Verdicchio Wine – A Light Red Wine Wearing A White Wine Disguise?

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi’ D.O.C (Denomination of Controlled Origin) is one of the most popular white wines in the world and has won numerous awards. The unusual nature of the soil in the Marche area, together with favourable climatic conditions and including the regular breeze (which prevents moisture and mould forming) provides a perfect environment for the development of the grapes. The wines produced in the most sunlit and ventilated areas tend to be more robust and can easily keep for 2 or 3 years, including a short period in oak.

Straw yellow in colour, with greenish hints, from which it derives its name (‘Verdicchio’ is the Italian word for greenish). With a nose of wild flowers, citrus, peach and apple and almond on a full, rich palate.

Verdicchio is a dry wine, fresh but savoury, thanks not only to the salty breeze, but also to the numerous saltpetre banks which characterise the area.

For Verdicchio the minimum required alcohol vol. is 11.5%, for Classico Superiore (superior) 12% and 12.5% for the Riserva, (reserve), although it is not uncommon to find varieties which have over 13% alcohol.  To be awarded the Riserva denomination, the Verdicchio must be aged for a minimum of 24 months, of which at least 6 months are in bottle.

Verdicchio is versatile wine which accompanies many different meals, thanks to its full-body nature, which make some people refer to Verdicchio as a red wine in a white wine disguise. It is especially suitable for accompanying seafood dishes, such as brodetto soup, mussel pasta, fish risotto and grilled fish, but also white meats, particularly the Riserva.

History says that the Visigoth King Alarico used to collect massive quantities of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi on his way to Rome, to increase the vigour of his soldiers. Ancient propitiatory rites with sacred wine are said to have taken place back in 200 A.C. in Cupramontana, a village built around a temple dedicated to Cupra, the goddess of opulence. A likely drinker of the popular Verdicchio!

Brodetto All’Anconetana

The ‘Brodetto all’anconetana’ is a typical fish soup from Ancona, in the Marche region.  According to local tradition there should be 13 different varieties of fish in it. This number is sometimes attributed to the number of people at the Last Supper, although the majority relate it to the quantity of spouts of a popular fountain in the centre of Ancona, “Le 13 Cannelle”, one of the symbols of the city.

The original recipe is said to be jealously guarded by the master chefs of Ancona, who wouldn’t reveal it even under torture. We will try to give just a hint here, so that you know what to expect. As explained 13 fish varieties should be used, such as cuttlefish, squid, shrimps, scampi, mussels, clams, mantis shrimp, scorpion fish, red mullet, turbot and others, depending on what’s available and fresh at the market (but not less than 13 varieties!). The fish is cooked with extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, parsley, garlic, onions and tomato purée for about 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce thickens. Depending on individual taste, it can be made more spicy by using some chilly or black pepper.

Whatever the secret recipe is and however good a cook you are, you will have to come to Ancona to experience the authentic taste, as the 13 varieties should all come from the local Adriatic sea which has fish that is regarded as among the most tasty, because of the high concentration of nutrients in a relatively small and shallow sea. This high quality seafood includes the local mussels (called ‘moscioli’ by the residents), which grow naturally on the rocks surrounding the Monte Conero, south of Ancona and are protected by the ‘DOP’ label (Denomination of Protected Origin).

Unlike other popular Italian and international soups, ‘Brodetto all’anconetana’ should be made relatively thick and is often served on toast. It goes perfectly with a full-bodied, rich white wine, like “Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi”, a popular, award-winning wine, which is also from the Marche region.

Making My Own Wine In Marche

I have always had mixed feelings about port towns, they don’t always have a great reputation so I was interested to go and have a look for myself when an Italian friend, Marco, kept insisting that Ancona (which is in the region called Marche) is a beautiful old harbour and deserves more visitors.

I took a budget flight and on arrival at the airport I was greeted with a cold beer and a Parma ham sandwich and things were off to a good start,

it got even better when we stopped at a beautiful local restaurant on the way to our accommodation. We were advised by our host to try pasta made with local mussels, washed down with a carafe of fresh local Verdicchio wine. The recommendation didn’t disappoint, the Adriatic’s shallow waters produce famous seafood and the pasta was perfectly complimented by the well-balanced wine which had hints of lemon and almond, Verdicchio is a Marche speciality.

We were staying at a picturesque vineyard and our host was a friendly chap called Matteo – he was happy to show us around his vineyard explaining which grapes he was growing (as well as wheat and honey), his plans for the future, some of the problems he encounters and what makes a great vintage.

Next it was our chance to make our own wine. A group of Marco’s friends joined us and accompanied by a wine expert we started by trying various combinations of vintages to see what we wanted to make. We agreed on a combination that we all liked and then got to know each other as well as how wine is made while blending the wine, inserting corks, adding foil, designing and adding labels, we called the wine my Oinos (Oinos being the ancient Greek work for wine, which reminds of the Greek roots of the town). This amazing day ended with us drinking our own wine and having a B-B-Q together, it was a great bonding experience.

Over the next few days I visited some local wineries where we were warmly greeted and encouraged to try the produce. The local red is called ‘Rosso Conero’, like many Italian wines it is based on the Montepulciano grape (it must be at least 85% Montepulciano), I hadn’t tried it before but soon realised that it is excellent, complex, full bodied wine – it doesn’t have the name of a wine like Chianti but because it’s not mass produced the quality is high. This was a good chance to buy some more wine to ship back (I was already taking home a case of the wine that I had made).

I also had the chance to visit the town which is full of glorious historic buildings as well as gelateria’s selling the best ice-cream in the world and small trattorias (traditional restaurants)
serving mainly delicious pizza, pasta and seafood. We also visited some beautiful beaches and I had the opportunity to see the stunning countryside full of vineyards and olive groves, we had a walk up Mount Conero and on the last night we ate fresh fried fish at a festival of the sea hosted by local fishermen.

Marco was right! Ancona has a lot to offer and I will be back there soon to make some more wine, lay on the beach and eat great food!

I hope you enjoy the short video below that captured the experience of making my own wine in Marche.