4th of JULY:
Marotti Campi "family" cultivates about 120 hectares of vineyards in the
Marches region. Drive well inland (west, or you'll get wet) from Ancona
and you're in the land of Verdicchio.
- The patriarch of the family worked in Europe for Seagram's and retired
some years ago. His sons run the business of the vineyard and
cellar. The 1999 vintage was the first commercial harvest for the
But Marotti Campi, though they do make Verdicchio, routinely catches our
attention with a red wine of unique character. It's made of a grape
called "Lacrima di Morro d'Alba." Morro d'Alba is a small
village north of Jesi, the famous center of Verdicchio production.
Some people are easily confused (me being a prime example) and might expect
a wine that has the "d'Alba" on the label to come from Northern
Italy's Piemonte region. That's not the case.
- The Lacrima di Morro d'Alba grape was dying out. In the 1980s
there were but 5 hectares. The government granted the wine its own
"DOC" and by 1999 there were some 50 hectares planted.
Today there are about 200 hectares.
variety is viewed a bit like Beaujolais, particularly amongst Italian wine
geeks. They tend to have the idea that this wine is not capable of
cellaring well. Most will advise you to drink the wine within
a year or two of the vintage. We have had a different experience and
learned that Marotti Campi's wood-aged wine is specifically to demonstrate
this can be aged in wood and cellared for some years.
What makes this wine so wild is that it's wonderfully aromatic. The
color is fairly dark ruby. The nose is amazing, being more reminiscent
of a good Gewürztraminer than of any normal red wine you've ever
encountered. The fragrance is of rose petals and
grapefruit. It's a dry, medium-bodied red wine. Oak is not
present in this wine. We like serving it lightly chilled to cellar
temp. It's a great picnic red and pairs with all sorts of
well-seasoned foods. The current 2010 vintage is dark in color and
teeming with fragrances.
"Blue Label" is matured in wood, though they claim they use
seasoned cooperage which is more neutral. We find a "woodsy"
component to the way, however. It's an interesting recipe, a some of
the juice is fermented along the lines of Beaujolais and some undergoes a
more classical red wine fermentation. The two lots are blended and
then matured for some months in oak. We find the "Orgiolo"
bottling to be fuller and deeper. It's delicious and a great bottle to
share with wine geek friends who think they know everything about
everything. This wine is so far off the beaten path, only a few have
trodden that walkway.
Marotti says many of his competitors are now making Lacrima di Morro
d'Alba which they mature for a year or two in wood. Having seen the
success of the Marotti Campi wines, it's no wonder!
I have to take another look at the Verdicchio wines here. I have not
paid much attention to these, but I tasted two bottlings of their 1999
vintage. At six and a half years of age, these were good. The
one which had been bottled after the summer of 2000 was extraordinary,
reminding me of good French white Burgundy that's not been exposed to much
Marotti explained the aging "graph" for Verdicchio is
curious. "It starts out improving and, then after a couple of
years it seems as though it's finished. But it's merely
'down.' We are surprised to open some after a few more years only to
find the wines are really good.
- Currently in stock: MAROTTI CAMPI 2014 Lacrima di Moro d'Alba SALE
MAROTTI CAMPI 2002 "Orgiolo" (Blue Label) Lacrima di Moro d'Alba
LUNCH OUT ON
THE COAST AT SAVINI
A few photos of lunch with Signor Marotti
in Senigallia at a lovely restaurant.
is Verdicchio and there is Verdicchio.
Actually, there are two somewhat different Verdicchio wines
produced in the Marche region of Central Italy.
The more famous of the two is Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi
which comes from an area close to Ancona and influenced by the Adriatic
sea. The most famous, for many years, was that of the
"factory" called Fazi-Battaglia, whose wine came in an
- The less famous appellation is Verdicchio di Matelica, a region of
higher altitude and somewhat cooler climate. It's a short drive if
you're in Umbria and there are no huge estates cranking out millions of
bottles of this, so it's a wine that's a bit unknown except to serious
fans of Italian wines.
Colle Stefano is a small estate. Fabio and Silvia Marchionni
have maybe 4 hectares of vineyards and produce a small amount of
wine. Fabio had spent some time in Germany, learning about organic
farming and precision in winemaking. He returned home in 1998 and
embarked on working the family estate. Today his wine is one of the
most respected in the Marche and we're delighted to have some bottles in
the shop here in Burlingame.
- I had received a letter (years ago) from Silvia who asked about our
interest in their wine. I forwarded it to a local importer who's a
fuss-budget (like us) and he liked the wine well enough to bring some
over. Today it's one of the cornerstones of his importing enterprise
and he buys a significant percentage of the Colle Stefano
production. Now the Marchionni family's wine is featured in
all sorts of 'hot' dining spots in the Bay Area, as well as in our little
- The 2015 is delicious! This is a crisp,
light wine which is not subjected to oak aging, so you won't be picking
splinters out of your tongue. This is a lovely aperitif and it pairs
handsomely with seafood and light starters. Oysters? Grilled
prawns?? You get the idea...
Currently in stock: 2015 COLLE STEFANO Verdicchio
di Matelica $17.99
Fabio and Silvia
- The Marche
region of Italy is the home of a number of good wines with the most
prominent being made of the Verdicchio grape. Yet the region
produces some other worthy wines, including Pinot Noir, Rosso Piceno,
Rosso Conero, Lacrima di Moro d'Alba and Vernaccia di Serrapetrona (a red
As most wine drinkers explore the world of Italian wine, center stage is
typically taken by Piemontese and Tuscan wines. You might, then,
discover the wines of the Alto Adige, the Veneto, Friuli and Sicily.
Way down on the list are the wines of the Marche.
You'd be driving for about 4+ hours from Florence to arrive in the town of
Offida in the southern part of the Marche, so this is well off the beaten
path for most tourists.
And there you'd find the vineyards and winery called Ciù Ciù, named
thusly because a grandpa (or two) ago worked for the railroad.
- The Bartolomei brothers run this place, farming their 130 hectares of
We're especially fond of their white wines, one made from Passerina and
the other being vinified with Pecorino.
The 2015 Pecorino carries the Offida DOCG and the vineyards are near the
cellar in the Ascoli Piceno province. We are surprised to learn this
is vinified in wood, because oak doesn't seem to be part of the wine's
make-up. It's a variety that was dying out and there were less than
100 hectares of it in Italy around 2001. Today we understand there
are more three times that.
If more wines tasted like this one, they ought to extend the vineyard land
devoted to Pecorino.
The grape, by the way, has nothing to do with the famous cheese of the
same name. Both get their name, though, as a reference to sheep (Pecora
The fragrances of the Pecorino display some peachy aromas with a faintly
lime-like tone. It's dry on the palate and fairly crisp, but not
shrill. We enjoy this as a cocktail white and it pairs handsome with
seafood...steamed clams, fresh crab, grilled prawns, etc. It also
shines brightly with seafood salads.
We sometimes have their other white wine, Passerina, in stock.
Currently in stock: CIÙ CIÙ 2015 PECORINO $15.99
is well below the radar of most serious Italian wine geeks.
As them about Vernaccia and they'll likely start telling you about a white
wine from Tuscany and the pretty little town called San Gimignano.
If their knowledge of Italian wines is deeper, they may know about
Vernaccia di Oristano from Sardinia. Those two are not
And then there's the Vernaccia from Serrapetrona in Italy's Marche
region. And this Vernaccia is a red grape and, of course, not at all
related to the other two white Vernaccia varieties.
We've seen Spanish wine called Vernatxa, yet this is a Garnacha or
Grenache wine. Some books claim Vernaccia Nera is, in fact, related
to Grenache. Well, not so fast. It seems the name Vernaccia
may come from the Latin word "vernaculum" which was used
to refer to some local or indigenous grape variety. So every grape
particular to an area could be called "Vernaccia."
The vineyards and winery of Alberto Quacquarini as located in Italy's
Marche region and they're in the shadows of Verdicchio, Lacrima di Moro
d'Alba and the various red blends such as Rosso Conero and Rosso
Piceno. But one of the top wines of the region is made by the
Quacquarini family and made of Vernaccia di Serrapetrona.
The company was found by Alberto and his wife, Francesca. Their
kids, Monica, Luca and Mauro now run the family businesses, one of which
is the winery and the other being a candy or confectionery company.
They have 35 hectares of Vernaccia Nera and the Quacquarini name is
synonymous with this grape and its wine. They're the benchmark is
what we're trying to say.
The regulations for Vernaccia di Serrapetrona require the wine have some juice
from grapes that have been dried for a minimum of three months. Here you
can see a snapshot of a room full of fruit being dried. This sort of
process was normal in Italy ages ago, though today we think solely of the wines
of the Veneto's Amarone della Valpolicella as having been made with grapes that
have been dehydrated.
Before the advent of temperature-controlled fermentation tanks, adding some
juice of dried grapes was quite common in Tuscany where the process was called
the "governo" method. If you had a fermentation that was
very slow or even stuck, adding a fresh infusion of sweet juice often
kick-started the yeasts. Along with the fermentation being energized, this
also adds some body and weight to the wine.
The Marche is not so far from Tuscany and this process remains a part of the
Vernaccia di Serrapetrona regimen. The wine, then, needs to have 40% of
its volume from grapes that have been dried. And yet in Quacquarini's wine
we don't detect the raisiny, dehydrated fruit character!
In fact, the wine is mildly berryish with a lightly peppery,
spicy note. It's medium-bodied and dry on the palate, so you won't mistake
this for an Amarone wine! Pair it with a grilled steak that's got a light
grind of fresh black pepper on it. Or match it with spicy sausages...it's
got a lot of food-pairing affinities.
Currently in stock: 2012 QUACQUARINI VERNACCIA DI
SERRAPETRONA Sold Out
- The Mariani
family used to own a prominent estate in the Montefalco region, but with
sluggish sales and little demand for the fruit in the early 1990s, they
sold the place.
In the interim, Francesco Mariani had grown up and worked in several
restaurants in Italy, but he still had "wine in his blood" and a
desire to combine both wine and food.
The family purchased a small property in the Turri area, just south east
of beautiful downtown Montefalco. The 12 hectare estate is planted
with 10 hectares of vineyards, 4 for "Rosso" and 6 for
At some point, Francesco wants to have, I gather, a sort of small
restaurant or trattoria near the winery to combine his passion for each.
The estate is called Raina, as that was the nickname of an old
fellow who had owned the property and farmed it. In his honor, they use
the name Raina for the wines.
As it's a new winery, the first vintage of Sagrantino was matured entirely in
brand new oak. As a result, if you like the first vintage, you may be
surprised by the radical change in style of the second...it was matured using
merely 20% new barrels.
The Montefalco Rosso, a Sangiovese blended with a bit of Sagrantino and Merlot,
is very nice and a good alternative to Chianti wines.
The 2007 Sagrantino is an impressive and showy red wine. It's from a warm
vintage, so the alcohol level is a bit elevated. We find the wine to be
worthy of comparison with Caprai's "25 Anni" Sagrantino, though
Raina's is half the price.
It's dark in color and shows lots of black fruit aromas. Woodsy, cedary
and lavishly oaked, this is moderately tannic, so pairing it with red meat or a
selection of cheeses is ideal.
Currently in stock: 2007 RAINA Sagrantino di
I drove into Montefalco to a favorite shop, picked up some bottles of
Sagrantino from neighboring estates to taste with Francesco & Chiara,
along with some local prosciutto and salame.
Francesco prepared a little pasta...a nice combination with his red
We liked his wines along with the Milziade Antano Sagrantino...
TORRE DEI BEATI
winery may be run by a couple of saints, but I don't know them well enough
to say, for certain.
Faustus Albanesi and his wife Adriana Galassi. Her father had
planted some vineyards in the early 1970s and when she and her hubby were
working as sommeliers, dad gifted the couple with 10 hectares of
"That'll keep them out of trouble." said Pop.
Having an idea of what good wine should taste like, the couple seems to be
hell-bent of making stellar wines. They cultivate their vineyards
employing organic farming practices and we understand they're fanatics
about picking the fruit at just the right moment during harvest season.
Today the estate comprises some 21 hectares of vineyards and they have a
new winemaking facility. Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is their focus, but
we've found a rather enchanting white wine made of the Pecorino grape.
The vineyards have a clay and limestone soil. Yields are relatively
small and they strive to pick the grapes at the optimum level of
ripeness. Most of the juice is fermented in stainless steel, with a
small portion seeing oak.
We like the pear notes along with some white flower fragrances and
flavors. The wine is, of course, dry. You'll get a sense of
wood in the background, but it's not the focal point of this
Currently in stock: 2010 TORRE DEI BEATI
PECORINO Sold Out
is one of your best friends in the world of Sagrantino. File that
name away, won't you, please?
The reason we mention this is Antonelli makes really good, classic
Sagrantino and he sells his wine for an honest and sensible price, unlike
some of his "Napa Valley" neighbors.
The estate, known as San Marco de Corticellis, was owned by the church
from the 13th century until fairly recently...well, 1881 when Francesco
Antonelli bought the property. He was a lawyer in nearby Spoleto and
thought, like a lot of lawyers, "Wouldn't it be great to be in the
It took them a while, though, to have the idea of actually
bottling and selling wine. This notion hit them in 1979, so nearly a
hundred years before someone had a brainstorm!
The Antonelli's have, for the most part, been lawyers. The
current owner is Filippo Antonelli and his mom must have said a few choice words
and "dio mio!" when Filippo decided to focus on the wine business and
leave the lawyering for others.
They have 40 hectares on the property, grapevines being planted on the higher
elevations and on the slopes, leaving the flatlands for cultivating grain.
The vineyards are mature, ranging in age from 15 to 30 years. In addition
to Sagrantino and Sangiovese, there's a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and
Montepulciano in reds and Grechetto and Trebbiano Spoletino for whites.
The vineyards, by the way, are organically farmed.
Total production tallies to 300,000 bottles annually.
I know he's proud of his wines, but maybe even a bit
prouder of these two Antonellis...
Filippo and his father...
The cellars have a variety of cooperage...
...and more traditional large tanks.
Antonelli produces something like 9 different wines. We
carry, presently, just the normal bottling of Sagrantino.
The current vintage is their 2008. The juice spends about two to three
weeks in contact with the skins. Sagrantino can have a fair bit of tannin,
so if you're a fan of sweet Rieslings, Moscato or Beaujolais, you'll definitely
be in for a surprise when you open a bottle of this!
The young wine goes first into small oak (puncheons) for half a year before
being racked into those large, fairly neutral wood tanks for another 12
months. After that, they rack the wine into cement vats for a few months
You can certainly enjoy the 2008 now, if you like. With its fair bit of
astringency, though, pairing the wine with lamb, duck, a well-marbled steak or
something fairly substantial is ideal. That helps cut the tannin and the
wine simply tastes better. But these can age handsomely and holding a
bottle or two of Antonelli's wine for another five or ten years ain't a bad
As noted above, some of the rock stars of Montefalco affix large price tags to
their wines. I know Filippo is a bit envious of their apparent
success. But as I explained to him there's a difference in the
wines: "Yours actually sell and we replace the sold bottles with more
stock. Theirs collect dust and we routinely have to polish the
Currently in stock: 2008 ANTONELLI Sagrantino di
VAST SOUTHERN REGION
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