Analog Wines For the Digital Age

Monday, June 23, 2014

Vini Praesidium from the Abruzzo . . . coming to our shores . . .

I tasted these wines first five or more years ago or so at ViniVeri, one of the shadow conventions that take place the same time as VinItaly in Verona.  ViniVeri producers are usually practicing organic or biodynamic but aren't dogmatic about it like the producers at some of the other upstart fairs.  

At the time, I was just starting to import Italian wine and these wines caught my taste buds because they weren't like any other wine I had tried before . . .  or since.  But at the time, I just couldn't swing a brand like this and I was already selling the famous and respected wines from Emidio Pepe through another portfolio I represented, so it just didn't make sense.  And I only had tasted their current vintages at that time and not any of the older vintages.

I stopped by this year to taste their wines again, fully expecting that someone else would have picked them up by now, and to my surprise, they were still free on the West Coast, and they had their current selections, 2009 Montepulciano and 2013 Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo . . . but even more fascinating, they had some older vintages, the 2006 and the 2001.

And they blew my mind.  

The 2006 was as fresh as most wines straight after the harvest.  The flavors were so strong and so primal that I thought I was tasting a wine that was much younger. It all started to make sense.  This is what Montepulciano can be . . . a certain style to be sure, and not the last word on it, but wow!

The 2001 vintage had so much balance and so much finesse but at the same time power.  The expression "the iron fist in the velvet glove" sprang to mind and I couldn't get the taste out of my mouth. It lingered on my tongue and in my soul.

The next day, I had the pleasure of crashing a retrospective tasting of Emedio Pepe wines to celebrate his 50th year making his iconic Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.  We tasted: 1967, 1975, 1985, 1993, 2001, 2003, 2007. The wines were lovely. Some, of course, better than others. The 1967 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d'Abruzzo was the highlight.  A wine that had aged perfectly. 

Emidio Pepe- truly a lion of the wine business
But I must say, I couldn't get the Praesidium wines out of my mind.

Sometime your first instinct is the best instinct and I knew then that I had to have these wines for my portfolio.  Totally different from the wines of Francesco Cirelli which are made on the coast and are what I would call almost an avant garde representation of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, the wines from Praesidium are the exact opposite.  They need years to become accessible.  Years to open up and show their true character.  Years to blossom from something shy and awkward into something shining and true and good.

So here they are:

2013 Praesidium Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo                             
2009 Praesidium Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva
2006 Praesidium Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva
2001 Praesidium Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva 
1998 Praesidium Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva

The 1998 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva, the 2001 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva  and the 2006 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva, are older vintages, always kept in their cellar, hewn from rock in the mountains.  The 2009 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva is their current vintage, just released.  "Riserva" because it stays in the winery for five years before being released in the world. Two years in tank, two years plus in a mix of old slavonian botte and older barrique and then a year in bottle.

And of course, they make a Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo to rival all other Cerasuolos.  Bled off the fermenting Montepulciano after two days on the skins, it is almost too intense, more like a red wine than a rose` and will also reward a few years in the cellar.

From the winery: “We aim to create a true expression of the wine of this unique area using traditional and artisan methods in the vineyard and the cellar. We think that the wine, being a cultural product, born from the interaction between man and nature, has its own unique personality and it is necessary to allow the wine to express itself in the most spontaneous and natural manner. Our philosophy originates from the lifestyle led by our family since the beginning and passed down through the decades of farming work. In the vineyard, we have always tried to understand the needs of the land, by work that is aimed to assist nature, without forcing or manipulating it, and definitely without the use of synthetic chemical products. From having both the utmost respect of an area of land particularly appropriate for growing the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo vines, and the continuous research into the quality of the grapes, we reinforced the idea that the quality and the healthiness of the wine are strictly related. The artisan work in the cellar consists of reducing the operations to its essentials, which allows us to pursue our objective: produce, from the vinification of a single vine variety, a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine that is the most authentic expression of its native land.”

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