Single Bottle Review

Wine Review: Cataldi Madonna Pecorino Giulia 2019

When particular wines become a commodity it can be hard for quality producers to sell their wines for a price that reflects their efforts and costs.  One rule of thumb is that, if there is a “Tesco Finest” example of a wine then it’s already close to a commodity.  Two principal ways of overcoming this barrier are:

  1. Brand marketing
  2. Stand-out quality

Brand marketing is expensive and really only worthwhile to large scale producers.  These producers will often have distinct quality levels among their wines.  Brancott Estate and Villa Maria of New Zealand spring to mind.

By “stand-out quality” I mean that a producer who focuses on improving quality year on year may – eventually – be sought out as one of the best examples of their particular wine.  One example is Villa des Crois Picpoul de Pinet.  Before tasting this I couldn’t have imagined that premium Picpoul could exist.  In fairness, it is still modestly priced for a quality white wine, but it does command a premium over other Picpouls.

So now we move onto the questions: What is Pecorino like?  Where is Pecorino grown?

Pecorino

According to Jancis, Julia and José’s book Wine Grapes1, Pecorino is a very old grape from the Marche in central Italy, possibly even domesticated from wild grapes of the area.  The wine has no connection with Pecorino cheese; the cheese is just made from sheep’s milk and the grapes are said to have been popular with grazing sheep (Pecora)2.  It was widespread up to the end of the 19th century but fell out of favour.

The story of the rediscovery of Pecorino in the last quarter of the 20th century has a few different versions.  Luigi Cataldi Madonna (see below) claims that his friend Vincenzo Aquilano found some 80 year old vines in 1983 and that he (Luigi) was bowled over by an experimental wine made from it in 1990.  Wine Grapes credits Guido Cocci Grifoni as resurrecting the grape in the 1980s, though that producer’s website gives 1975 as their first year of making Pecorino wines.

One of the main characteristics of Pecorino is its high, sometimes bracing, acidity.  It naturally produces low yields (which is a likely reason it fell out of favour) but is strongly resistant to both downy and powdery mildew.

Cataldi Madonna

Cataldi Madonna is located on the “Forno d’Abruzzo” plateau, a hot subregion which receives cooling downdrafts from the most southerly glacier in the northern hemisphere.  The vines cover 30 hectares and are situated between 320 and 440 metres above sealevel.

The business was founded in 1920 by Baron Luigi Cataldi Madonna, but didn’t bottle wine until 1975 under the founder’s son Antonio.  Antonio totally modernised the vineyards and production facilities, bringing it right up to date.  The next generation saw Antonio’s nephew Luigi take over the business in 1990.  He transformed the house even further and made it one of the best respected wineries of Abruzzo.

As mentioned above, Luigi first tasted Pecorino in 1990 and immediately planted his own vines.  The variety became a calling card of Cataldi Madonna and is currently available in three versions.  Luigi’s daughter Giulia became the fourth generation of the family to run the business when she recently took over the reins.

Cataldi Madonna Pecorino Giulia 2019 

This is the middle Pecorino of Cataldi Madonna, with a bag-in-box base wine and the SuperGiulia premium wine.  They are all Pecorino IGT Terre Aquilane.  Giulia was created by Luigi to celebrate the 18th birthday of his daughter Giulia.  The wine is 100% Pecorino from vines planted in 2001 at 380 metres on clay loam soil.

Opened young and straight from the fridge, this wine is somewhat muted on the nose, with light citrus notes to be found.  The palate is dominated by bright, I mean BRIGHT citrus notes and a real zap of acidity.  But then, if you’re not a complete amateur like me, given some time and air it opens up a little on the nose and especially on the palate.  The acidity settles down, remaining fresh but not jarring.  The citrus notes unfurl into lime, lemon and grapefruit, and are accompanied by some pear and tropical fruits.

This wine loves to take you on a journey, and the delicious destination is worth the price of the ticket!

  • ABV: 13.5%
  • RRP: €25
  • Stockists: Deveneys, Dundrum; McHughs, Kilbarrack; D-Six Off Licence; Baggot Street Wines
  • Source: media sample

1Wine Grapes: A complete guide to 1,368 vine varieties, including their origins and flavours – Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, José Vouillamoz

2No relation to Pakoras, either

Make Mine A Double

Tesco Summer Whites [Make Mine a Double #22]

While we are still clinging to summer (here in Dublin at any rate) here are a couple of fresh whites that make for a perfect summer tipple:

Palais Des Anciens Gaillac Perlé 2013 (12.0%, €8.99 at Tesco)

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This wine has a very interesting background, so please excuse me if I get a little wine geeky here.

  • Gaillac is one of the oldest wine-producing areas of France: there are records showing wines being made there in the first century CE (only Côte Rôtie is thought to be older)
  • Some rare varieties are grown here, including Mauzac and Len de l’El*
  • This “Perlé” style white is bottled just before fermentation has ended, and thus the carbon dioxide produced is retained in the wine as a slight spritz!

I first tasted this wine nearly two years ago (see my friend Anne’s review) and I do remember it had a light spritz at the time, not unlike some Vinho Verde does.  Now the fizz has faded, but the wine still tastes fresh.  It has an almost saline quality to it with Mediterranean herbs.  There’s far more character here than you might expect from a €9 wine!

*Len de l’El is the official name for this grape – based in the Occitan language – and is also known an Loin-de-l’Oeil (amongst other names) which is the French term for the same thing: “far from the eye”.  This is because the stalks attaching the grape clusters to the vine are relatively far away from the bud, or “eye”

 

Tesco Finest Terre de Chieti Passerina 2015 (13.0%, €9.99 at Tesco)

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Passerina is a grape that I first came across when discussing Pecorino wine with Fergus O’Halloran, General Manager & Sommelier of The Twelve Hotel in County Galway.  The producer in the Marche that Fergus sources his Pecorino from – Il Crinale – also make a fresh, dry and aromatic wine from Passerina.

Now Tesco are in on the act!  Just like Pecorino, Passerina is predominantly made in the Marche and Abruzzo regions (the latter of which is obviously more famous for its Montepulciano reds).  Tesco’s “Finest” Passerina is made in Chieti in Abruzzo, a stone’s throw from the Adriatic.

As an Italian white, the obvious comparison is with the ubiquitous Pinot Grigio, and (thankfully) it has far more going on than the average PG plonk.  It is dry with crisp acidity, but has an array of citrus and stone fruit on the nose and the palate.  It’s a perfect patio wine!

**Click here to see more posts in the Make Mine a Double Series**