In the meantime, I have been meaning to post something about one of my absolute favorite white wine varietals - Verdicchio. Besides being velvety and versatile it is also viscous, vibrant, vivacious, and can even be virile! Okay, I've gotten carried away with the Vs but I think you get the picture - I am crazy about it. Verdicchio comes from the Adriatic region of Le Marche (my husband's home region) and there are two versions:
- Verdicchio di Matelica from the hilly zone of Matelica in the province of Macerata extending into the province of Ancona. Also available in a Riserva version (with higher alcohol and longer aging.)
- Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi from the same provinces but named after the commune of Jesi, which is north of Matelica. This Verdicchio can be produced in a Riserva version (with longer aging and higher alcohol) but it can also be produced as a "Classico" if it is grown in the original and oldest zone. You might also see "Superiore" on the label, which indicates higher alcohol.
Both can have small additions, up to 15%, of other white grapes like Trebbiano or Malvasia. In my tasting experiences with producers, I don't believe many of the top producers do much blending; most are 100% varietal. Verdicchio may be related to Trebbiano di Lugana (from Lombardy) or Soave (from the Veneto). I see similarities to both wines in Verdicchio.
There are slight differences in the two. In my tasting experiences- and this is very general, the Verdicchio di Matellica has a little bit more vibrant fruit, a mineral background and a touch more acidity. The Verdicchio di Castelli dei Jesi has richer fruit, is more round and velvety in the palate. Both can range from light and crisp to very rich and full-bodied, depending on the producer. Both are surprisingly age worthy and some can even age for 10+ years, becoming more like a White Burgundy. Verdicchio can have aromas of apricots, peaches or pears carrying over to the palate where the fruit flavors are complemented by notes of almonds and minerals. The wines are rich with fruit, without being overly powerful. They have just enough acidity to balance out the fruit.
These are the two brands of Verdicchio that I have been enjoying the most this summer - Fattoria Laila and Villa Bianchi from Umani Ronchi. Both are affordable, under $15 and both happen to be Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. Other producers to look for are: Bisci Verdicchio di Matelica, Bucci Verdicchio and their Riserva - Villa Bucci - both dei Castelli di Jesi, and Sartarelli Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, which has many single-vineyard versions.
A note about Le Marche (fair warning, I may be biased because we spend so much time there with my husband's family): I love it! I shouldn't spread that news around because at present time, it seems relatively undiscovered compared to the well-traveled regions like Tuscany. I am a traveler that likes to go where there are very few tourists, or none at all. In Le Marche one can still travel without seeing many tourists at all, unless you are at the beaches in the summer. The region has so much to offer from mountains, to rolling hills, to beautiful beaches, top salami and cheese producers, great food traditions (similar to Umbria's traditions) and the unbeatable Adriatic seafood. I hope to have some tours to the Le Marche in 2009. Stay tuned. In the meantime, you can be an armchair traveler by checking out Rowena's posts from her travels in Le Marche over the summer. See them over at Rubber Slippers in Italy (this link will take you to her first post and read the succeeding posts to see all of them on the region.)
Verdicchio is a great match with seafood, lighter pastas, vegetable dishes and salami. Try it with my Liguine con I Gamberi/Linguine with Shrimp. Salute'!