Nearly extinct grape of Abruzzo remembered by the glass in South Philly

Abruzzo Cococciola Costa del Mulino Cantina Frantana 2018.

One of the greatest virtues of Le Virtù is its unwavering focus on all things Abruzzo, from the scrippelle ‘mbusse soup to the folk music piped through the rustic dining room. The same is true for its wine list, which pays special honor to some underappreciated grapes — like trebbiano or montepulciano — that tend to be overlooked (even pooh-poohed) beyond the central Italian region’s borders. In some cases, Le Virtù features wines almost entirely unknown by the pinot grigio-drinking masses — but completely worth the discovery. Abruzzo Cococciola Costa del Mulino is  one of those. This obscure white grape historically used primarily for blending with trebbiano in Abruzzo and Puglia was nearly extinct, says Le Virtù co-owner Francis Cratil-Cretarola, until Cantina Frentana began making it on its own. And it is an aromatic delight. Lusciously grape-forward notes of russet apple and melon hover juicily on the palate, framed by minty, anise herbal notes with a crisp acidity and lemongrass finish that make it so nice with food, in particular a fritto misto or anything with shellfish. It’s priced to encourage adventure at Le Virtù, which is the only place in the region to try it. The Cococciola converts, meanwhile, will find it’s an even better bargain, at $15.99, when special-ordered through the state.

— Craig LaBan

Abruzzo Cococciola Costa del Mulino 2016, $10 a glass, $49 a bottle at Le Virtù, 1927 E. Passyunk Ave.; also available for $15.99 a bottle by special order in Pennsylvania (PLCB #586467).

Camera icon CRAIG LABAN
Abruzzo Cococciola Costa del Mulino Cantina Frentana 2018.