Most people believe Verdicchio to be a simple grape variety, capable of producing good wines for everyday consumption, best enjoyed in their youth. While this is generally correct, there are (happily and invariably always) exceptions to the rule!
Verdicchio has been grown in central Italy for hundreds of years, and its roots in the Marche (pronounced mar-kay) region, along the Adriatic coastline, can be traced back to the 14th century, though some believe it originated further north in the Veneto, where today it is known as Trebbiano di Soave (distinct from the inferior Trebbiano which is known as Ugni Blanc in France). A touch confused? Yes, well it is understandable – Italian nomenclature for grape varieties is an area of study all of its own. Fortunately, what counts most is what is in the bottle.
Under whatever name it is known (Verdicchio or Trebbiano di Soave), it is one of the most widely planted varieties in Italy. High-class Verdicchio, which remains incredibly affordable, offers far more roundness and depth of flavour than your might associate with many Italian white grape varieties. It shows a lively citrus fruit with just enough zing to be mouth-watering, yet when rounded out by oak ageing or fermentation, it shows a fine depth of fruit. Such ageing often heightens the slightly honeyed, slightly almondy touch that is often apparent. A former colleague used to compare it to good examples from the Mâconnais, as you pick up riper, softer notes to the wines from southern Burgundy and the palate shares a certain similarity with the best Verdicchio. By restraining yield, selecting good clones and employing oak for either fermentation or ageing, you can make complex wines with the ability to surprise you with their longevity, which neatly brings me to the estate in question, Garofoli.
Garofoli is easily one of the most prominent producers in the Marche, where they have carved out an enviable reputation for their Verdicchio. Today, the fifth generation is in charge of the estate and they have done much to elevate the quality. Their reputation was cemented in the 1980s as being at the forefront of quality-minded growers. They ditched the amphora-shaped bottle that is typical of the region and employed the practices mentioned above with the view of proving that Verdicchio was an age-worthy variety. Carlo Garofoli, the current winemaker, went a step further – he identified the best of the estate’s parcels of vines around Montecarotto – often older vines at good altitude. He decided to avoid oak for this particular wine, wanting to show that Verdicchio could stand on its own merits. The fruit from these parcels is vinified separately and, when deemed to be up to scratch, it is blended and matured in concrete vats as well as some stainless steel. The resulting name is Podium; a seriously high-class Verdicchio that would make you think twice before dismissing this variety on the basis of the ocean of low-grade, low interest examples in the market. The more recent vintages also benefit from a slightly earlier picking date, which ensures a good balance between ripeness and acidity is attained. However, even the older examples have aged incredibly well as a recent note on the 2006 vintage from newly-recruited reviewer, Eric Guido, revealed on vinous.com – he commented that the 2006 ‘is drinking beautifully now, in no fear of decline, and with another ten years of evolution to look forward to’. This is no one-off freak vintage, I could just as well have cited the 2008 or the 2010, which he suggests ‘could be lost in the cellar for another ten years!’.
The vintage we are offering here is the 2018 which is regarded as one of the finest in recent years, a warm summer that wasn’t marked by any dramatic heat spikes or heavy rainfall, and that delivered admirably ripe fruit. I was really impressed by the 2018 Podium – it had been a while since I had tasted the Garofoli wines. I really like the zesty characters that the wine captures. It is so well balanced, with mouth-watering citrus, subtle aromatic herb notes, and that almondy, savoury touch that is so typical of Verdicchio. This vintage also shows that slight viscosity to the palate as well, which in some ways seems to accentuate the long, persistent finish. This has the ability to surprise, particularly with bottle age. I recall some great past examples of Garofoli, and even when I enjoyed them, I had a feeling I might be drinking them too young. As appealing as they are once bottled, I would urge anyone to hold off for a couple of years and see just how well high-class Verdicchio can perform. I would suggest broaching this wine no earlier than 2023.
And one final comment, please note Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi – ‘Castello di Jesi’ being the DOC or appellation from which it comes, is a large area with many differing styles and qualities. The estate is far more important than the variety, particularly when they are as quality oriented as Garofoli. Please see Eric Guido’s review of the 2018 below.
2018 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, ‘Podium’, Garofoli
£100 per 6 bottle case in bond
93 points, Eric Guido, vinous.com
The 2018 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Podium is spicy and wildly fresh, wafting up with zests of lemon and lime, followed by dusty yellow flowers and white smoke. Its textures are velvety and round, verging on oily, while remaining wonderfully poised and finessed throughout. There’s almost a feeling of vibration on the palate, as notes of ripe green apple with a hint of tropical citrus and savory spices amass in the mouth and linger long. The sheer density of fruit, along with balanced acids, make the 2018 a perfect contender to cellar, but it is showing beautifully today. 2020-2032.
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All the best,