A treasure among the hills of Abruzzo

15 February 2021

My grandfather used to tell me the story of an old father who, on his deathbed, informs his children that he’s left some treasure buried in the fields near the house. The children go digging, without pause, but they can’t find the treasure. After having ploughed the whole terrain, they decide to sow crops. When harvest time comes, they realize that the value of their crops is the treasure that their father had left them.

Domenico Radica has been running the Tenuta Arabona farm in Manoppello since 2006, inheriting a passion for the land from his grandfather.

In his own words: “He taught me the importance of our attachment to the land and to working it, to the gifts that the land can give us.” From his father, on the other hand, he learned some secrets of the trade: “Since I was a child, watching and helping him, I learned to graft the vines and grow vegetables. So when I went to the agrarian school, and then agrarian university, I had already an advantage on the practical side.” And so Tenuta Arabona became what it is.

Abbbruzzese traditions

Tenuta Arabona

It was when he finished his studies that Domenico took over at the family vineyard that his father Pasquale had started in the 1970s. A careful process of renovation guided by clear ideas: “We were among the first to go organic. The second vineyard in Abruzzo to get the certification, in 1991. The truth is were organic even before that, since 1986, but the European regulations for organic agriculture didn’t exist yet.”

Today the business, managed by Domenico and his wife Maria Antonietta De Acetis, stretches across 20 hectares of vines and a further hectare-and-a-half of olive groves. Among the grapes there are varieties like Montepulciano, Trebbiano, Passerina and Pecorino: “We try to communicate our link to the land we live on through our wine, so beautiful and varied. For one of our first commercials we chose the slogan “Sincerely abbbruzzesi wines!” with three bs!”

A noble oil

Tenuta Arabona

Olive oil too has a long history in these parts: “In my family the tradition was to consume our own oil, we’ve always had enough for our own needs,” Domenico explains. Over the years the production increased, though always being a sideshow compared to the vines. “A few years ago we bough a hectare of historic olive trees that had belonged to the Zambra barons, these nobles from the city of Chieti. They were historic plants, from before 1727, which we started harvesting again. We make a separate extra virgin olive oil with these olives that we call Terre di Zambra».

A life choice

For Domenico Radica the countryside and farming have always been his calling. They don’t just represent a job, but a life choice. “I was taught that in the countryside everything has value and you just need to search for it. Today I often hear people say that there’s a return of young people to agriculture. I’d be happy if that were the case. I fear, however, that more than a return, it’s something makeshift, a stopgap. This hurts me, and confuses me, because only things that are done well, with desire and patience, can bring good results.”

by Marco Gritti, m.gritti@slowfood.it

Tenuta Arabona is present among the virtual showcases Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, along with over 500 other producers! YOU CAN FIND A SELECTION OF PRODUCTS TO BUY (DELIVERY WITHIN THE SCHENGEN AREA ONLY), AT OUR ONLINE MARKETPLACE.