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:
- Brand marketing
- 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?
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 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