Pecorino is a white Italian wine grape variety that is grown in the Marche, Abruzzo, Liguria, Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio regions of Italy. Ampelographers believe that the grape is likely native to Marche where it is still used today in the Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) wines of Falerio dei Colli Ascolani, Colli Maceratesi and Offida.
Ampelographers believe that Pecorino is a very old variety that likely originated as a wild grapevine growing in the Sibillini Mountains that was eventually domesticated for wine production. Despite its name, there is no direct link between the Pecorino grape and Pecorino cheese. Ampelographers believe that the grape's name stems from the Italian word pecora, meaning sheep. Local legend is that sheep in the Marche region would often eat the grapes while moving through the vineyards.
Pecorino is an early ripening variety that tends to naturally produce low yields even without severe winter pruning. The variety does not have many viticultural hazards with a strong resistance to downy and powdery mildew.
In 2000 there were 87 hectares (215 acres) of Pecorino planted in Italy, mostly in the Arquata del Tronto region of the Ascoli Piceno province in Marche. In the 1980s, Guido Cocci Grifoni was the first producer to begin widely using Pecorino in his Offida DOC wines and introduced the variety to nearby Ripatransone. Today it is still a permitted variety in the Marche DOC wines of Falerio dei Colli Ascolani, Colli Maceratesi and Offida.
In addition to be grown in Marche, plantings of Pecorino can also be found in the Chieti, Pescara and Teramo provinces of Abruzzo where it is used in the sparkling wines of Controguerra and in several Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) wines of the region. Plantings can also be found in Liguria, Lazio, Tuscany and Umbria.
In the commune of Macerata in the Marche, Pecorino can be included in the Maceratino-based white wines of the Colli Maceratesi DOC provided that it doesn't collectively exceed more than 30% of the blend along with Trebbiano, Verdicchio, Malvasia, Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Grechetto and Incrocio Bruni 54. The wine can be made in a still, sparkling spumante or as passito dessert wine. Any Pecorino destined for DOC wines must be harvested at a yield no greater than 15 tonnes/hectare with the finished wine in all styles needing to attain a minimum alcohol level of at least 11%.
In Controguerra, up to 30% of Pecorino in combination with Verdicchio and Chardonnay can be used in the Trebbiano-based sparkling wines of the DOC. Grapes are limited to a harvest yield of no more than 14 tonnes/hectare with the finished wine needing a minimum alcohol level of 11%.
Within the Falerio dei Colli Ascolani DOC, up to 25% Pecorino can be used along with Pinot blanc, Passerina, Verdicchio and Malvasia (itself limited to no more than 7%) in the Trebbiano-based wines of the region. Grapes in this white-wine only Marche DOC are limited a maximum yield of 14 tonnes/ha with the a minimum alcohol level for the finished wine of at least 11.5%.
In Offida, Pecorino can be made as a varietal provided it makes up at least 85% of the blend with other local, non-aromatic grapes permitted to fill in the remainder. Here grapes are limited to a yield of 10 tonnes/ha with the finished wines have an alcohol level of at least 12%. However, unlike Passerina which is also grown in the DOC, Pecorino is not currently permitted to be used in the DOC's Vin Santo style wine.
Synonyms and confusion with other grapes
Over the years Pecorino has been known under a variety of synonyms including: Arquitano, Biancuccia, Bifolchetto, Bifolco, Bifolvo, Dolcipappola, Dolcipappolo, Forcese, Forconese, Iuvino, Juvino, Lanzesa, Moscianello, Mosciolo, Mostarello, Norcino, Pecorella, Pecorello, Pecorello di Rogliano, Pecori, Pecorina, Pecorina Aquitanella, Pecorina Arquatanella, Pecorino Bianco, Pecorino de Arquata, Pecorino di Arquata, Pecorino di Osimo, Piscianello, Piscianino, Promotico, Sgranarella, Stricarella, Striccarella, Trebbiano Viccio, Uva Cani, Uva degli Osti, Uva Dell'occhio Piccola, Uva Delle Donne, Uva Delle Peccore, Uvarella, Uvina, Vecia, Verdicchio Bastardo Bianco, Vissanello and Vissanello bianco.
- J. Robinson, J. Harding and J. Vouillamoz Wine Grapes - A complete guide to 1,368 vine varieties, including their origins and flavours pg 774 Allen Lane 2012 ISBN 978-1-846-14446-2
- Mary Prince "Local produce stars at Tomasso" The Metro West Daily News, October 1st, 2008
- Winemaking Talk "Pecorino" Accessed: March 24th, 2013
- P. Saunders Wine Label Language pgs 146-187 Firefly Books 2004 ISBN 1-55297-720-X
- Vitis International Variety Catalogue (VIVC) Pecorino Accessed: March 25th, 2013
- Pecorino Doc - Pecorino Doc (English), from Picenos