It’s starting to feel like true summertime in the Old Dominion. With those signature sticky, hot and humid days upon us, it’s the perfect time to pass the lazy, hazy days with new adventures in cold white wine. One thing is certain, white wine sales are up right now and there are many to explore beyond the usual chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio. If vacation is just out of reach or sadly just passed, treat yourself to a mental holiday with a virtual trip to Italy’s central coast and the Le Marche region via a new grape. Just the location sounds refreshing, nestled between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea with miles of picturesque coastline dotted with charming fishing villages, and the first glass of wine hasn’t even been poured.
The star white wine produced in the Le Marche region is Verdicchio (ver DEEK kee oh), made from the verdicchio grape. It is allowable to blend up to 15 percent trebbiano or malvasia, but most are 100 percent verdicchio. While the neighbors to the west, Tuscany and Umbria, make plenty of reds, and Le Marche does produce Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno, the area is best known for this white wine. In fact, according to Ian D’Agata, in his book Native Wine Grapes of Italy, he proclaims “Verdicchio is arguably Italy’s greatest native white grape variety.” That’s a strong statement considering the large number of native grape contenders. Oh, and it also has a pretty impressive history, with more than 600 years of cultivation!
The name Verdicchio is derived from ‘verde’ (green) and refers to the grapes yellowish-green skin color. There are two major Verdicchio appellations or DOC zones, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and Verdicchio di Matelica with Castelli di Jesi being better known and more widely available. The major difference between the two appellations is location and size. Castelli di Jesi is closer to the Adriatic Sea with a milder climate and larger production. Matelica is smaller, further inland and at a higher elevation with a more challenging climate, creating lower yielding vines but producing more complex flavors.
Now for the best part, how it tastes. Verdicchio is medium bodied and totally dry, with a somewhat floral bouquet. It has fresh citrus flavors, think lots of lemon, a hint of almond and always high in acidity. It pairs beautifully with fresh fish and is particularly good with raw fish. I think this all adds up to keeping the kitchen closed, picking up some sushi or tuna tartar and pouring yourself a cool, 50 degrees sounds awfully good, glass of Verdicchio. It’s a clean, crisp, thirst-quenching, heat beating beauty. Cheers to summer wine adventures!