Posted by: tomciocco | April 25, 2014

BIANCHELLO DEL METAURO: A FAIRLY DELICATE WHITE WITH A MOUTHFUL OF A NAME

While it’s something of a reduction and a cliche`, when it’s all said and done, Italy is more of a red wine nation than white. But that said, there are some swaths within Italy’s long and lean geography that produce numerous distinctive, native, and very fine white wines: Friuli in the northeast, Campania in the southwest, and place from which tonight’s wine hails, Le Marche.

By most people’s estimation, Marche’s noblest white wine grape is Verdicchio, and a strong argument could be made that Verdicchio yields one of the finest white wines in the entire nation. But in addition to Verdicchio, Marche is home to other distinctive white grape varieties such as Passerina, Pecorino, and the grape from which this evening’s wine is made, Bianchello (byan KELL-o).

Also known by the name Biancame (byan-KA-meh) this is a variety whose agricultural wheelhouse within Marche lies between Fano and Pesaro, though the variety’s roots also creep north up the coast into the southern reaches of Romagna as well. But no matter the name of the geographical designation in which this vine finds itself planted, the topographical and soil types preferred by the Bianchello grape remain the same. Almost without exception, Bianchello performs best on low hills that are situated quite close to the warm Adriatic sea. The producer of this particular wine has vineyards that sit at about 400 feet above sea level only 15-20 miles distant from the Adriatic coast on soils that one might expect to find in such a place: a mix of tufa (a type of tough, white limestone) and coarse sand.

Bianchello in the end, is something of an odd duck – it often yields wines with fairly hefty alcohol levels (this one weighs in at 13.5%) and a notably wiry and muscular mouthfeel, while still managing a sprightly, fresh and minerally delicacy and a pale color. This is not the sort of wine that you’ll find at your corner “Booze-R-Us”  chain store between the Pinot Grigio and the Chardonnay, but all thanks and praise to Bacchus for that. If you turn up a bottle, grab it, head right to your fish market and enjoy.

Not surprisingly, I paired this markedly maritime-oriented wine with a first and a main course with seafood at their core: a clam, fresh fava bean and celery risotto followed by sand dabs baked with a yellow tomato, yellow pepper,and rose` wine sauce softened slightly with a drizzle of local honey.

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Claudio Morelli Bianchello del Metauro “La Vigna delle Terrazze” 2012

Pale, “white gold” color. Fairly delicate and elegant nose of pear, white currant, yellow cherry, jasmine, almond, chalk, hay, cocoa butter, and a touch of fresh herbs an cinnamon. In the mouth the wine displays a  very firm, medium body that is dry and with a lively, salty acidity that propels flavors of apricot, gooseberry, citron creamy vanilla bean notes, fresh ginger flavors and a touch of white pepper. Warm and clean bittersweet quinine finish.

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