We drank a wine recently made from Pecorino. And before you ask how you make wine from an Italian sheep’s milk cheese, I should explain that Pecorino is also a grape variety! Both names derive from the Italian for a sheep, pecora, but there the connection between the cheese and the wine ends – unless, of course, you’re thinking of having an Italian wine and cheese party!
The grape is believed to be quite ancient and there are a couple of theories about its name: one is that the bunches on the vine are a very distinctive inverse triangle shape, rather like a sheep’s head; the other is that the sheep would often eat the grapes while grazing in the vineyard! Who knows which is right, but the grape – little known outside its native regions of Marche and Abruzzo in eastern Italy – is capable of producing some really delicious white wines.
Umani Ronchi’s Vellodoro Pecorino (Great Western Wine, £11.50), from the Terre di Chieti close to the town of Pescara in Abruzzo, is a delight: rich and mouth-filling. Not overtly fruity – many good Italian whites aren’t – but quite spicy and full-flavoured with plenty of character and bite. You could drink it on its own as an aperitif, but I think it’s far better with food and will even stand up to quite strongly flavoured dishes – tomato-based sauces, for example. And, as for drinking it with a tasty sheep’s cheese – why not?
Not long ago, the variety was in danger of disappearing as other, more commercial, grapes were preferred in the area but fortunately, a rescue is in hand and Pecorino is beginning to be re-established. This is great news! We mustn’t lose distinctive local varieties like this capable of making really attractive and drinkable wines at affordable prices.