Posted by: tomciocco | December 30, 2013

A RARE WHITE FROM THE HEEL OF THE ITALIAN BOOT: VERDECA

Most of Italy’s 20 regions either lean gently to the production of red wines over whites, or vice versa, or yield a fundamentally even number of the two types, but with the exception of Tuscany, there is no region that produces more red wines (and fewer whites) than Italy’s southeastern-most region of Puglia. As is almost always the case, the reasons for such lopsided production can be chalked up to terroir, and Puglia is no exception to this rule.

Most of Puglia is topographically quite flat, and the weather, during much of the meat of the growing season is treacherously hot, two big environmental factors that do not favor the production of most white wine grape varieties – a paradise for heat and sun-worshipping red varieties like Primitivo and Negroamaro for sure, but for white-skinned grapes, not so much. But there are nearly always exceptions to every rule in wine and the Verdeca vine is one such anomaly.

Recent DNA analysis has determined that Verdeca is identical to a rare Greek variety called Lagorthi (and the vine is most likely Greek in origin; Puglia was an early Greek colony in ancient times) that somewhat ironically is found growing mostly in cool, rocky and mountainous terrain in the Peleponnese, which is a clear testament to Verdeca/Lagorthi’s adaptivity, though as you might expect, where Verdeca wines from Puglia tend towards a certain corpulence, Greek-grown, Lagorthi-based wines are leaner and far more wiry in character. But no matter where this vine originally comes from or puts down its roots, it comes as quite a surprise that, despite its elegance, concentrated fruit flavors and bright greenish golden color, this variety doesn’t have a lot of traction or currency in either location, and with one taste of this wine, you’ll be nonplussed as I was as to why.

To go along with this very flavorful and voluptuous wine, I served a Puglian classic – orecchiette con le cime di rapa (ear-shaped pasta with broccoli rabe, breadcrumbs, olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and anchovies) followed by a main course of flattened and floured slices of pork tenderloin stuffed with shredded scamorza and chopped green olives in a white wine pan sauce with roasted potatoes on the side.

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Masseria Li Veli Verdeca Valle d’Itria I.G.T. 2012

Bright, medium golden color with greenish highlights. Very expressive nose of pear, yellow cherry compote and applesauce fruit flavors strongly supported by a salty minerality, and notes of toasted grains, hazelnut, white flowers, fresh-cut herbs and shiitake mushrooms. The palate is quite big, fairly rich, round and creamy but with a notable elegance and fresh acidity to balance it all out. The wine shows intense flavors of mixed citrus fruits, baked quince, and kiwi followed by clean notes of honey and white spices. Finishes with a very long and nervy bitterish character.

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Responses

  1. Sounds fascinating! I’ve been on a kick of weird whites (passarina is my latest). Where did you procure it (dist/imp)?

    Thanks for reminding me why I do this (cuz quickbooks online payroll support chat ain’t doin’ it for me).

    Salute!

    Julia Battaglini Secco Wine Bar

  2. Hi Julia-

    I’ve found Passerina to be a real hit and miss variety- when it’s good, it’s soft and aromatic, but I’ve come across some examples that are just flat and boring…Which producers do you like?

    One of my favorite (Italian) “weird whites” is Timorasso from near Tortona in southern Piedmont. It’s one of the most unusually flavored (wonderfully so) whites I ever had, and they’re really ageworthy too. Walter Massa is the Timorasso king – try to get a hold of a case or two if you haven’t already; his reds are great too…

    The importer of the Verdeca is Dalla Terra:

    http://www.dallaterra.com/producers/liveli/

    Thanks for reading and commenting. Buon Anno!

    T.C.

  3. Tom,

    As always, I enjoy your stories and insights. I visited Li Veli two years ago and liked their wines, including the Verdeca (http://dgourmac.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/an-easy-supper/). When we had lunch at the winery, they served an orecchiette dish that was similar. You also might enjoy the photo from last year’s Verdeca harvest (http://dgourmac.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/li-veli-verdeca-update/).


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