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Posted: Monday, October 13 2008. 11:02

Feature: Wines and Fencers of Jesi in Italy

India with a population of 1.12 billion managed a gold and two bronze medals at the recent Beijing Olympics, whereas two women from a small town of Jesi in Marche region of Italy, with a population of 40,000 managed the same number in fencing, says Subhash Arora visiting recently.

Pic of Vezzali and Trillini with Giancarlo Rossi, Director of Assivip (r)
Maria Valentina Vezzali won a gold and bronze medal in women's fencing events for Italy whereas Giovanna Trillini won a bronze. Between the two of them, the women of Jesi managed this awesome feat and dominated the competition.

The number of medals has the people still gushing about the achievement of our shooter and boxers in India. But to the denizens of Jesi it appears to be just another day in the office-another achievement, which they take for granted. The two women of Jesi have been winning Gold and other medals since 1992 and have won more medals between themselves than the post Independent.

'Jesi has perhaps the best Fencing Academy in the world,' says Dr. Gianluca Mirizzi, owner of Montecappone Estate, while taking us through a whirlwind tour of his 60 hectare wine estate in Jesi, spread over several parcels.

Wines of Jesi

Agriculture Minister of Marche at the Casalfarneto winery
Jesi is also known for a unique white wine, produced basically around this small town, about 20 kms from Ancona which is known as the Cape Town of the Marche region in central Italy. Located on the east coast, Ancona is at the same horizontal level as Montalcino, the land of Brunello wines, if you let your fingers do the walking.

The DOC appellation of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi may sound intimidating to the uninitiated. But it is quite logical -when you have visited the area. The medieval town of Jesi, very close to the Adriatic, is surrounded by small mountains known as castelli (in Italian). Therefore, the appellation simply classifies the wine as Verdicchio (grape varietal) of hills of Jesi (pronounced as yay-zee).

If one has not heard of these fabulous wines in India or even in many parts of the world, people of Marche are partly to blame. There has not been much promotion by this region, one of the smaller Italian regions which many people unfairly compare to Tuscany because of its rolling hills and beautiful vineyards sloping down steeply- some as high as 500 meters above the sea level.

Drying of Verdicchio by hanging-at Stefano Mancinelli's winery
As you arrive at the airport of Ancona, the capital of Marche, you are surrounded by hoardings and posters hanging on the walls and from the ceiling; not one of them displaying wines of the region. Sure, a couple of Garofoli (a well-known Jesi wine producer ) posters adorn the arrival and departure halls, but they are advertising wooden doors and furniture!

'That is unfortunately true,' agrees Gianluigi Calzetta, a senior manager of Monte Schiavo, part of a very powerful business group, producing Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi wines, who is also the President of Assivip, the Association of Wine Producers. 'We plan to do something about it. We are unfortunately limited by funds. But soon, we hope to showcase the beautiful wines of our region including Verdicchio whites from Jesi, Rosso Conero, Lacrima Morro d'Álba and Rosso Piceno reds etc,' he adds.

Giancarlo Rossi, Director of Assivip is confident that with the constant improvement in the quality of wines from this region, more and more wines from this region will find an export market in the global market. 

As Lorenzo Marotti Campi, owner of Marotti Campi winery explains later during the visit, 'our government gives financial help to co-operatives due to their political clout but the private producers are left to fend for themselves with limited budgets and we have to make the best of the situation.' 

Appellation of Verdicchio of Jesi

Dr. Gianluca Mirizzi, owner of Montecappone Estate explains Jesi wines to a journalist
The confusion, if you may call that, is that within this appellation there are 4 categories, defined by the yield, min alcohol and aging. Verdicchio, and the Classico made within a defined central area of this appellation are the backbones.

Classico Riserva is the top of this appellation. This calls for a min. alcohol volume of 12.5% and a maximum yield of 11 ton/hA with most quality producers capping it to 8 tons/ hA. Comparatively, the Superiore must have a min. of 12% alcohol and the basic and Classico version are allowed a minimum of 11.5%.

The Verdicchio wine

The second biggest appellation of white wine in Italy, the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is generally a medium to full body dry wine with nutty flavour. Pale gold colour with shades of green has given it the Italian varietal name . There is a slight pleasant  after-taste of bitter almonds.

Different stages of grape ripening-at the tasting table in Fazi Battaglia
Mostly unoaked for the basic daily drinking version, the majority of Riserva goes through barrel fermentation or ageing to give it complexity- a minimum of 2 years aging out of which 6 months must see the wine sleep in the bottle is the defined norm. Most quaffable versions are to be drunk young, within 2-3 years but Riservas can age and last up to 10-12 years.

A vertical tasting of wines from Fazi Battaglia 2005, 2003, 1995 (which won an Oscar in 1997) and 1993 bore it out rather well. The 1995 was still drinking well though 1993 seemed to be passed its prime. There was enough evidence of the longevity of well-made wines using judicious quantity of oak.

Co-operative is the King

Bottling and packing at Garofoli winery
Wineries like Montecappone, Monte Schiavo, Moroder, Umani Ronchi, Fazi Battaglia, Casalfarneto, Luigi Giusti, Marchetti, Garofoli, Santa Barbara, Saladini Pilastri, Sartarelli, Bucci, Fattoria Le Terrazze. Crocio di Moro, Lunari, Accadia, Fattoria San Lorenzo, Bonci, Zaccagnini, Pievalta, Tavignano Colognola, Vignamato and Marotti Campi  are but a few of the wineries specializing in the Verdicchio whites.

Wines of Santa Barbara-winery in Barbara near Jesi,not California
There are hardly any wineries in the region that do not carry a Verdicchio in their portfolio even though there are several which specialise in the Montepulciano grape based reds.

However, like most Italian regions, volume is controlled by the single major co-operative winery, Moncaro. Producing big quantities that include super-market wines at very low prices, they control the market in volume if not the price.

The credit for quality improvements goes to Moroder, the winery that received the first 'three glasses' from the famous Gambero Rosso magazine and motivated the producers to seek better quality wines since the DOC appellation was recognised in 1968. Efforts are on to get a DOCG status for their top-end Verdicchio.

Late Harvest Verdicchio and Passito

An interesting feature of the varietal is the crafting of Late Harvest wines which are more concentrated but quite dry and more aromatic. Cimaio 2005  a late harvest produced by Casalfarneto by harvesting in November was simply divine. It towered over the otherwise 4-starred Grancasale 2005 and '06 Riservas.

Similarly, the passito version made by drying the grapes, partly on the vine and partly in a drying room, the dessert wines dare to compete with similar wines from the Northern parts of Italy.

Verdicchio also takes well to sparkling as one found in tasting several versions using traditional Champagne methods as well as the cheaper tank method which does not impress much.

Confusion Galore

Difference between Verdicchio, Classico, Classico Superiore and Classico Riserva is not the only factor in understanding which wines to choose from. This appellation is one of the few that allows any winery in Italy to buy the wines produced in this area and still use the appellation.

Therefore, it is feasible for an Indian importer to market a Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi under his/ her own label. Moncaro and many of the other bigger wineries are willing to bottle the Verdicchio at prices that make it a precious gem, waiting to be discovered by some shrewd importers who are keen to offer a value-for-money Italian white wine with character.

Other Wines of the Region

Harvesting Verdicchio at Azienda Morodor vineyards
While the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is a unique wine made from the autochthonous grape which the local producers claim grows only in this region, there are other varieties and appellations including Bianchello del Metauro, Vernaccia de Serrapatrone, Colli Macratesi, Verdicchio di Matelica in the white grape varietal wine. In fact, the Marche region has 14 DOC and 2 docg wines to choose from.

Also interesting are DOC Conero Rosso and lesser known Lacrima di Morro d'Alba, Rosso Piceno and Colli Pesaresi. I visited some of these appellations from this region and shall cover in future articles.

Subhash Arora

 

Comments:

 

Posted By : rossi giancarlo

October 18, 2008 13:39

La ringrazio moltissimo! Lei è stato molto bravo e professionale. Mi è dispiaciuto essere stato poco con Voi! Vorrà dire che appena possibile organizzeremo un nuovo tour nelle Marche se anche a voi la nostra Regione è piaciuta! Un caro saluto Giancarlo Rossi

   

Posted By : Genevieve McCarthy

October 14, 2008 01:33

Fascinating and well written article. Complimenti! Genevieve McCarthy

   

Posted By : Mariano Pallottini

October 13, 2008 20:28

I am very proud that the Marvelous Indian Culture meets the culture of wines of my Region.

   
       

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