When you hear the word Pecorino, if you're like most people, you think of cheese. And since pecora means sheep, the best Pecorino from Italy is always made from 100% sheep’s milk (sadly, poor American imitations are made from cow's milk.) We fell in love with Pecorino cheese when visiting Pienza in Tuscany. Pecorino is king there. It's taste is nutty, sweet and creamy on the tongue, even if well aged. Pecorino dates back several thousand years, when people first started making cheese from sheep's milk.
But there is another kind of Pecorino--a variety of grape and wine. Pecorino is a light-skinned grape used in Italy's Marche and Abruzzo, along the east coastline. The classic Pecorino is dry, a bit floral and straw colored, often with a bit of anise flavor.
Even thought it has been cultivated for hundreds of years, the typical low yields caused it to be mostly replaced by other more productive varieties. Many thought the Pecorino grape had fell into obscurity or possible extinction.
But in the 1980s, a Marche producer discovered some forgotten vines in an overgrown vineyard. Cuttings were taken, propagated, and wine was again produced in the early 1990s. Since then, the variety has grown and gotten a strong following. Pecorino is now grown in Marche, Abruzzo, Umbria and Tuscany.
The Pecorino grape grows best in higher altitudes and has a high acidity along with a high sugar content. The sugar helps create a high level of alcohol, with the acidity balancing it all out.
In the end, Pecorino still means both--wine and cheese--so you can have a double dose. Both go very well together, proven by the fact that historically, the Pecorino grape was also allowed to grow wild in the hills so sheep could enjoy the fruit as snacks...