Verdicchio grapes ready for harvest (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Here is part three of my favorite wines from my recent Italian trip; this installment is about the best white wines from Marche.
When you talk about white wines from Marche, it’s all about Verdicchio. There are sparkling versions – (some quite, quite good), dry versions, dessert styles and maybe most importantly, older bottlings. I say this as Verdicchio is among the white wines that has the greatest aging potential, not only in Italy, but anywhere (and this includes white Burgundies). I’ll write a post about Verdicchio soon – the wonders of this grape, why it isn’t better known, et al soon, but for now here are notes on a few of the best I recently sampled in the area.
Villa Bucci has become for many, the most famous producer of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, a Verdicchio from a beautiful, gently hilly area in northern Marche (there is another Verdicchio DOC – Verdicchio di Matelica – that is also quite expressive). The classic 2012 version (2012, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is an excellent vintage for white wines throughout Italy), is a beauty, with aromas of acacia flowers, Bosc pear, jasmine and spearmint (the perfumes of a young, unoaked Verdicchio are irresistible) backed by very good depth of fruit, good persistence and very good acidity. Enjoy this over the next 3-5 years.
The Riserva Villa Bucci 2009 is outstanding; matured for two years in older barrels, there is a light creaminess in the aromas that accompany notes of hyacinth and orange blossom – just lovely! Medium-full with excellent concentration, this has outstanding persistence, a long, long finish and lovely finesse. What an outstanding wine! I also tasted three older vintages of this wine: the 2008, 2007 and 2004, each of which was excellent ,with the 2004 offering the greatest complexity, but the 2009 was in my judgment, the finest of all these wines. Look for this wine in a few months, as this continues the ultra impressive track record of this producer with this beautiful wine.
Stefano Antonucci (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Somehow the wines of Stefano Antonucci from Santa Barbara are not that well known in America; this is a true shame, as these are some of the most vibrant, most distinctive examples of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi being produced today. I tasted previous vintages in 2012 when I was writing my book on Italian wines and was very impressed, especially with the 2010 Stefano Antonucci Riserva, one of the finest examples of Verdicchio I have ever tasted. The new releases did not disappoint, starting with the 2012 Verdicchio “Le Vaglie,” which is highly aromatic (lilacs, Anjou pear, jasmine), with beautiful varietal focus and is absolutely delicious! For an Verdicchio that runs about $15 retail in the States, this is a steal!
The 2011 Riserva, is richer on the palate and has some oak influence, although there is so much fruit, you might not even notice the wood. The mid-palate is quite lush and there is outstanding persistence; although 2011 was not as acclaimed a vintage as 2010 or 2012, here is proof that the producer is always more important than the vintage. This is beautiful now, but if you can wait another year or two, it will greatly improve and it should peak in 7-10 years – an outstanding wine!
One of the most consistent producers of Verdicchio is Umani-Ronchi; they have received the Tre Bicchieri award from Gambero Rosso on several occasions and their 2009 “Casal di Serra Vecchie Vigne” was named Italy’s Best White Wine of 2012 from this same publication. I tasted te 2010 version of this wine and it is rock-solid with appealing golden apple and spearmint aromas backed by excellent depth of fruit. The wine that really impressed me was the 2009 Verdicchio Riserva “Plenio”; produced from a single vineyard. The name comes from the Latin word for “full,” an apt descriptor for this wine, which is partly aged in steel tanks and partly in large barrels; about 10%-15% of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation. What a wine this is! Medium-full with excellent concentration and a rich mid-palate, there are aromas of spiced apple and golden flowers along with very good acidity and excellent complexity. 2009 was a marvelous vintage for Verdicchio as the wines are quite rich – in some cases, such as this one, almost fat on the palate – and there is also a distinct minerality to this wine. This was an eye-opener for me; Umani-Ronchi is a large producer, but give enough attention to your wines and source grapes from the finest sites and you can produce great wines; this 2009 Plenio is an example of that; this should peak in 5-7 years, although I may be a bit conservative with that estimate.
A few other examples of Verdicchio of note that I tasted this past September in the area. Sartarelli is a notable producer; their entry level Verdicchio is quite good. Most impressive is the 2010 Balciana, made from late harvest grapes; offering exotic aromas and excellent persistence, this will drink well for another 5-7 years.
From Garofoli, headed by the gracious and always smiling Daria Garofoli, the 2011 “Podium” and the 2006 Gioacchino Garofoli Selezione” are both excellent; the former a first-rate example of Verdiccchio with a rich mid-palate and the latter, a marvelous wine with cinnamon and spice flavors from oak aging; this will drink well for another 5-7 years.
Finally, a shout out to Colonnara, an excellent cooperative producer in Cupramontana, one of the most historic sites for Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, a thank you for a marvelous vertical tasting of their Cuprese bottling. The current 2012 release offers lovely jasmine and lemon zest aromas along with very good depth of fruit and lively acidity; look for this wine to drink well for several years.
I also tasted this wine from the 2010, 2001 and 1991 vintages- each was quite special. The 1991 Riserva – now some 22 years old – was in great condition, with notes of honey and orange blossom in the aromas; displaying marvelous texture and excellent complexity along with vibrant acidity, this is a great wine! It’s also exhibit number one, in my opinion, of how well Verdicchio ages.