Delicious Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Owned by the Della Loggia-Morricone family for three generations, the 100 hectare estate is located in the Teramane Hills of Abruzzo, overlooking the Adriatic Sea. In 1997, the family redirected its efforts away from everyday wines for local consumption to super premium quality and, with the release of its 2004 Montepulciano Riserva “Adrano,” won its first prestigious Tre Biccierri (Three Glasses) award in the “Gambero Rosso” guide, Italy’s most highly respected wine-rating publication. The passion and dedication of winemaker Federica Morricone is largely responsible for the success of the winery, backed by well-known consulting enologist Riccardo Cotarella and consulting viticulturists Pierpaoli Sirch and Marco Simonit. Villa Medoro obtains splendid results with the traditional wines of the region, the red Montepulciano and the white Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. “The love of an extraordinary land, the exploitation of native vines, and respect for tradition: Our wines are the sum of these ingredients, a genuine and authentic expression of our way of being,” Federica Morricone says.
Contesa means “contest or quarrel” in English. Rocco Pasetti, owner of this 45 hectare organically-farmed estate in Abruzzo, explains the name of the winery with a family story. In 1903, his great grandfather owned a vineyard that shared a border with another farm. A great oak grew near the border and damaged a part of his vineyard, casting shadows on the vines, its roots damaging the ground. Instead of complaining to his neighbor, he compensated himself by sending his pigs to fatten themselves on the acorns that fell from the tree. The neighbor demanded payment for the acorns and took Rocco’s great grandfather to court when he refused. The judge sided with Rocco’s great grandfather, but the court action took a certain toll on the resources of both men. Rocco admits that the story is especially meaningful to him because of a quarrel that occurred among family members when his father’s property was split among heirs. On his own estate in the Pescara hills, Rocco Pasetti grows Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Trebbiano, and Pecorino, typical for the region. He is mindful of the history and traditions of the area but enthusiastically embraces innovation, for instance employing techniques that interfere with the sexual reproduction of pests rather than using pesticides.
The Baldeschi-Balleani estate is located in Le Marche outside of Ancona. The family is a very old and aristocratic one, whose earliest ancestor is Saint Ubaldo, canonized in 1192. Through the centuries, other family members became accomplished in many fields, some of them lawers, writers, art collectors, and bishops. The properties of the family in Le Marche include farmlands, two ancient palaces, and Villa Fontedamo near Jesi, the family’s parks and gardens some of the most beautiful and historically important under private ownership. Now with the direction of Giovanni Baldeschi-Balleani, the family sells most of its small wine production locally and through a restaurant at the Villa Fontedamo estate, which is open to agri-tourismo. It exports just 100 cases into the United States through Dominic Nocerino, founder of Vinifera Imports, but does not submit its wines to critics. Despite the family’s insistence on obscurity, the wines have acquired elevated reputations.
Italian Wines of the Month
Contesa 2012 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
This beautiful wine is 100% Montepulciano. Soft but balanced with fruit flavors, acid, and tannin texture, the wine shows deep floral and spicy notes. To preserve the fresh beauty of the fruit, winemaker Rocco Pasetti ages the wine in old barrels so that oak flavors don’t intrude on the natural flavor profile of the wine. Serve at cool room temperature.
Baldeschi 2009 Donna Genevra
This superb white wine is 100% Verdicchio from the Castelli dei Jesi appellation. Its complex aromas and flavors are bright and rich at the same time, with peach, citrus, and mineral aromas that shift to the palate. Serve chilled.
Contesa 2009 Montepulciano Riserva
This full, round, warm Riserva is 100% Montepulciano with intense aromas of red fruit, forrest, and cocoa, which transfer to the palate. Aged for 20 months in Slovenian oak barrels, the wine exhibits complex layers of flavor. Serve at cool room temperature.
Villa Medoro 2006 Rosso del Duca
The 2006 Rosso del Duca is 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, aged for 12 months in larger oak barrels, which add texture but don’t obscure beautiful fruit flavors, including dark cherry and spice that are typical of the grape variety. The Rosso del Duca is rich and full-bodied but balanced with fresh acid. Serve at cool room temperature.
Villa Medoro 2011 Chimera
The Chimera is 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, a gorgeous white wine with a rounded texture and at the same time full of mouth-watering aromas and flavors, perhaps influenced by the vineyard’s proximity to the sea. Antonio Galloni, foremost American wine critic for Italian wines writes, “Layers of melon, white peaches and flowers meld into the seamless, voluptuous finish.” Serve chilled.
Villa Medoro 2005 Montepulciano Riserva “Adrano”
Made with 100% Montepuciano d’Abruzzo from estate vineyards in the Colline Teramane appellation, this 2005 Adrano was the recipient of Gambero Rosso’s prestigious Tre Bicchierri award. The name “Montepulciano” links the grape to the appellation with the same name in Toscana, home to the Sangiovese wine, Vino Nobile. But scholars now know that the connection is erroneous and that Montepulciano is a different grape. In fact, you’ll notice that Montepulciano is less acidic and darker in color than Sangiovese. This delicious full-bodied wine is an elegant balance of fruit and oak ageing for 12 months in French barrels.
Baldeschi 2000 Conte Guido Rosso
A blend of Montepulciano and Cabernet Sauvignon, this beautiful wine, now in the bottle for 14 years, is the definition of refinement and elegance. Its brick-like color is typical of an aged wine, and its aromas and flavors have integrated into a totality that cannot be divided into components. Serve at cool room temperature with delicate fare.
Italian Regions of the Month
Umbria is a combination of pastoral countryside and mountain wilderness. Nurtured by the Tiber and its tributaries and Italy’s fourth largest lake, Lago Trasimeno, the region is known as the “green heart of Italy” and produces fine olive oil, truffles, grains, tobacco, and livestock, along with its vines. But Umbria also has a cluster of ancient cities, which offers glimpses into the past. The Umbri, Etruscans, and Romans all left their marks here. Magnificent Orvieto is perched on a plateau and looks down on vineyards below. Its grand Duomo is among the greatest of Italy’s Romanesque/Gothic cathedrals. Perugia’s ancient center embraces a 15th Century duomo, and the city’s most extravagantly decorated church, founded in the 10th Century and rebuilt in the 15th, stands beyond the old walls. Medieval Assisi with its beautiful views and piazzas is the home of St. Francis, who is buried in a basilica frescoed by Giotto among others. And the nearby hill towns of Todi, Spello, Gubbio, and Montefalco blend medieval monuments with Roman remains. Spoleto, surrounded by woods, is the loveliest of the hill towns and hosts one of Europe’s leading art festivals in June and July each year.
Noted mainly for its white wines, such as Orvieto, Procanico, Malvasia, Grechetto, and Trebbiano, the region also produces two noble red wines with special DOCG status, Torgiano Rosso, which is called Rubesco, and Sagrantino, both unmistakably grand wines, capable of aging for decades. The sweet white Vin Santo is a local favorite and is made from semidried Grechetto or Malvasia grapes.
Among the many outside varieties planted in Umbria, Merlot and Barbera have been prominent for more than a century. More recently, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Nero have produced some fine wines.
Le Marche is a remote area between the Adriatic Sea and the Apennine mountains, a quiet region, whose inhabitants drink more wine per capita and live longer than other Italians. Its pre-Christian inhabitants were the Piceni, who were assimilated by the Romans, and its coastal capital Ancona was established by the Greeks. In the Middle Ages, the region marked the southern boundary of the Holy Roman Empire, from which it got its name, “Le Marche” or “boundary.” In the 15th Century, Urbino became one of the leading cultural centers of Europe, and its Palazzo Ducale is one of Italy’s most beautiful Renaissance palaces. Ascoli Piceno is almost as extraordinary with its Piazza del Popolo. But the smaller towns of San Leo and Urbania are also remarkable medieval monuments. Visitors also come to Le Marche for its beaches on the coast and for its skiing on the peaks of Monti Sibillini.
The Castelli di Jesi DOC zone in the hills west of Ancona is the home of Verdicchio, which has been dramatically increasing in quality in the last ten years, so much so that many now consider it central Italy’s best wine for fish, but Verdicchio should not be confused with the unrelated Verdeca, Verdone, Verdello, or Verduzzo, whose names all refer to their green skins. Verddicchio di Matalica is grown at a higher altitude and can have even more intense flavors. The wines from both DOC zones also make fine sparkling wine. Other whites such as Bianchello del Metauro and Falerio dei Colli are also good with seafood.
The red wines of Le Marche are based mainly on Sangiovese or Montepulciano. The most important, Rosso Piceno, is mostly Sangiovese. Rosso Conero is based on Montepulciano.