A couple weeks ago, I participated in a tasting that was organized by Protocol Wine Studio in San Diego as another of their #WineStudio online Twitter tastings. The wines, supplied by ZGR Imports were all from the Italian wine region of Le Marche.
When I received the wines, two red and two white, I was not so worried about the reds, but rather the whites–I had not found many Italian whites that I could really embrace, and we were going to taste these wines over the next few weeks in a public “forum”. I am not necessarily known for suppressing my opinion, so I thought this could present a problem.
I was not familiar at all with Le Marche (mar-KAY), but in my defense, the region (which is halfway down the back of the Italian boot) produces less than 2% of the country’s wine, and very little of it is exported. The main white variety from the region is Verdecchio, but both of the whites we received for the tasting were made from Pecorino–a grape that is believed to be native to Le Marche region. (The name, also the name of a popular Italian cheese, comes from the Italian word for sheep: pecora. The sheep of the region were apparently particularly enamored with these grapes, thus the name.) The two reds were both blends of two of Italy’s great red varieties: Sangiovese and Montepulciano.
The first two wines were from Centanni, a certified organic winery that lies barely inland off the Adriatic Coast. Both of the Centanni wines have the glass-lock closure, which is pretty cool. I have not really figured out why I think it is cool–is it because it is more environmentally friendly (I have no idea if it is)? Perhaps it is kind of fun to open and close–more involved than a screw cap, but less than a cork? Or maybe it is just shiny….
2012 Centanni Offida Pecorino: Retail $29. This was certainly way too cold to start, as it was rather closed up and placid, but my other virtual tasters were going gonzo over it. I thought “Here we go again–another Italian white that people get all excited about for no apparent reason.” As it warmed, though, things really started to get interesting. All kinds of fruit leapt out of the glass: pineapple, lemon, a bit of peach. On the palate the tartness tickled the tongue and caused me to reach for more. It was well after the tasting had moved on to the second wine that I finally gave this one up. Happily, I left some for the next day. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2012 Centanni Rosso di Forca: Retail $17. 50% Montepulciano, 50% Sangiovese. Juicy and fun on the nose, but a bit different over the lips–much more old world on the palate. Initially some intrigue and a bit of a spike midway through, but the finish was a bit lacking. Good to Very Good. 85-87 Points. I left this in the fridge for a couple of days, and made my way back when we had a little pizza following my Spinning class (make jokes if you must). On the third day this was utterly fabulous–rich and deep, great fruit and balance. Buy this, store it in the cellar (even upright due to the glass closure!) for at least a few years, and you will thank me. No need to send me wine as thanks, send money, I have too much wine–just ask my wife. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
The second week of the tasting, we had a couple of wines from Rio Maggio, which lies about 30 kilometers due north of Centanni–and just off the coast. Again, a white and a red, but this time, I was eager to try the white since it was the same variety and region.
2012 Rio Maggio Colle Monteverde Pecorino D.O.C.: Retail $24. Although we did not taste the two Pecorinos side-by side (we tasted them a week apart), it was clear that this was a very different wine than the Centanni. I found more depth of flavor here–perhaps due to the longer time spent on the lees–particularly stone fruits (peach, apricot). There was also quite a bit less acidity–a bit of the classic trade-off. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2012 Rio Maggio Vigneto Contrada Vallone Rosso Piceno D.O.C.: Retail $24. 70% Monepulciano, 30% Sangiovese. Much like the week prior, I was lingering on the Pecorino well after the group had moved on to the red. This Rosso had a great nose, mostly of black cherry, a bit of licorice, and some subtle funk (I thought there was a bit of Brett, but I was in the minority). On the palate, certainly an old-world style, with reserved fruit and balanced acidity. Similar to the Centanni, this wine got increasingly better from day one to day three. Another one that could use some time. Very Good. 88-90 Points.