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La Salita vineyard and rosé: an Abruzzo ascent, smacking of mountains and the sea

by Claudio Celio

Iole Rabasco and her family cultivate approximately 10 hectares (25 acres) under vine in the heart of Abruzzo viticulture – the area comprised between Loreto Aprutino and Pianella, which nurtures some of the greatest of the region’s (and the nation’s) white and red wines.

Deeply rooted as she is in the winemaking traditions of her homeland, Iole could not refrain from producing the single item that most viscerally represents the Abruzzo vinicultural heritage: Cerasuolo, a rosé wine that’s been made in this countryside nook of central Italy since the dawn of time. A veritable farmer’s wine, it pairs every nuance of local fare: the richer versions complement meat dishes, while versions favoring finesse match fish.

Iole makes several Cerasuolos and one of them, in particular, has fascinated me from the very beginning. The vineyard it hails from is called La Salita (“ascent, climb, hillside”) because of its steeply sloping terrain, and also yields superb Trebbiano versions. Exposure is northeasterly, enhancing freshness, and microclimate is beneficially influenced by the Gran Sasso mountain on the one hand, and the Majella range and the sea, on the other: the coastline is a mere 5 kilometers (c. 3 miles) away as the crow flies.

Vineyard management follows a biodynamic approach and vinification is as hands-off as possible: once picked, the Montepulciano grapes are soft-pressed and the must ferments without skin contact. The result is fine-tuned six to eight months in old barriques and briefly bottle-aged prior to release. The ensuing wine shows very concentrated energy, focus and precision.

“Like all wines from this vineyard – says Iole Rabasco –, La Salita rosé has one hallmark trait: the elegance often associated with considerable acidity, making the range very quaffable and appealing.”

I have recently tasted the 2016 vintage and found it an excellent example, combining finesse and precision with punchy intensity and structure. The floral nose is a textbook Cerasuolo bouquet confirmed on a dynamic, rich and layered palate reminiscent of crisp morello cherries and pomegranate endowing freshness, wild rose endowing fragrance, and a textured, briny finish. This is a vibrant Cerasuolo, and the vibes are perfectly in sync with numerous local and Italian dishes. A match made in heaven with fish soup.