flesh. Pecorino at its heart is all about texture and that is clearly on display here. The salted stone crunchiness is somehow so reminiscent of stone fruit on a summer day, like a just-ripe peach on a beach boardwalk.
Pecorino shares its name with the ultra-famous dry cheese, but both take their name from the Italian word for sheep. The local legend goes that winemakers know the grapes are ripe when the sheep come down from pasture and start to munch on them.