Etruscans, Greeks, and Romans all tended vines in the shadow of the Gran Sasso d’Italia, Italy’s highest mountain south of the Alps, and today many believe that the vineyards owned by the Cataldi Madonna estate in this mountainous region of Abruzzo are among the most ancient growing sites in the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo appellation.
In a valley on the southern side of Gran Sasso lies the town of Ofena, where the winery was established in 1920 by Barone Luigi Cataldi Madonna. The firm underwent a process of rejuvenation in 1968 when the baron’s son, Antonio, began cultivating new vineyards and updating its resources. Today the company is run by a third generation of wine producer, Antonio’s son, Luigi, who manages vineyards stretching for 24 hectares, most of which are recent plantings.
This area provides remarkable possibilities in wine making, thanks to diurnal temperature variations and soil composition. The southern facing slopes (at roughly 380 meters above sea level) offer ideal exposure while the cool winds coming down from the mountain ventilate the vines, reducing risk of rot and mildew. The calcareous-clay subsoil provides excellent drainage, which stresses the vines and results in a richer fruit.
Cataldi Madonna’s Tonì is the winery’s top cru. Luigi uses traditional-style vinification for this wine but also employs some barrique aging to create a bottle judiciously modern in style.
In February of this year, the Wine Advocate‘s Antonio Galloni awarded the 2003 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Tonì an impressive 90 points, calling it “another intense, full-bodied, dense wine, offer[ing] a compelling array of smoke, earthiness, spices, herbs and dark cherries on a structured frame, with outstanding length and an engaging personality.”
The wine’s label shows the image of an ancient statue dating from the 6th century B.C., which was only discovered however in 1934 at the site of a pre-Roman necropolis near the nearby medieval town of Capestrano. Though often referred to as “The Warrior of Capestrano”, the statue most probably represents an important local figure of Aufinum, the name of the Roman municipium imposed upon the Vestini, the Sabine tribe which had settled in and around what is now known as Ofena.
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