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Finding Value Without Sacrificing Quality
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Feb 4, 2020
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La Valentina, Colline Pescaresi IGT (Abruzzo) Pecorino 2018 (Dalla Terra Imports, $17):  As I write this column, everyone in America who sells or drinks European wine is nervously awaiting a decision regarding the potentially devastating 100 percent tariffs on European wines that the U.S. has proposed.  Italian wines dodged the bullet on last year’s 25 percent tariffs, which instead hit French, Spanish and German wines as well as Scotch Whisky, and which caused French wine imports to plummet by 18 percent last November.  Now, Italian wines could join the targeted camp.  For wine lovers the situation is a matter of choice — will your favorite wines even be available? — as well as a matter of price. 

In this dystopian scenario, Italy has an advantage over many other European wine countries because it offers so many decent wines at relatively low prices.  A good strategy for wine lovers would be to seek out lesser-known types of wine, wines from less famous Italian wine regions and/or wines from lesser-known grape varieties.  This inexpensive Pecorino wine from Abruzzo could be a good place to start.

Abruzzo — a central Italian region situated on the Adriatic coast — has always been a seat of good value wines, mainly the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and the white Trebbiano d’Abruzzo.  In recent years, elite producers from Abruzzo have elevated the reputation of the region’s wines but fundamentally, Abruzzo still represents value.  Fattoria La Valentina is a respected family winery founded in 1990 during the modern evolution of Abruzzo’s winemaking, when the region transitioned from its roots as a largely co-operative driven area to a region that boasts numerous quality wines from artisan producers. 

In the big picture of Italian wine, Pecorino is a lesser-known grape variety, but it is also a variety that is developing a keen following.  Pecorino is a white grape that grows principally in the Marche and Abruzzo regions of Italy’s Adriatic coast.  It was rescued from extinction in the early 1980s and its plantings have increased steadily since the turn of the century.  Pecorino wines are typically admired for their minerally flavors and their improbable combination of high acidity and yet rich mouthfeel.

The 2018 La Valentina Pecorino is a bone-dry white wine with a moderate aroma intensity.  The nose suggests figs, bruised apple, lemon, sage, and a bready or yeasty note that probably derives from lees contact after fermentation.  The wine is medium-bodied verging toward full-bodied, with a very slight spritzy impression and uplifting high acidity, both of which contrast with the wine’s oily-like texture and with its weight and solid grip on the tongue.  The wine’s flavors seem less compelling than its aromas — citrus, sage and a stony minerality dominate — but the flavors show very good concentration.  This is a white wine that’s all about its structure; the interplay of the structural elements holds my interest over the course of a meal just as much as layers of flavor might in another wine.

This wine derives entirely from Pecorino grapes grown in La Valentina’s own vineyards at 500 to 1150 feet altitude.  The wine was made entirely in stainless steel, with no skin contact and no malolactic conversion; lees contact post-fermentation was used to bring complexity and weight to the wine.

91 Points