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Winemaker(s): Elena and Alessandro Nicodemi
Prepare yourself for a bold statement, and one that should be taken as a challenge. Here it is: If you don't know the wines of Nicodemi, then you haven't truly discovered the best Italy has to offer.
We know you know Barolo and Barbaresco, Bolgheri and Brunello. Yet let's set aside this “B” team for just a moment, and focus on Abruzzo. Sure, few can find it on a map; the name Montepulciano may make you think first of a town in Tuscany. The key here is that Abruzzo is home to Nicodemi—a family winery that without question deserves to be named in the same breath with Italy's, if not the world's, finest wine estates.
Fattoria Nicodemi is located in the Teramo district in Abruzzo, a hilly province bordering the Adriatic sea in central Italy. It was founded by Bruno Nicodemi, and today is run by brother and sister team Alessandro and Elena Nicodemi. High up in these chalky, clay-rich hills, the Nicodemi estate couldn't be better located—and any more different than bulk producers in the Abruzzo lowlands. The family's vineyards, at more than 900 feet above sea level, enjoy a slow cook, with warm afternoons and cool evenings. “We try to work in a simple way,” says Elena, to let the estate's terroir speak clearly; all field work, including the harvest, is done by hand.
The estate's wines can be divided into three groups. Their Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and Trebbiano d'Abruzzo wines represent fruit-forward, single-varietal bottlings that are both rich in flavor and represent great value. (Cerasuolo is the estate's rosé; the name refers to the wine's deep blush, which is called “cirasce” in Abruzzo dialect, meaning cherry-colored.)
The “Notàri” wines are a step up, a selection of superior fruit at harvest that is then aged in a combination of tank and barrek, and bottled separately.
“Neromoro” is the estate's top wine, crafted only in exemplary years. The vineyard, planted by Bruno Nicodemi, is one of the few vineyards to retain the “tendone” system of trellising. The vine stalk grows tall, from five to six feet, and its branches are spread on wires overhead. Grapes are thus shaded by leaves and left to hang freely, aerating the bunches and keeping them healthy. Vines are more than 40 years old; wine is aged 100% in new oak barrels. It is a wine that can age tremendously.