Friday, May 16, 2014

Discovering Le Marche Italian Wine with ZGR Imports & #WineStudio

Before last month I was completely unfamiliar with the Italian wine region Le Marche (pronounced Les Markay), perhaps because it accounts for only 1.5% of Italian grape production. Located in east-central Italia, the region borders the Adriatic Sea on the east and Umbria to the west. The area has quite a history that you can discover here in addition to a small, but vibrant wine community. There are over 300 wineries using traditional methods that incorporate today's organic practices. The region encompasses all types of terrains and soils so the wine produced in the region is also a general reflection of the entire country. White and Reds are equally split with no strict DOC guidelines on blending, aging, or vineyards. The main regional white is Verdicchio, followed by Pecorino - an early-ripening, thick skinned grape mainly grown in the Marche, Abruzzo, Umbria and Lazio regions of Italy. The grape shares a name with the sheep cheese because farmers found sheep feeding on the vines. For reds, Sangiovese and Montepulciano are supreme and are usually blended together.

Most of the above information I learned through Protocol Wine Studio's  #WineStudio and Jonathan Zeiger, who adopted the region after a a short stint working for Lavanda Blu Agriturismo. During this time he met Giacomo Centanni, a young local winemaker, who asked Zeiger "Would you like to sell my wines in the United States?". The answer to this question resulted in ZGR Imports, where Zeiger is importing Centanni and other local producers, like Rio Maggio, into the United States. During our #WineStudio session, we sampled two wines from both Centanni and Rio Maggio.

We started week 2 with Centanni, an organic winery that also utilizes the very cool Vinolok closure. The winery has been growing grapes for five generations, selling to a local co-op. In 2005, they went commercial and today 28 year old Giacomo carries on the family tradition. Their 2012 Offida Pecorino ($29) like most Pecorino is high in alcohol (14.5%), but has no heat characters. Instead,  there are pears, lemon, and on the nose; creamy pear to citrus flavor; followed by good acidity. A very nice wine.We followed with the 2012 Rosso di Forca - Red Fork - ($17) a 50-50 blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese. The grapes for this wine were harvested from the Rosso Piceno DOC (pih-chay-no), the first Marche DOC. The wine starts with an herbal aroma, followed by a smooth velvety tart sour cherry and mocha flavor, finishing with very low tannins. Drink now and drink often.

Week 3 focused on Rio Maggio, which was founded in 1976 by Graziano Santucci, who focused on traditional methods of grape growing and wine making. He passed this knowledge to his son Simone, who along with his wife Tizian, planted vineyards in the two most important Marche DOCs: Rosso Piceno and Falerio dei Colli Ascolani. Zeiger highlighted two very nice wines from this small winery, a Pecorino and Montepulciano - Sangiovese blend. The 2012 Colle Monteverde Pecorino ($24) is lower in alcohol than the Centanni at 13.5% with more depth after sitting on its lees for 4 months. The nose is stone fruits - apricots - with a salty mineral and citrus flavor. The wine finishes with light acids. 2010 Rosso Piceno ($24) also comes in at 13.5% alcohol and is a 70-30 blend of Montepulciano & Sangiovese. These vines face northeast so they can soak up the sun for full maturation. The wine was aged in French oak for 8-10 months. The aroma was unbelievably powerful, expressing tart sour cherries like you get in Eastern Europe. The flavor was more dark fruit, plum with some elements of tea, finishing with strong acids and tannins. Nicely done. The only complaint, poor corks.

Unknown three weeks ago, Le March and Pecorino have found a solid home in my wine lexicon. Cheers to that.

Update: the Rio Maggio 2010 Rosso Piceno is still going strong after 3 days open. The aroma is still strong with those tart sour cherries. Very cool.
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