The Abruzzese denomination Tullum, aka Terre Tollesi, has become the first Italian DOC to be elevated to DOCG status in 8 years, raising the count of DOCGs to 75. Tullum DOCG will primarily feature varietal wines made from red Montepulciano and whites Passerina and Pecorino.
An obscure denomination in Abruzzo that goes by the twin names of Terre Tollesi and Tullum has jumped into the spotlight as the newest member of Italy’s top tier of quality wines—the DOCGs. As DOCG number 75, Terre Tollesi/Tullum becomes the first DOC to be raised to DOCG status since 2011’s mad rush of denomination-making leading up to the implementation of EU control over the process. (There was one other new DOCG since 2011, Nizza in Piemonte, but it was not elevated from DOC status; rather, it was carved out of the existing Barbera d’Asti DOCG in 2014.) The promotion was approved by the Ministry of Agriculture on July 4, 2019, and does not require EU acquiescence, so it takes effect immediately. Wines from the 2019 harvest will be labeled as DOCG, and any 2018 wine that meets the DOCG standards can claim that honor retroactively.
Established in 2008, the Terre Tollesi/Tullum denomination lies just a few miles inland from the Adriatic Sea near the middle of Abruzzo’s coastline (see map left). It surrounds the village of Tollo and is coterminous with the commune’s boundaries. Terre Tollesi basically means “Lands of Tollo” or more loosely “Tollo’s Neighborhood,” while the alternative name Tullum dates back at least to the mid-11th century, mentioned as the name of the castrum (fortified town) in a document from 1062. The area around Tollo has apparently been an area of wine production since Roman times.
For the past decade, Tullum DOC has produced wines from Abruzzo’s dominant grape varieties Trebbiano and Montepulciano, as well as an array of promising whites (Falanghina, Passerina, Pecorino) and saleable reds (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese). Sparkling wines (oddly, from Chardonnay) and passito dessert wines were also allowed, as was Novello (Italy’s version of nouveau).
As a DOCG, Tullum—which appears to be the preferred name in the area—will trim down the menu to its real strengths. Starting with the 2019 harvest, the primary output will be red wines made from Montepulciano (minimum 95%). Thus, Tullum will put itself forward along with Colline Teramane Montepulciano d’Abruzzo—until now, Abruzzo’s only DOCG—as a paragon of the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC category. There will be no other red wines, but (taking a page from Offida DOCG’s book, perhaps) white wines made from a minimum 90% Passerina or Pecorino will remain. So will the Chardonnay-based sparkling wine, although as a tiny category.
Tullum is a very small denomination, with just 47 acres (19 hectares) of vineyards and a production of 687 hectoliters (7,640 cases) in 2017. There are currently only two bottlers using the Tullum label: Feudo Antico (imported by Omniwines in the U.S.) and Vigneti Radica. Time will tell whether gaining the imprimatur of DOCG will encourage more production and help the denomination find success in exports.