One of the challenges for students of Italian wine is memorizing, or at least trying to, the now 77 DOCGS (Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita) Italian wine classifications. These DOCGS represent the name (denominazione) of a specific place (origine), managed by a consorzio (controllata) and tested and approved for quality by blind tasting, and viticultural and winemaking standards that the wines must meet (garantita).
For many years, Abruzzo had just 1 DOCG, established in 2003, Colline Teramane Montepulciano d’Abruzzo representing red wines produced with the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grape grown in the hills of Teramo province in the north of Abruzzo. The first inhabitants of this area, go back to Neolithic times, as archaelogical excavations have found artifacts of the ancient Piceno people, lending credibility to the historical winemaking roots.
In 2019, after many years of DOP status, a second DOCG was approved by the Ministry of Agricutlure, the Tullum/Terre Tollesi DOCG representing wines made from grapes grown in the hills of Tollo, in the southern part of Abruzzo in Chieti province where I just visited last June 2022.
As part of my itinerary to Chieti, we visited Antico Feudo winery in Tollo, and learned about the history of the winery, its relationship to the cooperative Cantina Tollo, the establishment of the Tullum DOCG, toured the vineyards and tasted their wines with winery manager Riccardo Brighigna.
Cantina Tollo and Feudo Antico
Cantina Tollo, a cooperative winery was founded in 1960, at a time when many locals were leaving Chieti for jobs in bigger cities. The cooperative continued through the decades, and now has over 1000 members, 6,672 acres of vineyards (5933 organic) and its mission is to produce high quality, traditional wines. In 2004, Cantina Tollo founded Feudo Antico and its mission was to revive old, regional white grapes varieties, Pecorino and Passerina, and old clones of the red grape Montepulciano. While revitalizing an abandoned Pecorino vineyard in Contrada San Pietro in Tollo, they uncovered the remains of an old Roman villa and amphorae to store wine. Through research they discovered that wine and olive oils were produced on the property over 2000 years ago by the Romans.
Formation of the Tullum DOP
In 2008, a DOP (denominazione di origine protetta )was established for the grapes grown in the hills surrounding the village of Tollo. Tullum, had been the Roman name of the town, and the area of Tollo had been an area of wine production in Roman times as demonstrated by the Feudo Antico project. The small town, 150 meters above sea level, enjoys a fortunate position, to the west are the mountains of the central Apennines, the Maiella massif and the Gran Sasso and to the east is the Adriatic Sea. The Maiella influence provides protection from bad weather and breezes, keeping disease pressure low. Fog comes in from the Adriatic cooling the vineyards set in this Mediterranean climate. The diurnal shifts in temperature help the grapes maintain acid levels.
Feudo Antico and Tullum DOCG
From 2011 to 2013, a zoning study took place to evaluate the microclimates, soil characteristics, and rootstocks. As more of the Roman Villa Rustica’s remains were unearthed, a planning process started, to build a headquarters and archaelogical museum on the site in 2014. Finally, in 2019, the Tullum DOCG was approved, for red, white and sparkling wines. It is one of the smallest DOCG in Italy. Thanks to the study, performed under the supervision of Professor Attilio Scienza, the consorzio was able to shift from the 14 types of DOP Tullum wines to the current 4 wines labelled DOCG Tullum, Tullum Rosso DOCG (Montepulciano), Tullum Rosso Riserva DOCG, Tullum Pecorino DOCG and Tullum Passerina DOCG. The study’s scientific outcomes, together with the producers’ commitment and passion were able to transform Tullum from a DOP to a DOCG in just 10 years. Italian Wine Central has outlined the basic details for Tullum DOCG wines.
Meanwhile in 2019, the construction began for the museum and company headquarters for Feudo Antico, with the philosophy of Chicago’s own, Mies Van her Rohe in mind, “less is more”. The new headquarters on the site of the archaelogical digs, is where we had a tour of the vineyard and then were lead through a tasting of the wines by winery head Riccardo Brighigna, followed by a delicious lunch.
The Pecorino had no filtering and native yeasts for fermentation. This has been a Tre Bicchieri award winner. Maturation on fine lees for 6 months. White pear, yellow apple, sage, almond, full body, fresh acidity.
Tullum Rosso Riserva DOCG – Ageing requirements for the DOCG, minimum 2 years, including 6 months in barrel, malolactic conversion, aged in French oak tonneau, black cherry, black plum, licorice, cocoa, violet, vanilla, spices, soft, velvety tannins
Tullum Passerina DOCG, Steely acidity like a riesling. white stone fruit and almonds. Not as aromatic as Pecorino.
Terre di Chieti Rosato Biologico – The grapes (montepulciano) from organic vineyards undergo soft pressing. The fermentation takes place in stainless steel and partly in French and Austrian oak 225L acacia barrels, and then followed by batonnage.Red flowers, cherries and raspberries.
I think lunch was anellini alla pecorara, with mozzarella on top. If anyone reading this knows better, please leave what it is in the comments.
Feudo Antico was a fun and beautiful winery to visit. It really is mind boggling to think that grapes were grown, wine was made, so long ago on this same site, by the Romans. While preserving the archeological site, the new winery, built so recently, it is made to receive tourists, so a great place to put on your itinerary when visiting Abruzzo!! You will step back in time while tasting some delicious wines. Next up, “Dinner at Castello di Semivicoli with Miriam Masciarelli“. Stay tuned!!!! Meanwhile, lets look at that Adriatic View from on top of the hill at Feudo Antico!!