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July 18, 2019
Drinking with the Sheep
If forced to reincarnate as part of the animal kingdom in a sort of Yorgos Lanthimos-inspired nightmare, an Italian sheep, or Pecora, free-grazing it’s way through the hilly vineyards of the Marche wouldn’t be a bad choice. These wooly beasts like grapes so much, in fact, that Italians named one after them. Translating as little sheep, the early ripening, sweet and crunchy Pecorino grape got its name for being the favorite among the flocks. Yes, you read that right - there’s another, less cheesy Pecorino to pair with your Italian food.
Pecorino is an autochthonous grape variety, originating from south of the Marche region and north of Abruzzo. Although once widely grown, naturally low yields drove the straw-colored grape to near extinction during the 20th century. Pecorino production was revitalized during the 1980s, when a local winemaker, accompanied by agricultural researchers, rediscovered an overgrown Pecorino vineyard. After grafting the rootstock and bringing the vines to their former glory, the wine proved worth the search.
Word of the grape’s resurrection got around, and in the following decades, Pecorino increased in production, spreading in popularity from local wine bars to international beverage lists.
Wine somms have caught on for a reason. Pecorino has all the unique, complex qualities that make Italian whites so beloved. A sugar-rich grape, Pecorino’s sweetness transforms when fully fermented, leaving behind a dry white with common notes of tropical fruit and citrus complemented by the grapes natural acidity and minerality. All these sought-after qualities make for a fresh, well-balanced and full-bodied white with a satisfying mouth feel and excellent aging potential. Plus, it wouldn’t be Italian if it didn’t go with warm summer nights and multiple courses - the crisp, structured Pecorino is a no-brainer match for vegetable adorned pizzas, grilled fish, and lightly fried apertivos like calamari and ricotta-filled squash blossoms.
Here are some of our favorite Pecorino’s that we’re pretty sure you’ll love too:
Cirelli 2017 Pecorino, Colline Pescaresi IGT
Francesco Cirelli is rocking the vines of Abruzzo (for a visual, check out these new Pet Nat rebels). His low intervention, organic (and affordable!) wines have turned us all into super fans. A complex, impressive white with serious finesse, Cirelli’s Pecorino is another team favorite. Dry and aromatic with notes of citrus and honey, this bottle is the perfect pairing for beach-side picnics and take out sushi.
Last seen at one of our favorite new pasta spots, Tortello.
Barone Cornacchia 2017 Pecorino, Controguerra DOC
The Cornacchia’s Pecorino is the best thing to happen to your rent-week budget this summer. Azienda Agricola Barone Cornacchia is among the oldest farms in the province of Teramo in Abruzzo, with family history on the estate dating back to the 16th century. Today, the certified organic winery is led by siblings Filippo and Caterina Cornacchia - a duo that has introduced new wines while staying true to the philosophy of their ancestors. “Dry” doesn’t do this fresh and complex white justice. This is a glass full of pineapple, white peach, and citrus with salinity and minerality to boot.
Emidio Pepe 2016 Pecorino, Colli Aprutini IGT
Emidio Pepe is a classic in the Italian wine game, and we couldn’t be happier to rep these amazing wines in Chicago. Certified biodynamic, the wines are made in a super traditional style. It is rare to find such a raw expression in today’s age of industrialization. Harvest, crushing and destemming is done by hand. No additives or sulfites are used, and wines undergo indigenous yeast fermentation. Emidio Pepe’s first Pecorino was released in 2010 - and it’s been on our highly recommended lists ever since. Lush and silky, with notes of apricots, spice and citrus.