The Not-so-Full Montes
Iole Rabasco inherited her family’s small vineyard and olive grove, neither of which have ever been treated with chemicals. And she’s taken that blessing and run with it. Her property is nestled in north-central Abruzzo where you have unique meso-and micro-climates, the 3.5 hectares are located more precisely in the village of Pianella, in the province of Pescara, about 40 kilometres from the Adriatic Sea. The base of the Gran Sasso mountain range runs along its western edge.
No chemicals ever touch Iole’s vines or the wines in her cellar.
Almost all of her vines are Montepulciano, but she also has a couple of rows of Trebbiano. These vines, on average, are 40-years-old, and are 450 metres above sea level. Soils are calcareous clay mixed with alluvial sediment and fossil remains and vines are trained in the traditional tendone-style pergola, with all the vineyard work done scrupulously by hand. She intentionally keeps her yields low. No chemicals ever touch Iole’s vines or the wines in her cellar. The style of the wines is all about energy and freshness rather than extraction – which makes them pretty unique as far as Abruzzo is concerned. The method is pretty well always the same – destemmed grapes are put into tronconic fibreglass vats, fermentation happens naturally with native yeasts, nothing is added and there is no filtration, fining and often no sulphur added.
The Rosato Cancelli is direct-press Montepulciano from the Cancelli vineyard site, a bowl that starts at the base of the La Salita slalom run and jumps a small road to climb the gentler adjacent slope. This wine is part of a serious Abruzzo tradition — no skin maceration as is the custom, a fact belied by its electric raspberry hue. In 2016, Iole opted to ferment the rosato in cement and then age in stainless steel (rather than her classic fibreglass damigiana used in years past), producing a super fresh and vibrant wine laced with tension and electricity.
Rosso Cancelli (“the gates”) comes from an early pick of Montepulciano. The grapes are harvested at the same time as the rosato, with a very short maceration of 3-4 days. The result is a fresh red, uncomplicated, fruity and easy to drink.
Bianco Vivace is a delightful prickly wine made from grapes from “La Conchetta” di Loreto Aprutino. During the winter it is decanted twice during a waning moon. No chemicals in the vineyard nor in the cellar. It is bottled in the spring before the temperature goes up to allow the natural fermentation in the bottle to take place. This is the wine of peasant tradition, when wines refermented due to mistakes in the winemaking process. The wine is a true, strong expression of Abruzzo’s terroir, however: rustic, lively and salty, with great acids and easy to drink.
The Rosato Vivace is made from grapes from La Salita and comes from straight pressed Montepulciano grapes. Even here we find a strong expression of Abruzzo’s terroir with strong aromatic personality and pleasant on the palate. Grapes are picked very early, normally in the first week of September. Like the white, it is bottled in the spring with its latent natural sugars, and the gentle bubbles are formed as the wine continues to ferment at its own pace.
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