Abruzzo Denominations Introduce Subzones

By Jack Brostrom
March 7, 2023

The four region-level denominations in Abruzzo—Abruzzo DOC, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC, and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC—have each added four subzones, which with one exception are based on the four provinces of Abruzzo. They are named Colline Pescaresi (in Pescara province), Colline Teramane (Teramo province), Terre di Chieti (Chieti province), and Terre Aquilane or Terre de L’Aquila (L’Aquila province). The exception is the DOC for Montepulciano, where Colline Teramane already has its own identity as a DOCG; the DOC’s fourth new subzone is for the commune of San Martino sulla Marrucina alone. As would be expected, wines must be from grapes grown entirely within the subzone in order to use the subzone name on the label.

In each of the denominations, Superiore and Riserva levels were created if they did not already exist, and these designations have been assigned exclusively to subzone-labeled wines. In other words, subzone-labeled wines must be of Superiore and Riserva level, and non-subzone wines cannot be labeled as Superiore or Riserva. (Superiore in this case indicates higher minimum alcohol and slightly longer aging than the basic wines; Riserva requires even higher minimum alcohol and significantly longer aging.) It is likely that the eventual goal is to push some of the Superiore or Riserva wines up to DOCG level if they gain traction in the market.

Numerous other changes were introduced, mostly involving slight modifications in the requirements for aging and/or earliest release date. The most interesting and somewhat troubling changes were instituted for Abruzzo DOC, conceptually putting that denomination in competition with its siblings. In the basic white and red wines of Abruzzo DOC, the minimum percentages of Trebbiano and Montepulciano, respectively, were raised to 85%—i.e., “varietal” level. This effectively turns those wines into direct competitors of Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC, even though they can’t name the variety on the label. Similarly, a new Rosato wine with 85% Montepulciano was introduced for Abruzzo DOC, on par with Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC.

Abruzzo DOC even took steps to compete with itself by allowing its other varietal wines—made from Cococciola, Malvasia, Montonico Bianco, Passerina, or Pecorino—to put the name of the variety before the denomination name, as in “Passerina d’Abruzzo DOC,” which gives the impression of being from a different denomination altogether. None of these wines are made in great quantities, but maybe they will be now. Again, the goal may be to spin off these varietally labeled wines as denominations of their own.

Kudos to the Abruzzo region for taking steps to upgrade the quality and diversity of its wines. Now it’s up to producers to demonstrate that Abruzzo is more than a sea of basic Trebbiano and Montepulciano wines.

Photo credits: (Top) Vineyards outside Corropoli (Teramo province), Abruzzo, by Peter Forster, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons; (center) Atri (Teramo province), Abruzzo, by Patrick on Unsplash

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