This particular account is a personal one. I first met Cristiana Tiberio back in 2016 but two years earlier there were a couple of opportunities to taste her wines in Ontario. Like many wine writers tasting and assessing her family’s wines eight years ago I too did not fully grasp the future and see Tiberio’s forest for the trees. Yet I always knew I was being spoken to. At the Collisioni Festival in July of 2017 I was wandering Barolo village when I bumped into Cristiana. We knew one another but not really and the chance encounter was the kind akin to happening upon an old friend. We were genuinely happy to see each other. Fast forward five years and Cristiana facilitates a visit to her home. This is personal because after experiencing the truth – in her elegance, humility, humanity and grace – I am forever better for the experience. Furthermore having now seen the vineyards and soaked in the place, the connection is forged for a lifetime.
Related – Bucket list visit with Emidio Pepe
Historically speaking the story dates back nearly 25 years to a moment in time when Riccardo Tiberio unearthed a very old plot of trebbiano. Not the Toscano variety but rather the Abruzzese, rare and of an ilk carrying greater meaning, but most importantly potential. The windy spot at 350m is near the medieval village of Cugnoli and roughly 40 kms inland from Pescara by the sea. Original vines put in were montepulciano, new trebbiano (Abruzzese), aglianico pecorino and moscato (di Castiglione), all clones extracted from endemic and ancient vines. In 2008 Cristiana and her brother Antonio took control and 14 years later la passione nel tempo that is Tiberio is now a force of Abruzzo. No longer a case of being what critics like to call “a rising star” but now a leader and an estate to emulate for how to grow grapes and make exemplary besides profound wines in the region.
While the trebbiano material is the oldest and distinguished as the most local and ancient there can be little doubt that the future will most likely be in the hands of pecorino. That vineyard is 15 years of age and was planted with massal selections from what was determined and chosen as the best and the oldest pecorino vines growing throughout the Tiberio estate vineyards. A taste of the 2009 speaks volumes about the potential of not only quality and age-ability but more so the connection between this genetic material and this very particular place. Tiberio’s pecorino and their land are simply made for one another.
Though my visit with Cristiana Tiberio was short, sweet and the number of wines shared but a spoonful of her family’s two-plus decades of experience at Cugnoli, it was nevertheless one of the most important days spent in my four-plus decades of enjoying, learning about and writing on wine. It was about doing things the right way and for the right reasons. We can all learn from this approach. Non so come ringraziarti Cristiana. Ci vediamo presto.
Mainly limestone soil with sand and from an area rich in water. Tiberio dry farms broad shouldered vines because the roots can always find water below. Trebbiano comes off of five hectares including vines planted in 2012 not yet used in this production. The Tiberio example carries itself with grace and the feeling experienced at a level above. Like night versus day and touchstones fully realized in this elegant and textured trebbiano rising. Taste the juiciness and the energy, cherish it, mimic the eating of ripe picked grapes straight from the vine at a time when there is neither bitterness nor astringency. This is the harmony now, despite the sprint and chaos in seasons of climate change crisis. Trebbiano ’21 is seamless and satisfying. Drink 2022-2027. Tasted June 2022
Tiberio Pecorino d’Abruzzo 2021, IGP Colline Pescaresi
Tiberio’s 30 hectare Pescara location is a windy place, ideal to avoid mildew and disease, at 380m with no severe problems by frost. Very close to the mountains so a true mountain climate but also Mediterranean, especially as witnessed by the results of the 2021 vintage. The vines are drawn from organic material found on the property. Started with five vines in 2000, propagated, kept healthy, further planted in 2000 and 2001. Almost one full hectare was created this way. No need to initiate the pecorino discussion by thinking along the lines of intensity because Cristiana Tiberio’s is too free form, openly sensory and one that expresses through full disclosure. Leaves off from trebbiano and accesses another level of grace. No vivid glare or drama but a playful, extended soliloquy, without intermission. Seamless, golden and mellifluous, aromatics transitioning to flavours with undetectable chord changes, palate organza of texture. A reminder that pecorino is a variety born of a mountain climate and not one always capable of fully ripening. This is about as good as that probability will offer but really there is no matter because eight or 8.5 out of ten is ideal. This Tiberio gets there and has the touch in a wine with a strong and pure identity. Drink 2022-2028. Tasted June 2022
“Cerasuolo has character that is not Rosé,” insists Cristiana Tiberio and when a producer makes one of this kind of energy and crunchiness they can say whatever they like. Born in the mountains where montepulciano couldn’t fully ripen and in this style of wine there has to be bite. Which is exactly what Tiberio’s has, in fact it explains what that means. Free-run juice and one look followed by a taste will make you wholeheartedly believe in the proposition. This Cerasuolo retains the identity of the variety and the place, without compromise. These are a people in the mountains who were trying to make red wine and this was the result. And it was good. Tiberio’s is a memory of fruit, in a vintage, as it has to be. Drink 2022-2024. Tasted June 2022
How can it be possible to exist in a vacuum where 12-plus years do almost nothing to advance the timeline of a wine? Well, perhaps some maturity but all things being equal there is very little secondary character in Tiberio’s 2009 pecorino. Some honeyed notes and a toasty, white peppery edge but oven roast or smoke some meats and the match will interact in very beneficial ways. This organic fruit has persevered, remained subtle and in total control. The story unfolds like that of Cristiana Tiberio’s graceful life, as she is, not just what she does. Drink 2022-2025. Tasted June 2022
Good to go!