Collestefano Verdicchio di Matelica 2012
Named “Oenotria” by the ancient Greeks for its abundance of grapevines, Italy has always had a culture virtually inextricable from wine. Wine grapes grow in every region throughout the country—a long and narrow boot-shaped peninsula extending into the Mediterranean. Naturally, most Italian regions enjoy a Mediterranean climate and a notable coastline, if not coastline on all borders, as is the case with the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.
The Alps in the northern regions of Valle d'Aosta, Lombardy and Alto Adige as examples, create favorable conditions for cool-climate varieties, while the Apennine Mountains, extending from Liguria in the north to Calabria in the south, affect climate, grape variety and harvest periods throughout. Considering its variable terrain and conditions, it's still safe to say that most high quality viticulture in Italy takes place on picturesque hillsides.
Italy boasts more indigenous varieties than any other country—between 500 and 800, depending on whom you ask—and most wine production relies upon these native grapes. In some regions, international varieties have worked their way in, but are declining in popularity, especially as younger growers take interest in reviving local varieties. Most important are Sangiovese, reaching its greatest potential in Tuscany and Nebbiolo, the prized grape of Piedmont, producing single varietal, age-worthy wines. Other important varieties include Corvina, Montepulciano, Barbera, Nero d’Avola and of course the whites, Pinot Grigio and Trebbiano. The list goes on.
One of central Italy’s classic white grapes, Verdicchio thrives in the Marche region; its best versions come from two distinct appellations. Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, to the west of Ancona, is only 20 miles from the Adriatic Sea and the smaller, Verdicchio di Matelica, is more inland and at a higher elevation. Castelli di Jesi is Marche’s largest DOC but its best wines come from its hillside vineyards. The best Verdicchio wines boast fresh citrus fruit with a mineral lift, a sturdy finish and the potential to age for a decade. Recent genetic discoveries have proven that the Verdicchio grape is identical to Trebbiano di Soave, Trebbiano di Lugana and Trebbiano Veltenesi.