How many Italian white wines can you think of that are priced above $50? There really aren’t many. I was thinking about this the other night while sipping the sublime San Paolo Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Riserva from Pievalta, which seemed to be entertaining the dinner party in my head with a killer impression of Chablis.
When fans of Italian wine talk about the country’s best terroir for white wine, they always include Marche’s Castelli di Jesi. Rightly so. Here, the Verdicchio grape rules, and the riserva versions of this wine — which account for only 5% of the appellation’s volume — are granted DOCG-level status, the highest in Italy. To qualify, wines must achieve a higher level of alcohol (which isn’t a problem), and they must be held back for 18 months with six months in bottle. They are often aged in oak, and sourced from the area’s best vineyards, of which 99 are granted special status as menzioni geografiche aggiuntive (MGAs).
One of these is San Paolo, the vineyard that gives us this beautiful wine below from Pievalta. Curiously, San Paolo faces to the northeast, but its soil composition of calcareous marl mixed with sandstone give this wine heft and a sublime texture.
That impression of Chablis I referenced earlier is mainly from the texture and the spring-time aromatics that shine through. But there is a note that I can only describe as “grass-and-bitter honey” that shift the focus, and give this wine an unmistakable Italian verve.
As for the price tag? It’s around $30. While Italy’s most lauded red wines have crept above $100 for years, the most lauded white wines are staying somewhat grounded. At least for now. What I’d like to see is how well Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Riserva can age. From what I’ve heard: pretty damn well.
2013 Pievalta “San Paolo” Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Riserva Classico
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva DOCG (Marche)
Grapes: Verdicchio (100%)
Natural? (organic) (Biodynamic certified)
Rating: ★★★★ 3/4 (out of five)
• Food friendliness: Impeccable
• Value: As Expected
Tasting notes: This is a beautiful wine, from the moment it pours out of the glass until the bottle is empty, even if you take a few days to get through it. Aromas seem eager and are complex, suggesting tones of baked apple, sweet yellow flowers, green grass, acacia honey and toasted sugar almonds. Dry on the palate, the texture is sublime: rounded, layered, juicy yet sharp. The wine somehow manages to be delicate yet assertive, which earns it high marks from me. Even better on a second night after recorking it and refrigerating it — not a common trait among white wines.
Serving suggestion: This wine screams for the spring season in my book. A creamy risotto with spring vegetables and parmiggiano-reggiano is in order. Don’t over chill; you’ll want to enjoy the aromatics on this one.
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