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A Veritable Verdicchio

As I explained to Vinnie, a long, long time ago - before he and I met - I was taking my first faltering steps in the world of wine. Back then I knew a little about red wine but virtually nothing about white wines. Sent to the supermarket with instructions to buy a bottle of white wine, I had no idea where to begin.

In the end, I was seduced by the sexy, curvaceous shape of a most unusual bottle - it was a bottle of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. The wine tasted good but I must confess I understood nothing from the label and why the unique shape; what does it all mean? Verdicchio refers to the grape. It has been grown in Le Marche for hundreds of years and in the hands of a skilful winemaker produces wines with lovely acidity and lemon and grapefruit flavours and a characteristic hint of almond. It also tends to lend a hint of green to the wine - the clue is in the name, for the Italian for green is verde. So what is the origin of the lovely bottle that so grabbed my attention?

Brunori Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi

In 1953 winery owner Franceso Angelini was looking for a way to make his wine stand out and so he held a competition that was won by architect Antonio Maiocchi. The winning design harks back to pre-Roman Etruscan designs and so the curvy amphora was born, was a great success, and became a symbol for Verdicchio around the world. So it turns out I had been hooked by some world-class design and marketing.

Brunori Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi

However good the marketing may be, the important thing is what is in the bottle and that brings us to the Brunori winery. Founded by Mario in 1956, it is run today by his grandchildren, Carlo and Cristina. From seven hectares of carefully tended vines they produce around 55,000 bottles of wines per year. However, this is wine that shuns the use of the sexy bottle, preferring instead to stand or fall on the quality of the product. Situated at 200 metres above sea level, the vineyards face south-southeast and are around 30 kilometres from the sea. In the winter the land can feel the icy fingers of the Bora blowing from the east and bringing temperatures as low as minus two centigrade. There may even be a few days of snow but when we visited it was warm and balmy.

Brunori Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi

As we walked amongst the vines, the oldest around 40 years old, Carlo explained how they are cultivated on organic principles even though not officially certified as such. Passing by the original farm buildings we arrived at the cantina that was built in 1972 and learned a little of the magic that Carlo uses to produce his wonderful wines. Most wineries that we visit ferment their wines in stainless steel tanks but Carlo chooses to use cement vats of 30 hectolitres that have a vitrified interior before then transferring the wine to bigger vessels, again of cement. I was intrigued as to the reason and Carlo was happy to explain. Apparently, steel containers have an electrostatic charge that causes the wine to gently circulate whereas the cement tanks allow the wine to settle more quickly. He also uses the technique of spontaneous fermentation that uses the naturally occurring yeast from the skins of the grapes instead of introducing commercial strains.

Brunori Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi

Of course, the most important thing is the result that all this care and attention yields and to find out we went to the tasting room with its magnificent terrace overlooking the vineyards and the surrounding countryside. The first wine we tasted was Le Gemme a DOC Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. This spends a minimum of six months in cement, three of which are on the lees. The colour is a pale straw with the characteristic hint of green and the bouquet is full of pears and white flowers. On the palate there is the mild taste of Amalfi lemons and a certain salinity. This will pair well with a dish made with the fish fresh from the nearby Adriatic.

Brunori Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi

Moving on, we next sampled the San Nicolo Superiore, again a DOC Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi but this has spent a minimum of seven months in cement, again with three months on the lees. It is made from grapes from Carlo’s vineyard within the San Nicolo area which in effect makes it a ‘cru’. The harvest for this wine is around 10 days later than that for Le Gemme, and although the wine we sampled had only been bottled 15 days previously the difference was noticeable. The colour is similar to Le Gemme but the bouquet has almonds and in the mouth it is fuller. Carlo suggests that it really needs two years to reach maturity when it will be ready to pair with pork or lamb.

The last wine we sampled was a San Nicolo Riserva from 2019. This is a wine that has the DOCG status and is made from grapes right at the end of the harvest that spend a night on the skins to extract the maximum flavour and perfume before spending a year maturing in cement. The colour is more intense, a deep straw, but again with hints of green. The bouquet is full of citrus and almond while in the mouth there is an unusual note of orange balanced with salinity and a long finish. Altogether, this is a very satisfying wine.

The Brunoris are a modest family, preferring to let their wines do the talking. However, I have to say that these are wines that do so much more than talk. They sing of the beauty of the countryside that gave birth to them and of the care, dedication, and commitment that the family put into their production.

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