Recently, I was invited to a wine tasting at Divino Wine Studio on Preston Avenue. I had the pleasure to sample some of the wines of Azienda Marramiero. I was greeted by Antonio Chiavaroli, a real “simpaticone”, the winery’s manager and representative for North America together with the knowledgeable Paul Perugini of Paul Perugini Fine Wines, Ontario Agent for the winery.
The winery is located in Rosciano in the province of Pescara in Abruzzo. It is located at 270 meters above sea level, between the Gran Sasso mountain range, the Abruzzo National Park area and the Adriatic Sea. The founder is the late Dante Marramiero, who passed away in 1993. Today the company is led by his son Enrico Marramiero. Antonio Chiavaroli began with the firm in 1984. He tells me that the late founder was like a second father to him.
At first, the winery produced wines for family and friends only. As the 1990’s arrived, everyone was convinced that the classic grape Montepulciano d’Abruzzo could produce a great wine on par with any red wine from France or Italy. They bottled their first wine in 1993, the same year the founder passed away. Today the Azienda produces 700, 000 bottles of wine on over 65 hectares of vineyard land. Antonio Chiavaroli, has travelled the world promoting the wines of the Azienda. For example the wines have been available in Japan for over 12 years. You can also find the wines in China, Australia, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, England, Norway and Russia. In the U.S. they are available in 14 states. Locally, they are available by private order from Paul Perugini only.
One of Antonio’s goal is to reach the same success in Ontario that they have experienced in the U.S. and Quebec. The Azienda’s mandate is to have wines with character and backbone and not to follow current wine fashions. Antonio is a man of great passion. He sees the potential that the wines of Abruzzo have, given its terroir. Unfortunately, winemakers in Abruzzo have not been united in promoting their wines internationally. They have not done a good job of branding their wines and highlighting the unique aspects that these wines possess. Speak of Italian wines to an outsider and immediately the discussion turns to Barolo and Chianti. He believes that the wines of his land should be part of that discussion.
Besides Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, the Azienda produces a soft cherry-red red wine called Cerasuolo. It produces 3 whites: Pecorino, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and Chardonnay. They also make two sparkling wines, a Spumante Brut and Spumante Rose. The wines are vinified using stainless steel tanks while others use both stainless steel tanks and barriques. Antonio tells me that the winery was the first in Abruzzo to age its wine in barriques in 1993.
I was fortunate to try two Montepulciano wines from the DaMa and Inferi series. The DaMa is a wonderful everyday wine that pairs well with grilled meats, stews and sharp cheeses. It has the classic ruby red colour of the Montepulciano wine. On the nose, you have blackberry notes with some herbal notes at the end. On the palate, it is medium to full-bodied, reproducing the cherry notes. The tannins are not harsh and it has a long and persistent berry finish.
The other Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, from the Inferi series has to be one of the most complex wines I have ever tasted made with this grape. Placing the two Montepulciano’s side by side, you quickly notice the darker shade of ruby red bordering on the opaque of the Inferi wine. The darker colour is achieved by the aging of the wine in French and Slavonian oak casks for 14 and 18 months. It is then further aged in the bottle for over 6 months. The colour is an exciting indication of what is to arrive: On the nose you have fruit at first, then floral and ending in spice. On the palate, chocolate notes together with plum/prune notes dominate. You also sense the vanilla from the barrel aging. It is a full-bodied wine with round and velvety tannins. The Azienda suggests pairing this wine with wild game or pasta with mushrooms and truffles. I agree. Given the complexity of this wine, a dish with some weight in flavour would be needed.
The two whites tasted were made from the Pecorino grape and the Trebbiano D’Abruzzo grape from the Altare series. In general the white Pecorino wine has become my go to white wine. It is a wine which invites the consumer to take a second sip. It has a long and thirst quenching finish. Excellent with appetizers, fish and soft cheeses. Given my love for this white wine, I was curious to taste the offering by Marramiero. The name of the grape has nothing to do though with the cheese of the same name. Most historians credit the origin of the grape’s name to sheep rather than the cheese. Throughout history, the sheep of Abruzzo would leave the hills and mountains in the winter for the warmer climes of the region of Puglia. In the summer the sheep would make the same voyage back to the mountains, stopping along the way to enjoy some grapes. The Marramiero Pecorino has a beautiful pale straw colour. On the nose you have floral and citrus notes. The finish is long and persistent.
The other white sampled was the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from the Altare series. This is definitely not zio’s Trebbiano. As usual the colour of the wine (vibrant yellow) was a foreshadowing of what was to arrive: an explosion of the senses. On the nose, citrus, vanilla and floral notes jumped out. On the palate, it was very rich and full-bodied. Again, vanilla and grapefruit are at the forefront. I enjoyed the long rich finish. I was very impressed with this wine. I would drink this at the end of the meal with some soft cheeses. To achieve this style of Trebbiano which is not very common, Antonio explained that it was fermented in stainless steel tanks, followed by aging in French barriques. Available only in limited quantities.
When I go to a wine tasting where I am familiar with the grape varieties, I try to go with an open mind and not have any prejudgments on how the wine should taste. I came away pleased and excited about the wines of Marramiero. They are wines made at every price point and of wonderful complexity. I was impressed and delighted with Antonio’s passion for the Azienda. He is a man that understands the past and potential of wines from Italy’s Abruzzo region.
By Domenico Cellucci