Though the Abruzzo region of Italy has been producing wine for hundreds of years, things have taken a sharp turn upward in recent decades. The workhorse grape varieties are montepulciano (red) and trebbiano (white). Historically, these grapes were made into high-production, low-quality wines; in some cases they were added to bulk blends. In recent times, many Abruzzese producers have recognized the potential of theses grapes. This has led to a steady increase in quality. Replanting of vineyards, reduction of tons picked per acre, and production decisions are some of the variables that have helped the region at large move the needle forward.
Casal Thaulero, a producer with a long history in the region, is among those making huge strides. I recently visited their production facility and vineyards, spending time with their winemaker and others behind the scenes. Over the better part of a week, I tasted their portfolio in a classroom setting, alongside food, and everywhere in between. Casal Thaulero produces a varied array of wines in several tiers. While montepulciano and trebbiano stand at the heart of their operation, there are fascinating and delicious wines being crafted under their umbrella from pecorino, passerina, and more. A particular favorite of mine is their sparkling pecorino, perfectly suited for solo sipping as well as an enviable pairing partner for a broad array of lighter foods.
Above all else, Casal Thaulero produces delicious wines that are symbiotic with the charm of Abruzzo. So get to the region and visit them if you can, or pull the cork on one of their wines here and visit them virtually.
Duca Thaulero Pecorino Superiore 2015 ($10)
The expressive nose is studded with bits of tropical fruit and a dollop of spices. Lemon zest, linzer tart, and fleshy yellow fruits dominate the palate. Hints of kiwi and mango emerge on the finish. Firm acid lends a hand to the terrific structure. This would be a great choice to serve with light appetizers or a cheese course.
Orsetto Oro Passerina 2015 ($15)
Orange zest and yellow flowers leap from the nose. Yellow peach, apricot, and bits of lemon curd dominate the intensely layered palate. Papaya and toasted nuts join wisps of lemon ice on the persistent finish. This passerina is outstanding all by itself and also excellent when paired with creamy dishes.
Orsetto Oro Cococciola 2015 ($15)
Tropical fruit and hints of mesquite honey inform the nose. A host of gentle fruit flavors are apparent on the delicate palate — apple, peach, and pear, to name a few. Citrus notes, bits of green herb, and white pepper are all evident on the finish. This would go well with a wide range of lighter foods.
Orsetto Oro Pecorino 2015 ($15)
Bits of sage yellow flowers and lemon zest adorn the nose. The palate shows off lemon curd, white fig, and a dollop of spices. Minerals and sour yellow fruits mark the persistent and pleasing finish
Voilà Sparkling Pecorino Spumante Brut NV ($17)
One of the most pleasant surprises I discovered at Casal Thaulero was this sparkling pecorino. Voilà is a fresh, fruity, fun wine. Green apple aromas are accompanied by wisps of savory herbs and white flowers. The palate is even-keeled and distinct with alternating sensations of yellow fruit, minerals, and spice. The finish, which is better than average, is refreshing and pleasing. It sucks you back in for sip after sip.
Scarpetta di Venere Trebbiano 2015 ($19)
Scarpetta di Venere ("Venus's Slipper") is an organic, vegan line of wines that Casal Thaulero has recently launched. Oodles of stone fruit jump from the expressive nose here. The palate is stuffed with peach, apricot, and nectarine flavors. The honeyed finish includes hints of roasted chestnut alongside continued waves of stone fruit and a complement of spices. This trebbiano is irresistible, and once you take a sip you’ll want to take another — and pretty soon the bottle will be gone.
Thalè Trebbiano 2004 ($40)
This 12-year-old trebbiano has a rich, golden color that resembles that of sauternes. Dried apricot aromas inform the animated nose. The palate brings to mind Golden Delicious apples sautéed in butter, studded with baking spices. Candied and dried fruits along with chamomile tea are present on the memorable finish. Racy acid keeps it all in check. If you’re looking for a memorable wine to pair with a cheese, nut, and fruit course, look no further.
Thalè Montepulciano 2009 ($40)
If you have doubts that montepulciano can make a distinct wine loaded with character, and be age-worthy to boot, drink the Thalè and become immediately persuaded that it can. Deep and dark in color, this montepulciano is loaded with genuine flavors that are true to the grape. Dark berry fruits fill the nose along with a hint of roasted espresso and vanilla bean. Red and black cherry flavors along with raspberry and black pepper inform the substantial palate. A ton of earthy notes and dusty Baker’s chocolate dominate the memorably long finish. This impressive wine will pair perfectly with roasted meats.