Way up in the hills of Abruzzo, lies the picturesque little town of Prezza, and home to Praesidium wines. The name means fortress, and it’s a small family owned winery, founded by Enzo and Lucia Pasquale, with the second generation of sister and brother, Antonia and Ottaviano, taking care of much of it now.
It really is a one grape winery…Montepulciano reigns supreme here with only 6 ha of grapes planted with 55-60 year old vines on a clay/limestone soil mixture. The Pasquales are now trying their hand at Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and our group had the chance to taste the 2015 vintage still in tank. Although many in Prezza make wine for their own consumption, the Pasquale’s are one of two producers selling their wine, and they have exports to several countries including eastern Canada. Perhaps one day soon, we’ll see the wines here in Alberta, because they really are well made and certainly created with quality in mind.
To get to the winery, we had to park at the bottom of the hill, then climb up the winding road, up a set of stairs and around a few more bends to get to Praesidium. The cellars, dug into the rock, sit at 600M while the vineyards are on a flatter plateau of 400M. Before World War 2, there were many vineyards on higher elevations, but abandoned after the war as the flatter, lower elevations were easier to cultivate. The first vintage for Praesidium was 1988; prior to that, the wine was sold in the large demijohns, but the decision was made to bottle and sell for the ’88 vintage and beyond. A brilliant idea indeed!
A common thread for many producers in this area is the climate change. A notable increase of warm weather from vintage to vintage (of course with some exceptions, but the trend started around 1996) means earlier harvests, and darker, richer, more extracted wines. This was especially prevalent in the Cerasuolo vintage of 2015.
2015 Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo – with the hot weather of 2015, the Cerasuolo only needed 1 hour on the skins (typically it’s 2-4 hours on the skins, and the saignée method is used, with the resulting must used to make the Montepulciano Riserva). The final wine was a very dark wine, darker than what might be typical for a Cerasuolo. These are interesting wines: not rosé but cerasuolo, which means cherry, for the aromas and flavours certainly include a wild cherry/sour cherry component. This wine was beautiful with bright acid and along with wild cherries, fresh raspberries and cranberries. Very dry, and although the abv sits at 14.5%, it was integrated very well, and not at all hot. Bravo!
2015 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva – tasted from the large Slavonian oak barrels, this wine was very deep PURPLE, again due to the warm 2015 harvest; only 10 days on the skins was needed to achieve this extremely dark colour. A young, tight nose, this certainly had that Montepulciano funk, but lots of cherry, chokecherry juice, plums and licorice. Tight tannins, and the alcohol will be 14.5%, this wine will need time to open up, but the potential of this wine will be outstanding.
2013 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva – also tasted from barrel, this was a cooler vintage, characterized with much rain and cooler weather. This was certainly not as purple as the 2015 vintage, and had more herbal notes of sage, with cherry on the palate and tart acid, chalky tannins ,although they were balanced well with the alcohol (which is 13.5%) .
2012 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva – when this wine was tasted, the Pasquale’s were set to bottle the following week, so with this post, it is very possible that this is either finished or in progress. Very refined with cinnamon spice, earth, mushrooms, and smoke. Smooth tannins, but with a grip, along with tart acids. It will be great to see how this wine develops!
2011 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva – this is current vintage in bottle that is being sold. I’m slightly embarrassed to be saying this, but for the life of me, I cannot remember tasting it, and I have no notes indicating that we did! I apparently had the sense to take a photo of current releases of both the red (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo) and the Rosato (not called Cerasuolo here but Rosato Terre Aquilane)
All this to say…the Pasquale’s have a great thing going, and the quality of their wines cannot be disputed. They want honest opinions on their wines, strive to do better, and continue to make a product worthy of not only Abruzzo, but of Prezza also. I sincerely hope to return to this beautiful town and the Praesidium winery one day soon! Salute!