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2020 Podium Verdicchio, Garofoli - 'a total pleasure'

September 2023

2020 Podium Verdicchio, Garofoli
'A total pleasure'

£130 per 6 bottle case in bond

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I consider the Podium, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi from Garofoli to be an absolute bargain – a wine with plenty of character, proven age-worthiness, all at the price of £130 per 6 bottle case in bond in its most recent release, the impressive 2020.
 
On tasting the 2020 vintage, it seemed to me to be the product of a slightly cooler year, in contrast to its predecessor, a point that was borne out when I read Eric Guido’s instructive note on the vintage on Vinous.
 
‘Cooler weather and much-needed rain in March followed a dry winter with above-average temperatures. While the summer months were warm, there weren’t any significant heat spikes. Coupled with the region's well-ventilated climate, this created an extremely healthy environment for the vines and resulted in a long growing season. The risk of disease was low, and ripening progressed evenly through harvest. The 2020s are a total pleasure to taste today but also have the balance to evolve beautifully over the coming five to eight years.’
 
The 2020 will need a little patience, but it ticks all the boxes, and will surely evolve into a very special bottle in time.
 
Some background on Verdicchio
 
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 can heighten the slightly honeyed, 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. 

I tend to abridge the wine title but in its complete form, ‘Castelli 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 once more, but the 2020 has it all, just held back in its current form. There is a fine aromatic intensity with citrus oil, herb, and discreet spice, while the palate has plenty of fruit – riper notes leaning towards white peach and apricot, but something really citrussy and zesty. It has that hint of almond, and a long minerally, saline note to the finish. Just as you think it has faded, it comes back to you with a reverberating zesty citrus finale. So much for not including my note! I think the quality is remarkably high, but this slightly cooler vintage will demand a little more patience to show in its prime.
 
Please see Eric Guido’s note below and, as you read it, consider that this is a relatively humble bottle of wine – there is a serious endorsement in the following note for a wine of this price-point, but such is the appeal of Garofoli’s Podium.

2020 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Podium, Garofoli
£130 per 6 bottle case in bond

93+ points, Eric Guido, vinous.com
The 2020 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Podium is youthfully inward and coy at first, with a dusty florality and hints of cardamom in the glass. Swirling unlocks nuances of sage and rosemary, ginger and hints of smoky cracked stones, yet its fruit, leaning toward apricot, is still quite shy. Today, this impresses more on the palate, deeply savory and mineral in style, with a herbal twang and sour melon which place it firmly into the green fruit spectrum, all brilliantly offset by a saturating salty sensation. The palate is left reeling with spicy tension; the 2020 finishes structured, leaving the cheeks puckered and the mouth-watering thanks to a late-arriving bump of zesty acidity. This will take some time to show its best, but it will be time well spent. Drink 2024-2032
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