Category Archives: Marche

A Winery Named Ciù Ciù: Certified Organic and Vegan

When I was in Rome in February we went to Ar Galetto restaurant in the Piazza Farnese. It was warm enough to sit outside and Michele loves the view of the fountains and Palazzo Farnese, where much of the opera Tosca is set.

I ordered spaghetti with fresh anchovies. With it I ordered a wine with the unlikely name of Ciù Ciù (pronounced choo choo) made from the Pecorino grape from the region of the Marche. I had first enjoyed this wine in NYC at Ribalta Restaurant with Paolo Agostinelli who represents the winery. It was the perfect wine to go with the spaghetti.IMG_0759

This is what Paolo told me about the Società Agricola Ciù Ciù winery. It is family owned and run and was established in 1970 by Natalino Bartolomei and his wife Anna. Today the winery is run by their sons Massimliano and Walter.

In the beginning, the focus was on indigenous grapes: Trebbiano, Passerina, Pecorino, Montepulciano and Sangiovese. Later they expanded into the Verdicchio del Castelli di Jesi and the Lacrima di Morro d’Alba area. They also have some international grape varieties. The philosophy of the winery is that the best wine is made in the vineyard, not in the cellar.

The Ciù Ciù winery is certified organic and since the 2014 vintage, the wine is certified vegan. The winery is located in the middle of the Piceno hills, at Offida (Ascoli Piceno). It is in the Rosso Superiore production area and its vineyards extend over 150 hectares.

The White Wines

Passerina “Evoè” Marche IGP 2015 100% Passerina The vineyard is at 250 to 300 meters and the soil is of medium texture. They use the spur pruned training system and the hand harvest takes place at the end of September. This white wine is fermented at a controlled temperature in stainless steel and refining does not take place. It is any easy drinking aromatic wine with fresh citrus aromas and flavors and nice minerality. Paolo said it is ready to drink right after the harvest.IMG_0813

Pecorino “Mertettaie” Offida  2015 DOCG 100% Pecorino, the vineyard is at 280 meters, vines are spur pruned cordon trained and the soil is medium mixture and clayey. Harvest is the last ten days of September. Paolo said the wine  is cold macerated in stainless steel and then fermented in botti (25hl) with indigenous yeast. It is also aged in the same botti for 6 months  and 3 months in bottle before release. This is a dry white wine with good minerality, notes of citrus fruit and a touch of acacia.

Vino Spunamte Merlettaie Brute NV made from 100% Pecorino. Vineyard is at 280 meters, spur pruned cordon training and the soil is of medium mixture quite clayey. Harvest is by hand the first ten days of September. The decanted must is fermented with selected yeasts at controlled temperatures. The Charmat-Martinotti method is used, the sparkling process lasts for 25 days, refining with yeast for 5 months and 3 months in bottle before release. It has very fine bubbles with hints of citrus fruit, apple and almonds with mineral undertones.

The Red WineIMG_0812

Marche IGT Rosso 2011 “Oppîdum” made from 100% Montepulicano. The vineyard is at 300 meters, with medium mixture clayey soil, spur pruned cordon training and the harvest takes place at the end of October. Fermentation is on the skins for 20 days followed by malolactic fermentation. 30% of the wine is aged in barriques and 70% of the wine in 10 hl barrels for 12 months. The wine is in bottle for 6 months before release.IMG_0814

Rosso Piceno Superiore DOP 2013 “Gotico” Montepulciano 70% and Sangiovese 30%. The vineyard is at 300 meters, spur pruned cordon training, medium mixture soil and the harvest takes place the second half of October. Traditional red wine fermentation takes place with a cold drawing of the wine. Paolo said the wine is aged in botti. Depending on the vintages we use 25 to 35 hl botti and we keep the wine for 12 to 18 months. The 2013 vintage was aged for 18 months as the weather was really hot and we needed to soften the edges more.  This is a full-bodied wine with hints of black fruit, spice and a touch of vanilla.IMG_0811

 Offida DOC Rosso 2009 “Esperanto” Montepuliciano 70% and Cabernet Sauvignon 30%. The vineyard is at 300 meters, spur pruned cordon training, and medium mixture clayey soil. The harvest is by hand: the end of September for the Cabernet and the end of October for the Montepulciano. There is a long fermentation on the skins; a daily cold drawing of the wine both in stainless steel and barriques. Paolo said the wine  is aged in mid-toasted French oak barriques for two years and then bottled for 2 more years before going to the market.  This is a well-structured wine with hints of plums, cherries, a touch of spice and leather.



Filed under CiuCIU, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Marche, Passerina, Pecorino, Rosso Piceno

Velenosi and the Wines of the Marche

I have visited the Marche region of Italy a number of times and have always enjoyed it. Why the region is not better know in this country and more of a travel destination has always been a mystery to me.IMG_8812 They make excellent wine and great food. There are lovely rolling hills and some of the best-rated beaches in Europe. When I was invited to a tasting and lunch for the wines of Velenosi in the Marche I gladly accepted.


Angela Velenosi

Angela and Ercole Velenosi established the Velenosi winery in 1984. Since then Angela has been the person behind the success of one of the largest family owned wineries in the Marche.  Angela was elected the president of the Consorzio di Tutela Vini Piceni and represented the Marche region at the Expo in Milan.

At the tasting Angela said the heart of the company is in Ascoli Piceno, which is about 25 km from the Adriatic Sea. The vineyards are located on hills at about 200/300 meters overlooking the valley of the Tronto River. There are 148 hectares with vines.IMG_8774

Ulisse Patalocchi La Rosa, the export manger, spoke about the wines. He is very personable and knowledgeable and gave us an insight not only about the wines of Velenosi but also touched on the wines of the Marche in general. He is very passionate not only about the wine of the Marche but also about the region’s food and culture.IMG_8757

Passerina Brut NV 100% Passerina (Charmat method) The vineyards are at 200/300 meters, the soil is of medium texture and rather sandy, the training system is guyot and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. The grapes are hand picked and placed in 20 kg boxes. Ulisse said the Passerina grape variety with its rich aromatic properties is particularly apt for making sparkling wine using the Charmat method. The wine is fermented in stainless steel and is aged on the lees for 90 days, this is a long process called Charmat Lungo. The wine has hints of white fruit, peach, citron and a touch of bread crust.IMG_8759

Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi DOC Classico 2014 100% Verdicchio. The vineyards are at 100 meters and they are the oldest in the original Castelli di Jesi area. The soil is of medium consistency tending toward sandy. The vines are cordon trained and spur pruned and there are 5,000 vines per hectare. The grapes are hand harvested in the morning or late afternoon in small boxes and kept cool until reaching the winery. The wine is obtained by the soft crush of the slightly overripe grapes, then pressed using a bladder press. The must is collected in refrigerated containers and brought to 5°C for static decantation before being transferred to stainless steel vats for fermentation, which occurs at a controlled temperature. Fermentation takes place by inoculating selected yeasts to prevent undesired fermentations. Ulisse said the overripe grapes and select yeasts give the wine its fruitiness and roundness. The wine has hints of green apple, honey, a touch of spice and a slight bitter aftertaste. Ulisse added that none of the white wines undergo malolactic fermentation.

Pecorino Falerio DOC Pecorino 100% Pecorino. The grapes come from selected vineyards of the Ascoli Piceno and are at 200/300 meters. Soil is medium mix tending to sandy and the training system is guyot. There are 5,000 vines per hectare. Harvest is the same as above. Fermentation with inoculated selected yeasts. The wine is then stored in steel containers at a controlled temperature until sterile bottling. It is pleasantly fruity, with hints of apple, honey and spice.IMG_8761

Rosso Piceno DOC Superiore “Brecciarolo” 70% Montepuicano and 30% Sangiovese from company owned vineyards in the municipalities of Offida and Ascoli Piceno. The vineyards are at 200/300 meters; the soil is mainly clay, tending to limestone at Offida and medium mix, tending to sandy at Ascoli Piceno. The training system is guyot and there are 5,000 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand in mid-October. After destemming, the grapes are channeled into 200hl steel fermenting vats, equipped with a pump over system and a temperature control system. Maceration lasts for 20 days. After fermentation the wine is drawn off into aged barriques. Ulisse said they are 2nd and 3rd passage. It is full bodied, with good fruit and a hint of cherry.IMG_8760

Lacrima di Morro 100% Lacrima di Morro d’Alba from company owned vineyards in the municipalities of San Marcello-Ancona at 100/150 meters. The soil is mainly clay, the training system is spur-pruned cordon and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. Harvest usually takes place in September.  After destemming, the grapes are placed in temperature controlled steel vats. Maceration lasts for about 20 days with daily pump over. Ulisse said that this is almost done closed to save the fruity and flowery aromas of the grape variety. This is an aromatic wine with its own unique aromas and flavors. It has rich aromas of strawberry, marasca cherry and violets that seem to jump right out of the glass. It is full flavored, yet soft and lightly tannic with a hint of almonds. Ulisse said that Lacrima means tear in Italian, the skin of the grape is so delicate that when it is ripe a drop of juice falls. It can be served slightly chilled.IMG_8762

Ludi Offida DOC Rosso made from 50% Montepulciano, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot from company owned vineyards in the municipalities of Offida and Castel di Lama. The vineyards are at 200/250 meters, the soil is mainly clay, cordon trained and spur pruned. Harvest is by hand in mid-October. After destemming, the grapes are channeled into 200hl steel fermentation vats, equipped with temperature control. Maceration is on the lees for 20/25 days. After fermentation the wine is drawn off into new barriques selected by the enologist from a range of handcrafted cooperage and left to age for 18 months. The wine was then assembled. It has hints of ripe fruit: cherry and blackberry with a note of licorice.IMG_8763

Rosso Piceno Superiore “Roggio del Filare 2010 70% Montepulicano and 30% Sangiovese. The vineyards are at 200 meters The training system is guyot. Harvest is in mid-October. After destemming, the grapes are channeled into 100hl steel fermenting vats, equipped with a programmable pump over system with temperature control. Maceration is for 20 days. The wine is aged in new barriques made from selected French cooperage for 18 months. It is a full-bodied wine with hints of hints of blackberry, cherry, spice and a touch of vanilla.IMG_8764

Visciole made from 80% Lacrima di Mora d’Alba and 20% cherry syrup made from an ancient variety of wild cherry (Prunus Cerasus), dark red and sour tasting. The ripe cherries are collected the first weeks of July, and then macerated, partly whole and partly crushed, with sugar. It is decanted for a few days and then filtered. This triggers a fermentation, which leads to the final syrup, which is soft and fragrant. The result is syrup with a high concentration of sugar, which is blended with the Lacrima triggering a second fermentation. The wine and syrup are mixed. The fermentation is stopped at about 14% alcohol by volume, with residual sugar. Ulisse said that “flavored wines” are an ancient tradition in the Marche dating back to the Middle Ages when it was used as a method to preserve wine. The natural syrup helped to prevent the oxidation of the wine and made it more aromatic. Today this would not be considered a wine because it is not made 100% from grapes. It would be perfect with chocolate and as I was drinking the wine I wished I had a piece to go with it.

All  the wines are an excellent quality to price ratio.

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Filed under Lacrima di Morrod'Alba, Ludi Offida, Marche, Passerina Brut, Pecorino, Roggio del Filare, Rosso Picerno Brecciarolo, Velenosi winery, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Visciole

The Wines of Umani Ronchi

Ever since I first visited Verdicchio a number of years ago, I have enjoyed the region’s wines.  Now when I look for an older white wine on a restaurant wine list I often order Verdicchio because very few people know that it is a white wine that can age and older vintages can often be found at a very good price.

Recently, I was invited to Del Posto in NYC to taste Verdicchio and some other wines from producer Umani Ronchi.  The speaker for the event was the very charming and knowledgeable Michele Bernetti.  He explained that the company was founded by Gino Umani, who added Ronchi to his name as a favor to a friend in return for vineyards in Cupramontana.  Members of the Bianchi family went into partnership with Umani Ronchi and later became the winery’s sole owners.  Massimo Benetti, Dr. Bianchi’s son-in-law took over the management of the company and Michele joined his father.  Today he is the CEO. Beppe Caviola is their consulting enologist.

Michele said that they have 200 hectare of vines, 110 in the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico zone, 60 in the  Rosso Conero production zone, and 30 in Abruzzo.  Verdicchio is vinified only in Castlebellino and then bottled, refined and aged in Osimo.  Rosso Conero wines are vinified, bottled, refined and aged in Osimo.

The Wine
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC Classico Superiore 2011 “Casale Di Serra” 100% Verdicchio. Michele said that the grape yield of this vineyard was less than one half of the typical Verdicchio yield. The grapes are hand picked when slightly overripe and a careful selection is made. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats, followed by malolactic fermentation. This is a very nice fruity wine with good acidity and minerality and a bargain at $17

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC 2007 & 2009 “Vecchie Vigne” 100% Verdicchio. These wines are 35 years old and come from the “Busche” vineyards in Montecarotto. The wine is aged is stainless steel and cement tanks. The wine undergoes malolactic fermentation and remains on the lees for 10 months. Michele said that there is a difference between the two wines. The Vecchie Vigne (Old Vines) is made from a special selection of grapes from the highest part of the vineyard on the east bank Esino River. This is a wine the will age very well. The 2007 is one of the best white wines I have tasted and it could last for many more years. It was fresh and elegant with hints of pineapple, peach and hazelnut and good acidity. All of the wines had a very nice mineral character and Michele said that this was a characteristic of the Verdicchio grape in the Marche.  2009 vintage was the Gambero Rosso Vini D’Italia Three Glasses award winner and the White Wine of the year. $35

Verdicchio Classico DOC Riserva 2007 “Plenio” 100% Verdicchio from the “Villa Bianchi” vineyard in Moie di Maiolati.  Riserva wines were recently introduced for Verdicchio at the winery and must be aged for at least 24 months. After malolactic fermentation, the wine is aged in concrete vats for 12 months with lees contact and refined in bottle for one year before release.  Michele said that Pienio is Latin for round, complete and ample–a fitting name for this wine. $35

Rosso Conero DOC “San Lorenzo” 2010 made from 100% Montepulciano from the San Lorenzo vineyard. Malolactic fermentation is followed by aging in oak barrels for 18 months. 20% of the wine is aged in barriques. It is refined in bottle for 6 months before release.  Very nice easy drinking wine with nice black and red fruit aromas and flavors.  $17

Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo DOC “Jorio” 2010 100% Montepulciano from a single vineyard on one of the highest altitudes in the Chieti province.  After malolactic fermentation the wine is aged in Slavonian oak barrels for 11 months. Michele said that in 1999 they purchased an estate in nearby Abruzzo in the Colline Teramane area, a sub zone within the Montelpulciano D’Abruzzo DOC (soon to become DOCG). The estate includes 30 hectares of land, a cellar and landmark house, which is being renovated and transformed into a winery. He also said that since it is warmer in Abruzzo, the Montepulciano grape ripens sooner than in the Marche were the vineyards are by the sea and he feels they make a more elegant wine. Because of these natural differences they are two different styles of wine. This was a bigger wine with more ripe red and black flavors and aromas. $17

Michele said that in the Marche the vines are mostly trained in a Guyot-Double Inverted. In Abruzzo the Tendonne method is used because it protects the grapes from the sun.

Rosso Conero  Riserva DOCG “ Cumaro” 100% Montepulciano from the “San Lorenzo” vineyard. Malolactic fermentation is followed by aging in barriques for 16 months. The wine is kept in the bottle for another six months before release. Michele said that this wine is made only in the best years. Cumaro is derived from the ancient Greek word for Conero. We tasted the 1995, 1997, 2001 and 2007, which is $42 a bottle. This is a wine that can age.  The 1995 was in great condition and I enjoyed all of the vintages. However I noticed a little more vanilla flavor in the 2001 and 2007

“Pelago” Marche IGT made from 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Montepulciano and 10% Merlot. The grapes are hand picked from a small vineyard. Fermentation lasts for 15 days and then the wine is aged in new barriques for 14 months and remains in the bottle for another 12 months before release. Michele said that the name “Pelago” derives from the ancient Italian word for deep blue sea since the vineyards are by the sea. The first vintage was 1994. We tasted the 1995, 1997, 2001 and 2007 which is $65 a bottle. This was a very well made wine of its type but I found it a little too modern for me, especially the 2001 and 2007.

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Filed under Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Jorio, Marche, Rosso Conero, Umani Ronchi, Verdicchio

Discovering Domodimonti Natural Wines from the Marche at Eataly NYC

Often, when I hear of a new winery or one that has just renovated its facility, I become a bit suspect. In most cases these wineries are going to make wines that are international in style and not to my taste.

So when I was invited to taste the wines of Domodimonte at Eataly I noted that the winery was started in 2003 and built a new facility in 2010. Was I going to be wasting my time tasting wine that I did not like and could not write about?  Curiosity got the better on me and I accepted the invitation.   As it turned out, I was very glad that I did.

Not only did I like the wines but found the tasting interesting and informative.

The speaker was Niccolo Salvadori, the general manager of the Eataly wine store.  He said that the winery was located at Montefiore dell’Aso in the Marche.  Marco Scapagnini, sales and marketing manger from the winery, assisted him.

Mr. Scapagnini making a point

Mr. Scapagnini began by saying that they were not a certified organic winery but a “natural” wineey. What makes it  “natural” is that the grapes are sustainable-grown using organic matter, low–yielding vineyards and the grapes are hand picked.   No sugar is added to the wine.  There is a strict selection of yeast and there are no additives made for color, acidity, mouth-feel, etc.   The addition of sulfites is kept to a minimum and they use of state-of-the-art technology.

The new winery built in 2010 was designed to generate the least amount of visual and ecological impact on the land.   He added that they exceed the rules and regulations of organic farming.

Mr. Salvadori led us in a tasting of the wines:

Offida Passerina “Déja” DOC 2010 100% Passerina  the vineyards are at 200 meters and have a southern exposure. There are 3,000 vines per hectare. The training system is cordon with spur pruning. 80% of the grapes are picked at the beginning of September and 20% are picked a little later.

The wine is fermented and aged in temperature-controlled vats with an external insulation jackets. It undergoes malolatic fermentation and remains on the lees for a period of time.  This white wine was grassy and fruity at the same time. Malolatic fermentation and the late harvesting of a percentage of the grapes and the nature of the Passerina grape added roundness and a slight sweetness to the wine. There were hints of baked apples and pears. It had a nice finish and pleasing aftertaste. It went very well with the first course, a fish crudo seasoned with sea salt and olive oil. $13

In answer to a question about sulfites in their wines Mr. Scapagnini responded that their entire wine making process is performed under nitrogen and they use cryomaceration, a process with very low temperatures, 2-5 degrees C to ensure protection against oxidation. 

Offida Pecorino “Li Coste” DOC 2009 100% Pecorino  the vineyards are at 200 meters. They have a southern exposure and there are 4000 vines per hectare. The training system is Guyot and the harvest takes place in early September. The wine is fermented in stainless steel. It is aged in barriques made from acacia wood. Mr. Salvadori mentioned that he only knew of one other winemaker that used acacia barriques and he produces a Gavi.  Mr. Scapagnini said that they only use new barriques because acacia wood barriques can only be used once. Only 10% of the wine is aged for two to three months in this way.  The other 90% is aged in stainless steel vats. It had nice citrus aromas and flavors with hints of white peaches, orange peel, hazelnuts and a touch of pepper. $16 

Marche Sangiovese “ Monte Fiore” IGT 2010 100% Sangiovese The vineyards are at 200 meters with a southern exposure. They use Cordon training with spur pruning. The soil is mainly clay. There are 3,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in the beginning of September. The wine is aged in stainless steel.  This is a very easy wine to drink, with ripe red fruit aromas and flavors and hints of strawberries and red plums. $13

Marche Rosso “Picens” IGT 2006 The wine is made from 25% Montepulciano, 25% Sangiovese 25% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards are at 250 meters and the soil in mainly clay. The vineyards are south facing, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the training system is Condon with spur pruning. The harvest is from the end of September to the middle of October. The wine is aged in second passage French barriques for 5 to 6 months.

There were flavors and aromas of dark fruit with hints of blackberries and a touch of leather. $16

Marche Rosso “IL Messia” IGT 2007 60%Montepulicano and 40% Merlot.   The vineyards are at 250 meters and the soil is mostly clay. These vineyards have a southern exposure, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in the end of September and the beginning of October. The Montepulicano is aged in French barriques, which are 3 years old. The Merlot is aged in special troncoconic vats. This type of vat is tapered on the top and smaller in size than the bottom. It allows for the increase in contact between the juice and the skins during fermentation and maceration, which results in the extraction of softer and sweeter tannins.

This was the most modern in style of the wines that we tasted but it was well balanced. It is a full-bodied wine with deep black fruity aromas and flavors with hints of blackberry, vanilla and oak. $35

I should have remembered an old saying that I often use, “do not judge a winery until you taste their wines!”  I enjoyed tasting the wines very much and look forward to drinking them.  In addition, the wines were priced very well.

Orietta Maria Varnelli

After the wine tasting there was a presentation by the Varnelli Distilleria from the Marche of their amari and other spirits. Varnelli is a family run business (run by four women) and Orietta Maria Varnelli, C.E.O. and export manger was the speaker and told us about their line of spirits. She said they were most famous for their L’ Anice Secco Speciale.

We tasted the Amaro Sibilla on the rocks with Lurisia Gazzosa, a fizzy lemon drink made from Amalfi lemons and a slice of orange. It has aromas of bitter herbs and dried fruit with hints of coffee and honey. On the palate it is bitter and tannic with touches of chestnut, honey and coffee. It is a perfect amaro to have after a meal.  I like it neat! The ingredients are of course a family secret.


Filed under Amaro, Distilleria Varnelli, Domodimonti winery, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Marche, Natural Wines