Traveling throughout Italy is a journey that brings the past to life. This ancient land is rich with palaces, castles, monuments, and ruins that date back to antiquity. I guess that is one of the reasons I love this country so much, and dedicated most of my wine studies to the challenge of learning, and experiencing, the over 350 officially recognized varietals.
When most people think about the earliest days of Italian wine, their first thought is that of the ancient Romans. In actuality, it was the Etruscans, who as early as the 2nd century BCE, first began to cultivate grapes. As Greek settlers later made their way onto the Italian peninsula, they had a hand in the proliferation of wine making. However, it was the Romans who were the true innovators. Typical to their nature, Romans brought organization, and the pioneering of large-scale production to Italian winemaking. It was also the Romans who promoted storage techniques like barrel-making and bottling.
Today I am in the lovely central Italian city of Ancona. Situated between the slopes of Monte Conero, Monte Astagno, and Monte Guasco, we have an alluring view of the Adriatic Sea. As usual, I am accompanied by long-time friend and fellow sommelier, Serena Dutto. We have been traveling throughout the Marche region and enjoying my favorite Italian white wine, Verdicchio. Affectionately known as the “little green one,” the popularity of this wine dates back to antiquity. Legend has it that when Alarich, king of the Visigoths invaded Rome, he supplied his troops with ample amounts of Verdicchio to maintain their strength in battle.
Verdicchio is synonymous with dry wines in Italy. In the Marche region, two styles prevail in popularity, Verdicchio dei Castilli di Jesi and Verdicchio di Matellica. However, both Serena and I feel that Verdicchio thrives best in Castelli di Jesi. When blended, Malvasia and Trebbiano are used as the traditional partners.
Verdicchio is a particularly aromatic variety. At its best, there are elegant aromas of citrus and nuts. The variety lends itself well to producing spumante. Sparkling wines are the local specialty on the Adriatc coast.
“Verdicchio is a pleasure to pair with most cuisines,” Serena paused lightly to ensure she had my full attention. “European, American, Asian, and Australian, are all enhanced by Verdicchio.”
“What dishes in particular?” I queried
“Roasted flounder, turbot fillets, prawns, marinated eel,” she paused to collect her thoughts. “Smokey roasted peppers, eggplant, onions, bean salad, peanut dressing, and lemon butter, to name a few.”
Our first selection, Sartarelli Verdicchio Classico 2009 is pleasing on the eye. Striated with golden hues, one feels that something special is about to happen. On the nose, our Sartarelli continues to please. The bouquet is filled with dried, flowers, peaches, and herbs. This is a medium-bodied wine that is well-balanced and polished. It fills the palate with an array of citrus flavors, nuts, and just a hint of honey to make it memorable. The finish is silky and soft. The alcohol content is 11.5% with a price tag of $15.
“This is an excellent daily drinker,” Serena was quick to add. “It pairs nicely with both fish and white meat.”
“Lunch or dinner, this is definitely the go to wine,” I flashed Serena a quick smile and a nod of approval.
Our next selection, Frazi Battaglia Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi San Sisto Classico 2007 immediately grabs one’s attention with its remarkable golden color. At first glance, I mistook it for a dessert wine. However, it is wonderfully refreshing and dry on the palate. The bouquet is most enjoyable with subtle hints of lemon, lime, and apples that lead to a full-body. The finish is long, flavorful, and creamy. This is definitely a wine to be enjoyed with seafood dishes, and since we are in Italy, that means calamari. The alcohol content is 12% with a price tag of $25.
“I really like this style of Verdicchio. It is so refreshing,” Serena was smiling as she spoke. “I would chill this at 54 degrees Fahrenheit.”
“What strikes me is the wine’s persistent fragrance,” I paused as I smacked my lips. “I also pick up just a hint of almond”
“I knew that this would definitely be your palate,” Serena smiled as she poured our next wine.
Our last selection, Aziende Agricola Bucci Verdicchio Riserva 2006 is deep gold in color. The wine has spent 6 months in oak and another 6 months in the bottle. The result is a wine that is much more concentrated. The bouquet is filled with floral and fruit accents that never diminish. It is medium-bodied and nicely balanced with flavors of spice and wood. Our Riserva it soft on the palate with an elegant and long finish. The alcohol content is 13% with a price tag of $55.
“This is a splendid Verdicchio that is meant to be shared with that special someone,” Serena smiled with subtle coquetry.
“I’m thinking this wine would be perfect to serve with oysters or lobster.”
“You know how much I enjoy Verdicchio,” I gave Serena a wide beaming smile. “You out did yourself with this tasting. What’s next?”
“I’d love a stroll through the garden.”
“But that my friends is another story …”