Sweeping his hand across the burnished orange vineyards along the highways, Pino said, “This is Abruzzo’s wine country.” Due to an unseasonably warm fall, central Italy’s vineyards were still showing off their gold, rust and copper colors. With Abruzzo’s mammoth mountains back-dropping the vineyards, the landscapes along our route were stunning.
We took the winding road down from Atessa to the highway to L’Aquila. Just off the road, a sign nailed to a tree in front of a small pink building flanked by sheds caught our eye: “Vino, produzione propria” (“Wine, own production”). We pulled over. Pino took the two plastic 5-litre jugs out of the back of his van. He usually buys the wine from a cantina (cellar) in L’Aquila, but right from the producer was an even better option.
In a cheery pink interior – matching the exterior – demijohns, cartons of wine, a few bottles, and a wine-corker flanked three huge steel wine barrels. But, no one was there. Prices on the barrels of the wine varieties invited tastings: 1. 50 E per litre, 1.30 E and 1 Euro. We called and called and when Pino finally beeped the horn of his truck, a smiling bald man with sunglasses perched on his head came out of the house next door. We’d interrupted vintner Luzio Finoli’s lunch.
He grinned with a shrug when I said, “Scusate! And, you know, we could have left with a good amount of wine” and then offered us tastes of his vino bianco (trebbiano, primarily), the rosato and his red (Montepulciano d’abruzzo grapes). Ah, that pungent earthy red – embodying the stalwart region of Abruzzo, forte e gentile (strong and gentle).