Posted by: tomciocco | June 25, 2008

TWO VERDICCHIOS

Brunori Verdicchio \Bucci Verdicchio \Better late than never. Here in 2008, I believe that a “critical mass” of producers, wine sellers and wine drinkers inadvertantly conspired to allow the official “discovery” of the virtues of Verdicchio…But i know that some of you already knew…

In the last 15 years or so, the level of ALL Italian whites has improved dramatically (though in the case of Friuli, the figure might be more like 20 years). This of course includes Verdicchio, as well as the Campanian white triumverate of Fiano, Greco, and Falanghina, Vermentino from both Sardinia and Liguria, Soave, Tuscan Vernaccia, and the list goes on.

But back to Verdicchio. Though it is not completely unknown outside the Marche (MAR-keh) region of central Italy, likely a full 99% of it is cutivated there in two appellations: Verdicchio Castello di Jesi and Verdicchio di Matelica. The former zone is lower in altitude, and closer to the sea, and typically turns out fuller, fatter wines. The smaller, higher altitude, and stonier soiled Matelica zone yields higher-toned, more delicate, but more complex wines. Verdicchio – like most Italian white grapes – is a high acid variety. And as we all know (I hope), the right acidity = “freshness” and food-friendliness. But Verdicchio isn’t just a tangy, salivary gland-squriting summer sipper. Verdicchio is a moderately to full-bodied and minerally and muscular wine (Verdicchio is sometimes likened to Chablis) typically exhibiting flavors/aromas of pear, apple, citrus, and tropical fruits. And despite all this rampant freshness, Verdicchio is wine also that ages very well (properly stored, certain Verdicchios can live 10 years or beyond). Despite what one would expect, and not for lack of trying by fad-following winemakers in vintages past, Verdicchio does not take well to aging in small, and particularly new oak barrels. New oak-aged Verdicchio tends to become a fat, butterscotchy almost oxidized product. So having gone to the “other side” and looked into the barrique abyss, most producers now ferment and age in steel tanks and/or in bottle.

In Italy Verdicchio = FISH, and indeed there is nary a finned, shelled, or clawed creature with which Verdicchio does not swim gracefully, but there may be no better wine IN THE WORLD to accompany fish stews (called brodetti in Marche) or bouillabaise-type dishes, and even soups. And in my experience, Verdicchio goes well beyond this classic albeit brilliant pairing. I’ve served it with chicken (especially fried in some way), roasted pork loins, and even beef (home-roasted, served cold and sliced with a garlic-parsley mayonnaise perhaps…)

The two wines below also clearly show the wide stylistic differences that Verdicchio can express. The former wine is a sassy little freshie, made for immediate drinking. The latter wine represents Verdicchio’s most serious and ambitious self. Bucci’s “Villa Bucci” bottling, despite what I just rattled on about above, is aged not in 225 liter barriques, but rather in old, large Slavonian oak barrels (“botti” in Italian) for at least one year, and then at least one more year in the bottle before release. This wine also carries the “Classico Superiore” distinction, with the “Classico” part demarcating the oldest, traditional growing area, and the “Superiore” meaning that it exceeds 12.5% alcohol. For whatever reason, Bucci does not choose to call this wine a “Riserva” though he is entitled to do so (18 months minimum aging requirement, at least 6 months in bottle). Also without explanation is the reasoning behind the norm that does not permit a Verdicchio to be labelled both a “Superiore” and “Riserva”. Whatever. My assembled impressions on two provocative wines:

Brunori Castello di Jesi Verdicchio Classico “Le Gemme” 2006

Quite greenish pale gold color. Floral, almost “aromatic” nose of fresh quince and fennel seed. The palate is a wiry lemon/lime affair with razor-fresh acidity, but with a blancing, underlying heft. Finishes with “shelly” and green apple skin flavors.

 

Bucci Castello di Jesi Verdicchio Classico Superiore “Villa Bucci” 2005

True golden color with a pervasive greenish cast. Nose of baked apple, honey, yellow fruits, flint, and a touch of sherry “flor”, though the aromas are still a bit shy overall. The palate suggests profundity and complex structure but also still seems a bit tightly wound, but fine lime and pineapple flavors still poke through a very subtle, intricate, “lacy”  texture. Still a bit young. Better after 2010.

TOM CIOCCO

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Responses

  1. Tom:
    Great to find you back on line after your “Terrior” abdication! Not sure if it is better or worse that I cannot just click on a link to purchase the wines you discuss…..Looking forward to catching up on previous posts. Verdicchio has become a regular part of my line up thanks to a push from you a couple of years ago.

  2. Hey Russ!

    Thanks for stopping by! Great to hear that Verdicchio is now in “heavy rotation” for you…it’s a grape that delivers versatile and characterful wine and bottles rarely exceed $20, and most are closer to $10 than $20.

    Thanks again for posting – Tell your (wino) friends about the blog as well – The more, the merrier!

    Best,
    TC


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