Atina D.O.C. is the last valley in the land of Ciociaria, bordering the Abruzzo National Park. This charming land, rich in vegetation and water, extends along the road running from Sora to Cassino, and is surrounded by the mountain range called ” the Mainarde”.
The extreme point of the valley – more than 500 meters above sea level – reaches very cold temperatures during the winter; among the coldest in Italy. The valley has a good ventilation and sun exposure. During some periods of the year, the smell of the sea drifts in front the nearby Tyrrhenian coast, adding to the poetry of this pristine environment. It is the ideal place to plant some good quality grape varietals!
Around the mid 1800’s, the agronomist Pasquale Visocchi had the brillant idea to plant varietals from France in this territory; grapes which now make up the prestigious DOC called “Atina”: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah. Until a few decades ago, vine cultivation was practiced only by hand by local farmers. In recent years, new wineries have sprung up in the area.
Some traditional winemaking families in this valley have tickled the interest of newcomers and in collaboration have created an interesting product which expresses the “terroir” and tradition handed down from father to son for centuries.
It is a wine with high organoleptic properties, which releases emotion and feelings of deep satisfaction. The wine shows in deep ruby color, tending towards garnet as it ages. Bringing the glass to the nose, it soon becomes clear that this wine has a complex olfactory pyramid. The distinctive aromas of this wine are those of green grass, red fruit, rose hips, and Mediterranean flavors. In some wines from the most prestigious wineries, you can feel the scent balanced with pepper, eucalyptus and undergrowth.
While in the wines left to rest in wood, tertiary aromas of leather, chocolate, pepper, tobacco, cinnamon, and cloves are present. At first sip, the wine confirms the perceived olfactory notes. On the palate, it is fresh in the overall structure, quite tannic and quite mineral. In the best wines, the “reserve”, you can pick up the notes of tar, dried flowers and red fruit in alcohol. It is a wine that is dry, warm, and with a soft body. In the most advanced products, the wise hand of the winemaker has improved greatly the intensity of scents, persistence and overall quality of the wine, which, in many cases, still needs to grow to face a market saturated with Cabernet in medium / low quality.
In recent years, the enologist and university professor, Riccardo Cotarella, came to this valley to teach his winemaking technologies that have made his cellar “Falesco” famous. His hand is unmistakable! You immediately feel the softness and roundness of the structure and body of the wine which he designed and built. These factors are not present in the other products that I’ve tasted. These latter products have sharper features, more disruptive in their secondary aromas and expression of the tannins; peculiarities of specific varieties which maintains the tradition of the wine produced in this valley for centuries.
The younger generation of winemakers, with the experience of their fathers, added technique and advanced oenology methodologies, to refine and enhance the organoleptic characteristic that expresses the vine. The territory alone with its extreme temperature, strengthens the presence of polyphenols, and give the skin the fragrance typical of these particular grapes. In the cellar, they practice cooling the wort for removal of impurities and wait for the harvest of the grapes that ripen later. In this way, the different varieties are able to reach, in unison, the right balance between technical maturation, phenolic ripening and maturing aromatic.
Twelve municipalities (*) situated around Atina form the DOC, recognized in April 1999.
It is definitely a wine to be considered for pairing with the typical Ciociaria’s products, and even more so with those in the same “Comino Valley.” Spicy meat, lasagne, parmigiana, mature cheeses, cannellini beans of Atina DOP seasoned with raw extra virgin olive oil. These are my pairing preferences with this wine, but it is a wine that can be served with all meals, if you want.
Today, in the Comino Valley, there are many wineries and all deserve your visit for wine tasting. You will be sure to find quality products, genuine and refined, and welcoming places rich in tradition and culture
Raise your glass!