The variety has spread northwards from the Italian peninsula into various parts of Europe, most notably France, where it has become a key ingredient in both Cognac and Armagnac. There are, in fact, a number of varieties that have the name Trebbiano; some are genetically related, some not. There is always an adjective added to the term Trebbiano that is related to its place of origin, the place where it is most abundant, or its color.
The most-cited research paper of the Trebbiano group shows how the Trebbianos have some features in common (a characteristic white berry that grows in large and long bunches, high vigor, late ripening, a good adaptability to different terroirs), but are, for the most part, unrelated. Trebbiano in its many forms covers a greater area of vineyard than even Sangiovese. It is cited in more DOC regulations than any other single variety (about 80) and represents more than a third of Italy’s entire DOC white wine production. Today Trebbiano is grown all over Italy (except in the cool northern areas), even though production is primarily in central Italy.
To be clear, the official name of the variety is Trebbiano Abruzzese, not Trebbiano d'Abruzzo. The latter is the name of the wine made with this grape, even though there is a trend towards people calling the wine and the grape by the same name. Trebbiano Abruzzese has always been confused with other varieties, such as the Bombino Bianco, from which it has been clearly distinguished only recently. It is the only DOC in Abruzzo focusing exclusively on white wine. Established in 1972 as DOC, the regulations say that Trebbiano d'Abruzzo wine must be made from at least 85% Trebbiano grapes (Trebbiano Toscano or Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, or a blend of the two).
Fifteen percent of other white varietals are admitted for Superiore and Riserva wines. Approximately 14,200,000 liters of Trebbiano d'Abruzzo are produced each year. The Trebbiano d'Abruzzo production zone is the same area as that of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. In general, the zone covers the coastal half of Abruzzo, plus some inland areas like the Alto Tirino plateau, the Subequana Valley, and the Peligna Valley. More than 150 little towns are covered, divided between Abruzzo's four provinces: Chieti, Acquila, Pescara, and Teramo.
The vine is vigorous and dislikes excessively windy sites. The large leaves protect the berries very well from the sunlight, and for this reason, the grapes rarely become more than green in color even when fully ripe. On the nose Trebbiano d’Abruzzo has a hint of white flowers and stone fruit, the mouthfeel is creamy, with a good acidity, and a citrusy minerality. Some producers use barrel fermentation and/or barrel maturation to create versions of this wine with greater complexity and body. A difficulty with this variety is the high polyphenol content, which can easily oxidize the wine. The vines in general are trained with Pergola Abruzzese and Tendone system.
The origin of the name Trebbiano itself is unclear. In the 1st century, Pliny the Elder described a vinum trebulanum in the area near Capua (Campania) in his Naturalis Historia. Others say that the name comes from the locality of the same name near Luni (between Liguria and Tuscany), while still others suggest that the Trebbiano name is related to the Trebbia river in Emilia-Romagna. The presence of Trebbiano d'Abruzzo was documented in 1856 by Raffaele Sersante, who observed how prevalent and popular the variety had become in the region. In the first years of the 1900s, the ampelographer Giuseppe di Rovasenda, and later in 1925 Count Gaetano Marzotto, differentiated and classified 15 different Trebbiano varieties in Italy, some of which (such as Trebbiano Romagnolo and Trebbiano Toscano) are still grown today.