Hailing from Le Marche, a region on a similar latitude as Tuscany but situated on Italy’s eastern, Adriatic coast, Verdicchio is responsible for mouthwatering whites that are extremely refreshing, versatile, and, in certain cases, age-worthy. But this Verdicchio from Azienda Santa Barbara is not a profound, long-lived wine: this bright, zesty, lemony quaffer is destined for early drinking, at a price that encourages unlimited thirst-quenching pleasure for all. While Le Marche has a long coastline, complete with gorgeous beaches and fresh seafood, the region’s interior stretches all the way to the Apennines, the mountain range that forms Italy’s spinal cord from north to south. The rolling foothills of the Apennines, with views of the Adriatic in the distance, are where the region’s vineyards are concentrated, and the town of Jesi is a historic stronghold for fine Verdicchio. Uncork this one with seafood pasta, or simply as an aperitivo to whet your palate in times of dire thirst.
As with every region in Italy, the Marche is a world all unto itself. This is the home of the Verdicchio grape, whose name comes from the root verde, describing both the greenish hue of the grapes and the resulting wine. The Castelli di Jesi DOC is one of the largest of the zones in which Verdicchio is grown.. It is capable of making vibrantly fresh and crisp white wines. The Riserva bottlings can age gracefully. From Azienda Santa Barbara we have a wine in the former camp. Owner Stefano Antonucci has a track record of creating benchmark wines from the Marche and we are excited to bring this Verdicchio as our first import from this little-known region of Italy.
Le Marche’s reputation as a producer of fine wine is relatively recent, as the region is very much off the beaten path for tourists and tasters alike. And yet, early Etrsucan and Roman civilizations grew grapes here, a tradition that persists and continues to gain momentum in this undulating land where the Apennines descend to the Adriatic.
In between the warm coastline and the cool, rugged mountainous border with Umbria lies a landscape of calcareous rolling hills that provide ideal conditions for viticulture. The zingy, green-tinged, citrus- and pine-scented Verdicchio is king here, producing delightfully crisp whites that perfectly complement the fresh fish and seafood stews of the Adriatic, in addition to the pork-based dishes that are staples inland. Around the towns of Jesi and Matelica, the grape takes on an additional dimension and is even capable of significant aging under the right conditions.
While our involvement in the region is recent, the two producers we represent demonstrate that Le Marche is capable of producing whites of serious interest, which often come at great value.
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch
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