Housed in an old monastery just a few miles from the Adriatic Sea, Azienda Santa Barbara is one of only two estates we recently began to import from the Marche region. Grown on the outer limits of the fortified village of Jesi, this traditional Verdicchio—as green and crisp as it sounds—is vinified in cool, stainless-steel tanks and bottled with the gentlest spritz of naturally occurring carbon dioxide to minimize sulfur use. If bitter lime notes from more familiar grapes like Grüner Veltliner and coastal Vermentino appeal to you, this low-alcohol, youthful bianco will readily rinse your palate clean and complement delicate fare like crudo and Meyer lemon risotto. I’d be remiss not to mention its subtle, chalky texture that reminds me of much pricier French Chablis.
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.
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