[PHOTO: Autumn at Colonnara Viticultori]
Some might even say it’s a best kept secret, but I don’t mind letting this secret out of the bag…
Not to worry if you don’t know either Verdicchio or Marche. I didn’t know anything about the alluring Verdicchio grape, either, before my trip to the land where it reigns supreme, in Le Marche, Italy.
In the US, for instance, if you type “Verdicchio” into a Google search, it displays people who have just passed on. Meanwhile, if you type in Chardonnay it’s all about the white wine, wine, wine. If you type in Cabernet, it’s all about the red wine, red, red, red, of course.
As Americans, unless we’re in a sommelier program or have visited Le Marche, Italy, the odds are great that we’ve not had the joys of tasting Verdicchio. In fact, if you misspell it in typing, spellcheck is going to want you to replace Verdecchio with radicchio. (Yeah, right, not even close.)
- Number one is that there are very few Verdecchios that make it out of the Le March region of Italy. This is the regions “white” wine… It’s famous for it in Europe. Where we pop into our favorite restaurant and easily order Chardonnay, for instance, in Italy, they do the same with Verdicchio.
- Te UK is familiar and enjoys it.
- When they do get exported to the US, they makes it to the east coast and mostly stay right there.
- The center of the US is not necessarily wine county. Do a comparison of wine purchases in the heartland versus beer.
- Now do the same search, but search in the south, in moonshine country.
- Finally, San Francisco might have a few Verdicchios, but they’re hand sold by sommeliers. (Never to me, because I would have been enlightened and written it down.)
[Photo: Claudio Giovanni Colombo – Rural landscape along the road from Jesi to Filottrano (Ancona, Marches, Italy), at summer.. Fields of sunflowers and view of Filottrano]
Most countries, including the US, and winemakers of today have settled into a really safe, comfort zone, of crafting what’s selling the most… This increases a bottle line and makes shareholders very happy. While both Chardonnay and Cabernet satisfy the masses (easy to say and easy to order), stepping outside of a comfort zone is definitely the most adventurous wine find of all. What many people are missing, though, as a result of a very narrow focus by the world of wine, are the adventures inherent that heritage, indigenous varietal wines deliver. Wine has the ability to take the most adventurous of us on a foreign expedition. I will be forever indebted to my hosts Colonnara Viticultori in Cupramontana ~ in the Castelli di Jesi region of Le Marche, for the opportunity to not only discover a new wine and wine region, but also the opportunity to satisfy my curious and adventurous soul.
Today, many wine writers are searching for these heritage varieties to write about, for a couple of reasons:
- Chardonnay and Cabernet burn out… How many times, how many ways can we make it enticing, again?
- Millennials are now the largest demographic, and they’re adventurous. They don’t want mom’s Chardonnay, nor do they want dad’s Cab.
- Tell they you’ve got a Verdicchio and they’re going to hover closely in excited anticipation, while you open the bottle.
Fine Points About Verdecchio
The word verde in Italian and Spanish, plus Vert in French all mean “green,” in our English vocabulary. This should immediately tell you that this wine will have a bit of a green tinge to it in its color, and it does…
This is a light to medium-bodied wine, depending on the producer. Mostly, it’s fermented dry and the alcohol is usually low; so, this isn’t a “hot” white wine. It’s refreshing, tasty, and exciting. The range:
- Crisp Acidity
- Soft ripe, juicy peaches
- Milder flavor olive oil
- Almond skins
Only a few Verdicchio grape vines are planted in Argentina and Brazil, BTW. The rest of 99 percent Verdicchio vines in the world (of note) are in Le Marche, Veneto Italy. This wine is mostly used as a stand-alone variety, but it’s also used in some blending.
PHOTO: Jo Diaz
In the land of Cappuccinos and Galato
[A map showing the location of the Adriatic Sea. Created by Norman Einstein]
In the land of Cappuccinos and Galato, the Marche region in central Italy, is bordered on the western side by the Apennini Mountain Range, and by the Adriatic Sea on it’s eastern bordered. Combining these two geological factors has created a very powerful, marine influence on the region. It really keeps it quite cool due to the fog hugging the Apennines in the distance, traveling inland from the Adriatic Sea.
As I was standing on the edge of the Adriatic, and one of my hosts Cora Tabarrini pointed eastward, telling me that directly across from that location lies Croatia. Writing this, I had to research the geography, just for a reference point. It’s 104 miles between Senigallia, Italy (where we were standing) and Zadar, Croatia (to where she pointed straight ahead). And, for your reference on this map, Senigallia is 18 miles north of Ancona, the capital of Le Marche.)
In Italy, different winemaking regions have different ways of naming their wines, and in the Marche region it’s the following:
- Grape variety
- District of village
- A proprietary name
[PHOTO: Jo Diaz.]
Reading an Italian Label
Producer ~ Colonnara (a Jesi standard)
The Variety ~ Verdicchio (a specialty)
The Region ~ Dei Castelli di Jesi and Classico (a Premier region)
Classification ~ Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOCG)
DOCG, according to wine consultant Catherine Fallis MS, in The Encyclopedia Atlas of Wine, “The DOCG was conceived as a class apart to represent the top wines” when regulations needed clarification.
One more thought from Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World
- If it’s “Classico,” all of the vineyards are within the historic part of the region, for instance.
- If it’s listed as “Superiore,” it has the highest alcohol level and it’s also more age-worthy.
The Global Encyclopedia of Wine, Peter Forrestal – Consulting editor
Central Italy – COLONNARA: Established 1959…
“One of the several cooperatives in the Jesi zone, Colonnara is in the vanguard for reliability and overall quality. The members’ vineyards are overseen by an associated company… to ensure good viticultural standards. The flagship wine is Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Cuprese, from selected grapes, with intriguing vegetal tones, slow development and good longevity. This is also an impressive sparkling Verdicchio.” p.315
I’ll be continuing with my crash course in the Central Italian peninsula region. Meanwhile, thanks to Bluest Sky Group for arranging the educational experience, and to you Colonnara Viticultori in Cupramontana, for hosting me as your guest. Grazie Mille!