Valentini, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo 2017: Why Does This Wine Taste Like This?

Valentini, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo 2017: Why Does This Wine Taste Like This?

Ask a wine professional about this bottle, and you’ll hear qualitative descriptions about its extreme rarity, mythical production process, and reputation as one of the greatest white wines in all of Italy.

Prod a little more, and you’ll hear tasting notes like how “it has the intense minerality of Chablis, the structure and savory character of Puligny-Montrachet, and the ripeness of the Maconnais.” That’s well and good, but all those places are in Burgundy, and this wine comes from central Italy. How is it that this wine - made from a forgettable grape in an unremarkable region - comes to have all those complex, nuanced, perfectly balanced qualities? Well, let’s find out.

The Grapes

Valentini is extremely selective of what fruit ends up in their wines. In fact, despite meticulous farming methods across their vineyards, they only keep about 5% of their grapes, selling the rest to other producers. Only using the highest quality grapes promotes consistency and ageability in the resulting wines.

It’s also worth noting that those grapes aren’t the typical trebbiano that floods the market from Tuscany and Rome. This is a clone - trebbiano d’Abruzzese - that’s indigenous to the region of Abruzzo. Valentini farms it from low yielding old vines, which concentrate trebbiano’s characteristic citrus and green fruit flavors.

The Farming

Valentini grows its grapes organically, using natural farming techniques so that the wines represent exactly where they come from. Take one sip, and you’ll understand that the town of Loreto Aprutino must have no shortage of meadows and orchards. While Abruzzo is a warm place and the grapes do develop ripe, juicy flavors, Valentini grows and harvests them in a way that ensures they maintain plenty of freshness and acidity.

The Winemaking

Valentini is notoriously hush-hush about the details of their legendary operation– so much so that it has contributed an almost mythical aura to the wines. But there are a few things we know for sure. Their wine undergoes malolactic fermentation in old oak barrels. This secondary fermentation gives the wines a round, creamy texture, while the oak imparts toasty vanilla notes, allowing enough oxygen to provide nuttiness and a hint of coffee.

In keeping with the natural methods in the vineyards, Francesco Valentini uses indigenous yeasts and no-added-sulfites in the winery. This can boost savory and flinty flavors, or at the very least, keep the wine from becoming basic. The wines differ from vintage to vintage, and always illustrate the unique qualities of the land, grapes, and growing conditions.


But in the end, like so many of the most revered wines on the planet, part of what makes this bottle so special comes down to a less tangible “X-Factor.” That could be Francesco Valentini’s special abilities as a winemaker, the traditions established during the half-century stewardship of his father, unique quirks of geography and geology, or most likely, a combination of it all.

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