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A homemade wine enthusiast shares memories made around the world


Italians are heading into the season for homemade wine, a family tradition from Italy which many Italian Americans continue today.

If you’re a homemade wine enthusiast, you know the routine: Plan in August. Buy grapes or juice in September. Ferment and bottle in October. Then nurture the bottles until it’s time to share with family and friends in the spring.

Here’s a whirlwind tour of my wine-making experiences, some recent, others older.

Start in Loreto Aprutino

In visiting the art studio of famed artist, concert pianist and avid winemaker Maurizio Ruzzi in Loreto Aprutino’s historic center village, you first see a shiny black grand piano. Ruzzi’s studio sits on the grounds of his grandfather’s home with his nonno’s steamer trunk among his artwork workshop and display gallery.

Ruzzi’s grandfather fought in the American Army in World War I before returning to Italy. As you walk past the trunk you walk back in time to the early 1900s. A wall of wooden shelves stores bottles of Ruzzo’s homemade wine, affixed with unique labels through the years.

In the country hillside of Loreto Aprutino, it’s a family affair at the Pantalone farm. Living among the animals, Marianna Di Tonno and her husband Roberto Pantalone create a variety of homemade wine including Prosecco. At age 7, their son Gabriele already understands and respects the winemaking process. He also helps harvest olives for oil.

My maternal grandparents Guido Acciavatti and Lucia Nobilio were from Loreto Aprutino.

Memories of Upper Darby, Pa.

Growing up living with four families under one roof, I remember my grandfather Paul Zippi (1900-1976) making wine in the cellar on Marshall Road in Upper Darby, Pa. I remember walking behind the wine barrel’s wooden sticks to turn the grape crusher, the smell of fermented grapes perfuming our house for weeks.

My brother Anthony also continues the homemade wine tradition, most recently in the newly opened Walnut Street Kitchens in Thornbury Township. His daughter Angela produces labels for his bottles.

Off to the Abruzzo region

What Americans know as vineyards Italians call cantines and wine cellars. Wine Enthusiast Magazine awarded the Abruzzo region of Italy “2022 Wine Region of the Year.”

In May, I attended Cantine Aperte in Collecorvino, Italy. Located hillside among the fi elds of vines, Cantine Aperte is part of a collective of wine cellars, starting to promote the region of Abruzzo as the newest destination for wine-tasting tours.

In 1993 the Movement Turismo del Vino was created to welcome wine tourism. For a list of wine cellars by region, visit http://www. movimentoturismovino.it/en/cellars/

Glen Mills, Pa.

Nick Cappelli, first-generation Italian American, grew up with Italian traditions of food and wine. Fifteen years ago Cappelli created Fruit of the Vine, a local farmers market for specialty grapes and juice, a division of Suburban Food Services. He continues to run the business with mobile food trucks and event catering. To help pass on the homemade wine tradition, Nick has created a short tutorial on “Making Wine from Juice or Grapes” and “All About Grapes” available free on his website www.suburbanfoodservice.com.

Fruit of the Vine carries Juices and Grapes from California, Chili, Italy and South Africa. Need advice? You can reach Nick by phone at (610) 618-9250 or email at nick@fruitofthevinedv.com.

Finally, South Philadelphia

My friends Ray and Joanne Maturo make wine every year and share the precious bottles making memories at their home in South Philadelphia. Ray produced a special batch for daughter Danielle’s wedding. They gave us a gallon of their homemade red wine. It exploded when we stored it over the kitchen stove – not a good location.

For video clips and photos on this story’s Adventures in Abruzzo, visit Facebook: Italian American Herald.



Barbara Ann Zippi

Associate Publisher

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