Abruzzo (Aquila), Italy
"The Val Peligna (the birthplace of the Montepulciano grape) is a specific sub-zone of L’Aquilano. Montepulciano wines made here appear to have outstanding potential and refinement. The best estate in this area—in fact one of Abruzzo’s finest—is Praesidium." Ian D'Agata, Vinous
A true family affair, Enzo Pasquale and his wife Lucia officially launched the current Praesidium winery in 1988. Though, Enzo had worked his parents’ vineyards surrounding Prezza since he was a boy. Today Enzo is joined in the vineyard and cellar by his children Antonia and Ottaviano, who have largely taken over the operations at Praesidium.
The winery is located in the tiny picturesque hilltop town of Prezza in the province of Aquila in Abruzzo. Winding mountain roads, full of twists and turns await any who venture to this tiny winery, over 400 m above sea level. Like the small town that is their base, Praesdium’s wines speak of tradition and beauty. Farming only 6 hectares of vines, which average 30 years of age, the family aim to create true expressions of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo from this unique area using traditional and artisanal methods in the vineyard and the cellar. Their belief is that wine, as a cultural product, must always represent a meaningful harmony between nature and human endeavour. For them each wine has its own unique personality, and must be expressed in the most spontaneous and natural manner. In the vineyard this means organic cultivation, manual labour and natural methods: natural fertilizers such as fava beans or manure; no weedkillers, rather manual grass removal with a hoe; and minimal use of sulphur and copper. Harvest is also conducted manually using small baskets so that the grapes are not injured during their return journey to the winery. Once there, grapes are de-stemmed and softly crushed. Work in the cellar is aimed to preserve the natural flavours of the Montepulciano D’Abruzzo grapes. Fermentations occur spontaneously with ambient yeasts in stainless steel tanks. The wines are then matured either in stainless steel tanks, as is the case for the Cerasuolo, or in a combination of old French barrels or Slavonian oak casks. The wines are bottled unfiltered with only the bare minimum of sulphites.
And the wines themselves? They are gorgeous! The Montepulciano D’Abruzzo flawlessly straddles the line between purity of fruit and earthiness. It is richly textured, elegantly balanced and certainly a candidate for cellar ageing. And if the current vintage, full of dark brooding fruit, isn’t what you’re after, then there are number of back vintages from which to choose, going as far back as 1991. As for the Cerasuolo, it is dense, yet highly finessed. It shows beautiful red fruit, minerality and has a soft texture. Overall, the key to the Praesidium style is respect for nature. They try to treat the grapes and wine with as little manipulation as possible, while creating long-lived wines that are like no other.