The town of Offida right on the southern edge of the Marche gives its name to a DOCG wine. To discover more, we travelled to the surrounding countryside to visit a small winery called La Valle del Sole where the Di Nicolo family makes both red and white versions.
The first thing to notice is that the name is not the most appropriate as the winery is on a ridge not in a valley. However, this location has its advantages as Alessia explained to us. There are vineyards on both sides of the country lane that runs past the cantina, along the edge of the ridge. On one side the vines face east, looking towards the sea, where the soil consists of sand and clay. The sun shines on them only in the morning and they are caressed by sea breezes and this suits the Pecorino grapes that grow here from vines which are 21 years old. On the other side, the vineyard looks towards the massive, austere beauty of the Monte Sibillini mountains and the soil has more clay. Here, they have vines of both Montepulciano and Passerina grapes up to 60 years old.
To understand a little more, Alessia briefly explained the history of the business. The land has been in the family since 1956 and the first vines were planted in the 1960s. In the 1980s they planted the Pecorino vines. This is a variety native to the Marche and the name – which translates as little sheep – apparently derives from the habit of sheep, of which there are many in the mountains of the Marche, of eating the grapes. This is a low-yielding vine and in the past it was not popular, for obvious reasons. But in recent years, with the resurgence of interest in native varieties, it has come back into production. In total, La Valle has 11 hectares of vines and produces around 40,000 bottles of wine per year, all certified organic.
I sampled two of their DOCG wines. The first was a white 2020 Offida Pecorino. The grapes for this wine are harvested by hand before being soft pressed and fermented in concrete vats. After fermentation the wine remains in concrete on the lees for six months. Concrete allows the same micro oxygenation as oak, without adding tannins or other flavours. This neutrality enhances the appreciation of the flavours of the grape. After bottling, the wine rests for a further six months before it is released. Alessia suggests that this is a wine that reaches its best after two years and certainly it had a beautiful bright straw colour. The bouquet was delicate with pineapple and floral notes and in the mouth there was a light lemon flavour with a hint of salinity. This is a wine that would pair well with baccala or white meat.
The Offida Rosso was from 2018 and is made from 100% Montepulciano grapes. After fermentation on the skins, the wine again spends six months in concrete tanks but then is transferred to botte made from Austrian oak. Each of these huge barrels holds 24 hectolitres of wine, the equivalent of 3,200 bottles. Finally, it rests for a minimum of six months in the bottle. The colour is a dark ruby/violet and is almost impenetrable. On the nose there is the complex mix of aromas that you associate with time spent in oak. On the nose there is vanilla, liquorice, leather, as well as cherries and on the palate bitter cherry with tannins that are still strong. This is a wine that will age well. Red meat or mature cheese will pair well with this full-flavouredwine.
For the opportunity to explore these wines as well as this lesser-known but beautiful area of Italy, or indeed to join in the pre-Lenten wine-fuelled celebrations of the Bue Finto, or false ox, described in more detail in the blog, La Valle also offers accommodation.
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