- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Farnese, Pecorino “Casale Vecchio,” Terre di Chieti, 2006 ($16)

Italy is home to scores of native grape varieties, many of which have been cultivated for centuries and grow nowhere else. Discovering them can be one of the joys of drinking Italian wine. This flavorful Farnese white was a delicious recent discovery for me. Made completely with pecorino grapes, it tastes satisfyingly dry and minerally. Its apple- and pear-scented fruit make it perfect for early autumn sipping.

I previously thought of pecorino only as an Italian sheep’s milk cheese, but now I know that in the Marche and Abruzzo regions on Italy’s Adriatic coast, it also refers to a white-skinned grape. (The word comes from “pecora,” meaning sheep, and the grapes apparently are a favorite snack of both sheep and shepherds.) The variety had all but disappeared a few decades ago but is enjoying a comeback as more and more consumers are seeking out truly individualistic wines.

This particular pecorino from Abruzzo is fairly full-bodied, with autumn fruit flavors enhanced by echoes of spice and toasted nuts. The flinty note in the finish adds intrigue, making it seem not unlike a good village Chablis. Young and initially tight, it needs exposure to air in a glass or decanter to show its best. Then drink it alongside simply prepared fish or poultry. (Imported by Empson USA.)

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