When we offered Garofoli’s Verdicchio last year, we weren’t sure what the uptake would be. Sometimes it is difficult to get clients to cast off the blinkers and choose a wine off the beaten track. After all, Verdicchio is another lesser-known Italian white grape variety and most examples you might encounter aren’t particularly deserving of much of a tasting note. Fortunately, Atlas’ clients took us at our word when we said there are exceptions to the rule and our offer of the 2018 Verdicchio ‘Podium‘ from Garofoli received a great response with a number of clients repurchasing. Why did it do so well? It is a highly individual white wine from one of the very best exponents of the variety and it is great value. Please read on and remember that the wine in question is a Verdicchio at £110 per 6 bottle case in bond, not a Premier Cru Puligny-Montrachet at £300+!
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 remains incredibly affordable, and offers far more roundness and depth of flavour than you 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 fermentation and ageing, 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 selecting good clones, restraining yield, 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 oversees 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 wine is Podium; a seriously high-class Verdicchio that would make you think twice before dismissing this variety based on 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.
2019 was characterised by a hot summer in Marche, the region where this wine is made. Temperatures shot up in June and July, but fortunately a cool May with some significant rainfall had established good water reserves to see the vines through these temperatures without issue.
I tend to abridge the wine title but in its complete form, ‘Castello di Jesi’ refers to the DOC or appellation from which it comes, and 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. I haven’t included my own note to avoid overlap, but what I would add is that there is a riper nuance to the fruit in the 2019; zesty, juicy and appetising with a slightly more exotic fruit than the 2018, yet without any loss of poise. That zesty character that seems common to the best examples of Verdicchio is certainly on show as is that flinty, mineral acidity that adds verve and direction.
When you read Eric Guido’s note below which, for my palate, is right on the money, it is worth reminding yourself that this is not a Premier Cru White Burgundy at £300+ per case, but rather a class-leading Verdicchio at £110 per 6 bottle case in bond!