White Wines of Italy: Let's Talk Pecorino

Sep 14, 2023Cambridge Wines

Italy is known for its incredible variety of white wines, each with its own unique characteristics and flavors. One such wine that is gaining popularity among wine enthusiasts is Pecorino. This lesser-known grape variety produces a wine that is both refreshing and complex, making it a true hidden gem in the world of white wines.

Understanding the Pecorino Grape

The Pecorino grape has a fascinating origin and history that adds to its allure. This ancient grape variety is believed to have originated in the central regions of Italy, particularly in the Marche and Abruzzo regions. Historically, it was named after the word "pecora," which means sheep in Italian, as it was often found growing in areas where sheep roamed.

Legend has it that the Pecorino grape was brought to Italy by Greek settlers thousands of years ago. It thrived in the hilly landscapes of central Italy, where the climate and soil provided the perfect conditions for its cultivation. The grapevine's ability to adapt to its surroundings allowed it to flourish in these regions, resulting in the development of unique flavors and characteristics.

However, like many indigenous grape varieties, Pecorino faced a decline in popularity during the rise of international grape varieties. As winemakers focused on producing wines that catered to global tastes, local grape varieties were often overlooked. Pecorino, too, was nearly forgotten until a handful of passionate winemakers rediscovered its potential in the late 20th century.

These dedicated individuals recognized the value of preserving and showcasing the unique heritage of the Pecorino grape. They saw its potential to produce exceptional wines that reflected the terroir and traditions of central Italy. Through meticulous vineyard management and modern winemaking techniques, they breathed new life into this ancient grape variety.

Characteristics of the Pecorino Grape

What sets Pecorino apart from other white grape varieties is its distinctive characteristics. It is known for producing wines that are rich in aromas, with notes of tropical fruits, citrus, and delicate floral undertones. The unique combination of the region's climate, soil, and winemaking techniques contributes to the development of these complex flavors.

When Pecorino grapes are harvested at the optimal level of ripeness, they exhibit a perfect balance of acidity and sugar. This balance translates into wines that are refreshing and vibrant, with a crisp and lively mouthfeel that keeps you coming back for more. The natural acidity of the grape ensures that Pecorino wines have a long aging potential, allowing them to develop even more complexity and depth over time.

As Pecorino wines continue to gain recognition and popularity, winemakers are experimenting with different winemaking styles to showcase the grape's versatility. Some opt for stainless steel fermentation to preserve the grape's vibrant fruit flavors, while others choose oak aging to add layers of complexity and texture.

Whether enjoyed on its own or paired with a variety of dishes, Pecorino wines offer a unique drinking experience. Their distinct aromas and flavors make them a delightful choice for wine enthusiasts looking to explore lesser-known grape varieties and discover the hidden gems of Italian winemaking.

The Wine-Making Process of Pecorino

Producing Pecorino wine requires skill and precision. Let's explore the various stages of the wine-making process that contribute to the exceptional quality of this unique white wine.

Harvesting and Crushing

The timing of the harvest is crucial to ensure that the grapes reach optimal ripeness. Pecorino grapes are hand-picked to ensure the preservation of their delicate flavors. Skilled vineyard workers carefully inspect each cluster, selecting only the grapes that have reached the perfect balance of sugar, acidity, and flavor development. This meticulous attention to detail ensures that only the highest quality grapes are used in the production of Pecorino wine.

After the harvest, the grapes are gently transported to the winery where they undergo the crushing process. This step is essential in extracting the juice from the grapes while preserving the integrity of the fruit. The grapes are carefully destemmed and then gently pressed to release the juice. The winemakers take great care to avoid excessive pressure, as this can lead to the extraction of unwanted tannins and bitterness from the grape skins.

The extracted juice, also known as must, is then transferred to fermentation vessels to begin the next stage of the wine-making process.

Fermentation and Aging

During fermentation, winemakers have the option to use either stainless steel tanks or oak barrels. Stainless steel tanks are commonly used for Pecorino wine as they preserve the vibrant fruit flavors and maintain the wine's freshness. The temperature and duration of fermentation are carefully controlled to ensure that the desired aromas and flavors are extracted from the grapes.

Alternatively, some winemakers choose to ferment Pecorino wine in oak barrels. This method can impart additional complexity and texture to the wine, as the oak interacts with the wine during the fermentation process. The choice between stainless steel tanks and oak barrels is a decision made by the winemaker, based on their desired style and characteristics for the final wine.

After fermentation, the wine undergoes a period of aging, which allows the flavors to harmonize and develop further complexity. Pecorino wine is typically aged for a few months to a year, depending on the desired style. During this time, the wine is stored in temperature-controlled cellars, allowing it to slowly evolve and mature.

Throughout the aging process, the winemakers regularly monitor the wine, tasting and assessing its progress. They make careful decisions regarding the optimal time to bottle the wine, ensuring that it has reached its peak of flavor and aroma.

The wine-making process of Pecorino is a labor of love, requiring patience, expertise, and a deep understanding of the grape variety. From the careful selection of grapes to the precise control of fermentation and aging, every step is taken to ensure that Pecorino wine showcases the unique characteristics of this exceptional white wine.

Distinguishing Features of Pecorino Wine

One of the most exciting aspects of Pecorino wine is its distinctive aroma and flavor profile. Let's dive deeper into what makes this wine stand out from the rest.

Pecorino wine, named after the Italian word for "little sheep," is a white wine that originates from the central regions of Italy, particularly the Marche and Abruzzo regions. It is made from the Pecorino grape variety, which has been cultivated in Italy for centuries. The name "Pecorino" is derived from the fact that sheep were once known to graze on the grapes, attracted by their sweet flavor.

Aroma and Flavor Profile

Pecorino wines are known for their enticing aromas of ripe peach, pear, and apricot, coupled with hints of citrus zest and aromatic herbs. The aroma is reminiscent of walking through a vibrant orchard on a warm summer day, with the scents of ripe fruits wafting through the air.

On the palate, these wines exhibit a beautiful balance of fruitiness and acidity. The flavors are complex, with layers of tropical fruits, ripe citrus, and a touch of minerality that adds depth to each sip. The acidity in Pecorino wines is crisp and refreshing, providing a lively and invigorating sensation on the tongue.

What sets Pecorino wine apart is its ability to showcase the unique terroir of the region where it is grown. The combination of the local climate, soil composition, and winemaking techniques contribute to the distinct characteristics found in each bottle. This terroir-driven approach results in Pecorino wines that are truly reflective of their origin, allowing wine enthusiasts to experience the essence of the Italian countryside.

Food Pairing Suggestions

When it comes to food pairing, Pecorino wines are remarkably versatile. Their balanced acidity makes them an excellent match for seafood dishes such as grilled shrimp or citrusy ceviche. The wine's vibrant flavors complement the delicate sweetness of seafood, creating a harmonious and enjoyable pairing.

Additionally, the wine's distinct flavor profile pairs beautifully with fresh salads, light pasta dishes, and various Mediterranean-inspired recipes. The bright acidity of Pecorino wine cuts through the richness of creamy dressings and sauces, enhancing the overall dining experience.

For cheese lovers, Pecorino wine harmonizes wonderfully with pecorino cheese itself, as well as other aged cheeses. The wine's acidity helps to cleanse the palate after each bite, allowing the flavors of the cheese to shine through. This combination is a match made in heaven for those who appreciate the complexity and depth of flavor that both the wine and cheese have to offer.

Whether enjoyed on its own or paired with a delicious meal, Pecorino wine is sure to captivate your senses with its enticing aromas, vibrant flavors, and unique character. So, next time you're looking for a wine that stands out from the crowd, consider indulging in a bottle of Pecorino.

Regions Producing Pecorino Wine in Italy

Pecorino grapes have found their true home in the central regions of Italy, where the unique terroir yields remarkable wines. Let's discover the regions that have embraced Pecorino and are producing exceptional examples of this varietal.

Marche and Abruzzo

The Marche region, located along the eastern coast of Italy, is considered the birthplace of Pecorino. Here, the grape thrives in the hilly, limestone-rich soils, yielding wines with a distinct mineral character. Abruzzo, on the other hand, offers a warmer climate, resulting in Pecorino wines that are more intense and full-bodied.

Umbria and Lazio

While not as prominent as Marche and Abruzzo in the production of Pecorino wine, the regions of Umbria and Lazio also make noteworthy contributions. These regions have embraced Pecorino, blending it with other indigenous grape varieties to create unique and expressive wines that showcase the best of both worlds.

How to Serve and Store Pecorino Wine

To fully enjoy the flavors and aromas of Pecorino wine, proper serving temperatures and storage conditions are essential. Let's uncover the best practices for serving and storing this remarkable white wine.

Ideal Serving Temperature

Pecorino wine is best served chilled but not too cold. The recommended serving temperature is around 50-54°F (10-12°C). This allows the wine to showcase its full range of flavors and aromas, while still maintaining its refreshing characteristics.

Tips for Long-Term Storage

If you're looking to age your Pecorino wine, it is essential to store it properly. Keep the bottles in a cool and dark place, away from direct sunlight and extreme temperature fluctuations. This will ensure that the wine matures gracefully, allowing its flavors to evolve and develop complexity over time.

So, whether you're a white wine enthusiast or simply looking to explore something new, Pecorino wine is a captivating choice. With its intriguing history, distinctive characteristics, and exceptional quality, Pecorino showcases the best that Italian white wines have to offer. Cheers to discovering the wonders of Pecorino!

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