It is one of the most ambitious and historically significant projects the wine industry has ever seen. Re-creating wines enjoyed by the elite at the height of the Roman Empire was a considerable challenge, but it is only one component of the Vinum Hadrianum project. This history-making venture is also resurrecting many iconic places where these wines were enjoyed. That resurrection includes the priceless and barely recognizable frescoes that once adorned these venues.
For many years, the project’s founder, a lifetime resident of the Abruzzo region of Italy, Piero Pavone, had deep concerns about the disappearance of essential aspects of Abruzzo’s extraordinary history and culture. As a champion of wine, art, architecture, and history, Pavone became consumed with the idea of not only resurrecting the wines enjoyed during the reign of one of the empire’s most beloved emperors, Hadrian, but also imagined creating a fully-immersive experience for visitors to his corner of the Abruzzo region, the magnificent hilltop commune of Atri. Though not on most vacationers’ itineraries, this treasure trove of ancient Roman history was once the world’s capital! For that reason, Pavone was convinced it was the obvious place to put Vinum Hadrianum’s historically-accurate wines in the perfect context, providing visitors with a fully-immersive winetasting experience.
Vinum Hadrianum’s winemaking practices and techniques consider everything from archeology to ancient history. The organization is convinced that many long-abandoned or lost methods can and should play a prominent role in producing today’s wines. Vinum Hadrianum’s winemaking team has paired historical tools and techniques with highly evolved growing, fermentation, and stabilization practices to produce wines that reflect more than 2000 years of experimentation, innovation, and production, while raising the bar in terms of quality.
At the heart of Vinum Hadrianum’s winemaking is the use of terracotta amphoras for both aging and storage. While using terracotta vessels for fermentation and aging is gaining favor among some winemakers, what sets these amphoras apart is that they are made from clay extracted from the very same soil where the grapes are grown. The result is the ultimate expression of terroir. It is not exaggerating to say that the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Pecorino, and five other varietals produced from grapes grown in Vinum Hadrianum estate soil are unlike any other wines in the world. No matter how hard one may try to explain the difference between Vinum Hadrianum wines and amphora-fermented wines made by others, the brand’s unwavering connection with winemakers 20 centuries ago is nearly impossible to put into words.
Just as daunting as recreating ancient wines has been Vinum Hadrianum’s insistence on putting them in perfect historical context. Working with a team of archeologists, historians, and winemakers, Pavone began buying historically-significant properties that were fading into oblivion. As the wines were being perfected using ancient tools and methodology, multiple properties underwent extraordinary transformations, with a commitment to return them to their original glory without modifying or embellishing anything. The first resurrection to be completed was a building known by Italians and architectural enthusiasts far and wide as the Sirricchio Palace, occupied by the powerful dukes who ruled the region for centuries.
Built several hundred years ago, this massive stone structure is of great historical significance; however, the doors were literally sealed shut for more than a century, and what was recently discovered inside was the heartbreaking decay that naturally continued unabated for hundreds of years. The palace is an Atri icon, and for good reason. It is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture, initially built by the nobleman Antonio Sirricchio. Arguably, one of Abruzzo’s most elegant buildings, the palace features intricate carvings, extraordinary frescoes, and stunning stonework, all mostly in ruins when acquired by Pavone and now almost fully restored. From the palace of the dukes who ruled the region, to an ancient Roman garden and marketplace, to the excavation of a site thought to be one of Hadrian’s temples, the Vinum Hadrianum project has progressed to a point where it can now be shared with the world.
Purely a coincidence, the official unveiling of the Vinum Hadrianum project in Atri, Italy, comes at the exact time that Abruzzo, the region where Atri is located, was declared “Wine Region of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Atri is the origin of Emperor Hadrian’s name, whose family came from the commune. It is also the setting of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Bell of Atri.” And now, it is once again making history as the “re-birthplace” of wines once savored by the Roman elite. If your travels take you to Italy this summer, why not visit Atri, on the Adriatic side of the country, and do as the Romans did? Or, you can wait for the wines to come to you this summer!
For an inspiring and more precise understanding of the Vinum Hadrianum project, please watch THIS VIDEO!