With one whiff and my first taste, I contacted a buddy of mine who is also a big time Italian-wine-lover. I told him, with probably more excitement in my voice than usual, “We’ve had lots of Pecorino, my friend; there’s Pecorino; and then there’s Pecorino!” I tasted some seriously delicious Italian wines recently thanks to a delivery from my Empson representative. These were not your run-of-the-mill daily sippers, by a long shot. These were wines based on exotic varieties, the types of wines Neil Empson specializes in. And the Pecorino stopped me in my tracks.
A fantastic grape, Pecorino was all but extinct, abandoned decades ago by grape growers and wine makers throughout Italy due to its natural tendency for low yields. By chance, on a high hill – 3,000 feet above sea level – in the Marche region of Italy, Guido Cocci Grifoni discovered a crop of abandoned vines in the tiny municipality of Arquata del Tronto. There, on Italy’s Adriatic Coast, Guido Grifoni struck gold.
It was 1982 and Grifoni had no idea what he was about to launch. Through painstaking work, analysis and vineyard care, by 2011 he and his vineyard achieved the much coveted DOCG status for the tiny zone of Offida. To put that in perspective, DOCG status is Italy’s top designation, limited to her very finest wines, to include the likes of Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello, Chianti Riserva, etc.
The Tenuta Cocci Pecorino is so strikingly head and shoulders above and beyond any other Pecorino that I’ve encountered that it’s difficult to describe. There’s an unmistakable spicy, floral aspect to these aromas: acacia and jasmine joined by licorice wafting from the glass. The palate is tropical without being flabby, strikingly pure and taught with acidity. You’ve got to try this; it’s a discovery you’ll be very glad you made.
Tenuta Cocci Grifoni, Colle Vecchio, Offida DOCG Pecorino
Straw-yellow with strong green highlights. Lovely fresh nose redolent of white flowers, white stone fruits and dried herbs, nicely complicated by menthol and citrus nuances. Enters bright and fresh, with lively, harmonious acidity and a pretty mineral underpinning adding bounce to the citrus and yellow apple flavors. Finishes long, with a mouthwatering quality and a hint of mint. This is an outstanding example of Pecorino from an estate that has dedicated itself to native grapes like this one over the years (they have worked long and hard with passerina as well), as opposed simply to jumping on the native grapes bandwagon recently, as quite a few others have done in Italy.
90 points, Antonio Galloni’s Vinous