Cantina Frentana, a history of cooperation and quality
Cantina Sociale Frentana was the forerunner of the development of wine cooperation in the province of Chieti, where as many as 40 wineries were built between the sixties and seventies of the last century.
The first historic assembly took place on October 19th, 1958 at the primary school of Rocca San Giovanni, promoted by the mayor, Francesco D’Agostino. He was the doctor of the village, and many people still remember him with gratitude, as the founding father of the cooperative and the initiator of a path of economic and social progress in the area.
92 wine growers signed the founding act of the cooperative company “Cantina Sociale Frentana”, based in Rocca San Giovanni, on November 16th, 1958. They chose a Board of Directors and Dr. Francesco D’Agostino was elected President.
After visiting several Italian wineries, the company board decided to adopt the project of a vertical tower system, patented as Torre Vinaria by the company of Sernagiotto Emilio from Casteggio (Lombardy). Many other wineries in Italy then, adopted similar projects.
At that time, it was a highly innovative project, based on the principle of gravity flowing process, in order to limit the use of pumps. A concept still considered nowadays optimal for the quality of wine.
The rationality in the processing of the grapes was combined, in the project, with the architectural originality, still praised as a characteristic element of the landscape of the Frentana hills.
The work was entrusted to a specialized company from Lodi (Lombardy) which involved, together with the skilled workers from the north, several local workers, who thus acquired advanced skills in the carpentry of large structures.
The building site was opened at the end of 1958, and in the spring of 1960 the tricolor flag was already waving on the top of the Tower.
The grapes come in!
The inauguration of the Frentana winery was celebrated on June 2nd, 1961. The circular tower with a diameter of 18 mt., a height of 28 mt. from the square floor, and 32 mt. from the basement, overlooked the surrounding countryside.
The press presented the event as a new beginning for the Chieti province’s wine business and underlined the modern architecture of the plant.
“This building at first glance appears to be the control tower of a large airport” (Il Messaggero, Rome main newspaper).
In conjunction with the opening days, the XVI National Convention of Italian Enologists took place in Chieti: the most appreciated Italian and international technicians and professionals in the sector visited the new creation of Rocca San Giovanni.
In September of the same year, the first harvest and the first wine were brilliantly made, albeit without previous experiences.
Very soon, however, the capacity of the plant proved to be deficient, since the 92 founders in November 1958 became 493 members in 1961!
The first historic labels of 1963, with the unmistakable image of the abbey of San Giovanni in Venere, were appreciated by local consumers but did not go beyond the regional borders.
Only in the late 1990s the winery started a program of bottling and selling packaged wine on a wider scale.
The 1968 Recognition of the DOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) “Montepulciano d’Abruzzo” and the following Designations of other regional wines, helped to drive the winery to a major focus on quality and stronger identity of the wines.
Since 1997, some wines began to be aged in oak barrels, such as the successful Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Rubesto, and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Terre di Venere, followed, in 1999, by the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva Panarda, and the Abruzzo Pecorino DOC Donna Greta, the two flagship wines of the winery. These wines gained important awards at wine trade fairs and specialized guides.
Following this approach, in 2010 the Costa del Mulino line was created, for restaurants, wine shops and wine bar circuit (Ho.Re.Ca.): all DOC wines from the main native varietals.
The viticulture projects
In the meantime, starting from 2000, an increasing attention was paid to agronomic choices in the vineyard and to topics like health, sustainability and environmental impact.
The winery established a viticulture technical service, to support the members in the fields; this resulted in several projects:
- “Quality Vineyard” implemented in the most suitable areas by the most willing and prepared members, for the production of the highest range of wines.
- The “Vineyard Bank”: the cooperative took over directly in the management of some vineyards at risk to be lost, due to lack of family continuity.
- Organic farming, with the production of a dedicated line of wines.
The installation of a network of electronic weather stations for monitoring the climate and the application of the latest generation biological predictive models for the control of vineyard pests.
From the early years the need arose for a higher capacity, that today is over 200,000 hectoliters. The attractive store was opened in 1997 and expanded in 2009; the suggestive underground barrel cellar for the oak aging opened in 1999 7;
the laminated woodshed with photovoltaic roof made in 2010 and the modern bottling plant in 2015 8 while the renovation of the offices took place in different stages.
The restored Torre Vinaria (Wine Tower), inaugurated in 2014, has become a symbolic feature, enhancing the image of the winery and providing a new function to the last circle and the terrace of the building, without altering its original architecture.
The workforce has been constantly increased and qualified both in the technical and in the administrative and commercial fields, also through the collaboration of external specialized professionals.
In 1999 there were the first participation at Vinitaly and the first exportation of bottles abroad, to the Netherlands and Germany. Since then, the winery has been present in national and international fairs: in Germany as well as in England, in Japan and in China, in Canada as well as in the USA. Therefore, an expansion of the commercial network was achieved in the most important markets around world and in 2018 the symbolic threshold of one million bottles sold was exceeded.
There are many prominent promotional initiatives, starting with Cantine Aperte; scheduled for spring, since the 90s, it has become a traditional event that attracts a large audience of visitors.
Stars of Cooperation, an annual conference with managers and administrators of successful wine cooperatives, has been orgnized since 2016, to share their best practices with our wine growers.
In 2017 Cantina Frentana joined The Wine Net, a national network of cooperative wineries of excellence from different regions which aims to expand into international markets through a collective program of investments.
In 2018 the winery celebrated the sixty-year anniversary of the cooperative to remember the path that was set out in 1958 but above all to project itself towards the new challenges of the future.
Among the many initiatives carried out for the anniversary (events, exhibitions), one remains as a permanent testimony, the book “Cantina Frentana 1958, a history of wines”.
Towards the future
A connection between Cantina Frentana and the nearby Cantina Sangro is about to end with a merger and the creation of a stronger winemaking center, with two processing plants: the new, ambitious project cope with the need to better organize and structure the wine business in Abruzzo.