Pecorino, More Than Just a Cheese

Some of you may be shocked to learn the name “Pecorino” doesn’t just belong to the salty Italian cheese we love. The name is shared with a light-skinned Italian grape used to make the white wine Pecorino, which, coincidentally does pair well with pecorino cheese.

The name does, however, have meaning, and both the wine and the cheese have sheep to thank. “Pecora,” Italian for “sheep,” have a history of trying to eat these grapes as they’re herded through the rows of vines come harvest time. And so the grape earned its name from the fluffy four-legged friends who always try to snack on them. As for the cheese, pecorino is made using only 100 percent sheep’s milk and also honors the animals that make the cheese possible.

Pecorino is believed to be a very old vine that is primarily grown in the eastern coastal region of Italy in areas such as Abruzzo and Marche. Because the grape can be finicky and inconsistent, it was replaced by higher producing grapes and by the mid 20th century the vine was believed to be extinct. But, following the whisperings of a rumor that the grapes lived on, a local producer found survivors growing wild in the ‘80s. Clippings of the vines were taken, planted, grown and, after some serious TLC, finally produced enough to create a decent wine about 10 years later. Now, the vine has made an official comeback and produces a high enough volume to be frequently turned into delicious wine.

A traditional Pecorino is dry and minerally with a higher acidity and sugar content, but don’t let that deter you. The two complement each other as the high amount of sugar results in a higher alcohol percentage, which the acidity balances perfectly. If you’re looking for a food pair, the wine pairs very nicely with its name twin.

Ready to try some for yourself? Featured in this month’s Wine Awesomeness membership is the Niro Pecorino Terre di Chieti. This wine is from Abruzzo and has a nose of matcha and canned pineapple. Your first sip will be of yellow apples and juicy, slightly bruised golden pears drizzled with honey. This is a perfect summer wine best enjoyed on the patio with homemade pasta listening to some Coldplay.

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