Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! As usual, I was on the hunt for a noteworthy white wine to taste and talk about when I came across an Italian wine from a DOC/DOCG region called Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. The name itself is a bit intimidating to say, but thankfully (and somewhat mercifully), the name of the grape is right at the front: Verdicchio. Is this uniquely Italian white wine worth searching out? Let’s learn about the green grape varietal Verdicchio.

The wine known as Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is from a region of Italy called Marche, near the Adriatic sea. Grapes are small and green which is where the name is derived from. The vines grow best in calcareous soil (a mixture of limestone and clay) and produce wines with flavors of pears, peaches, apples, limestone mineral, melon, citrus and white flowers like jasmine. Some versions of Verdicchio can be aged and develop lightly oxidized flavors and scents of almonds.

Verdicchio is often bottled and sold as a single varietal wine but small amounts of other white wines will often fill out the blend. Such is the case in Castelli di Jesi where at least 85% of the blend must be Verdicchio but the remaining amount can be Trebiano or others. In the end, these wines are made in a refreshingly crisp style which emphasizes citrus, green fruit and high acidity.

Grapes harvested for this wine are picked around October and are mid to late ripening meaning that the more time the grapes get in the heat, the deeper the concentration and intensity of flavors the grapes can potentially develop in the vineyard throughout the growing season. After growing, grapes are carefully harvested, and berry selection begins in the winery. Producers are cautious not to bruise or mishandle the grapes and harvesting is often done in cooler temperatures to maintain the coolness of the grapes. Once the grapes are gently pressed and the wine is made, storage occurs in stainless steel vats for at least 6 months and then 2 months in the bottle before sale.

While dry wines are the most easily found versions of Verdicchio, sweet and sparkling versions are also made. To achieve higher levels of sweetness and flavor, grapes are dried slightly by laying them out in the sun to dehydrate in the technique known as appassimento (also used when making Amarone). This method concentrates the aroma and intensity of flavors before the grapes are pressed.

Those that love Sauvignon Blanc or white wines with a zippy, acidic edge should check out this style of wine and also consider pairing it with traditional Italian dishes like Brodetto di pesce (fish stew) or dry cheeses like Pecorino. This particular Verdicchio seems to be on the expensive side but many bottles can be found around the $20 mark meaning there are several opportunities to try out this varietal.

Personally, this wine style is what I love to taste from Italian wines, but this specific wine (the Pievalta Tre Ripe) lacks a bit of punch and has such a quick finish that it leaves me feeling disappointed. I can justify spending $30 to $40 on a bottle of white wine if I can trust that the quality and intensity of the product will deliver but when the price is high and the product under-delivers, it can intensify the sense of regret over such an expensive purchase and damage my trust in a brand.

Moving on to something different, my interest in Irish whiskey has increased lately and I decided to try the Bushmill’s 10-year single malt. The nose of this whiskey is full of ripe fruits and smells of a beautiful summer day in the orchard with hints of caramel and oak. If you’re looking for a good gift for a friend or even yourself, the price is fantastic at $60. Here are my wine and whiskey picks of the week!

Pievalta Tre Ripe Classico Superiore 2020: (DOC Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Italy). Dry white, medium-lemon color. Green apple and vibrant citrus bound from the medium-intense nose with a quick follow up of limestone mineral. On the palate, this light-bodied, tangy white opens with bright citrus, high acidity and fruity (but still dry) flavors of granny smith apples and some mineral notes which stick to the tip of the tongue and cheeks. The concentration of the wine is excellent which aids in enhancing the simple citrus and green fruit flavors while the acidity refreshes. The finish is quick and surprisingly simple, meaning the wine is clean and easy to drink but lacks depth or complexity. Pairing the wine with food is another matter and classic Italian dishes with rustic or earthy tones boosted my enjoyment of this Verdicchio immensely. Try it with parmesan Reggiano, arugula, lemon potatoes, Irish cheddars or Italian salamis. Unfortunately, this wine loses points for its lack of finish (length) and complexity. White wine lovers will still find plenty to enjoy but the price is a bit high. Good! $38, 12.5% ABV

Bushmills 10 Year-Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey: (Ireland). Irish whiskey with a Medium-gold color and a hint of amber. The bouquet is soft and richly concentrated at the same time with freshly sliced lemon, honey, caramel, ripe apples, fruity candies/gummies, pears and a delicate hint of oak or pepper. To the taste, this Irish spirit is light-bodied with plenty of honeyed orchard fruit flavors on the mid palate quickly followed by a transition into oaky, peppery flavors with some slightly chewy tannins on the inner cheeks. The finish is long and slightly nutty while pepper and apple/pear fruit mingle. This is a beautiful whiskey to sip, smell and contemplate. Lighter, sweeter cigars will pair very easily with this single malt (100% Irish barley) like Connecticut-wrapped cigars (Ashton Connecticut, Nub Connecticut or Rocky Patel). Superb whiskey for the price! Very good! $60, 40% ABV  Cheers and thanks for reading!