I spent the last week in Offida, Italy where I was inivited to attend Piceno Open, a wine tasting for selected wine writers, importers and wine bloggers. The event was organized by Vinea Marche, a cooperative with over 850 members in the Ascoli Piceno region. The tight program of Piceno Open consisted of three blind tastings and wineries visits of our choice. Participants also had the opportunity to taste many of the wines together with a representative of the winery.
Grape growing has a long tradition in Ascoli Piceno but only in the last two decades wine making has become more serious but even today the majority of the grape growers in the region sell their grapes to a third party instead of making wine out of them. This applies not only to Ascoli Piceno but to all of Le Marche. Too little was invested and without proper marketing the wines of Ascoli Piceno were destined to be overlooked by its neighboring competitors – especially Abruzzo managed to bring the grape varieties from Le Marche to a big success. Montepulciano, one of the most important red grape varieties of Le Marche, is today mostly associated with Abruzzo (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC) and intact the Abruzzesi managed to trademark the name Montepulciano. Outside of Abruzzo it is not permitted to label a wine Montepulciano even if it’s produced with 100% Montepulciano. This is quite silly in my opinion.
Anyways, recently more and more grape growers built brand new and highly modern wineries in order to switch from grape growing to wine making. They have great potential of making outstanding wines. Some of these new wineries also started to experiment with international grape varieties and the region now offers a great diversity of red and white wines.
DOC & DOCG appellations in Ascoli Piceno
There are two DOC and one DOCG appellation in the Ascoli Piceno region as well as one IGT wine. Below you find a some information about them
Rosso Piceno DOC was created in 1968 making it the first DOC wine to be produced in the area. However, the tradition of wine making in Asocli Piceno dates back to the ancient Roman Empire. The wine is a blend of 35% and 85% Montepulciano and 15% and 50% Sangiovese. Non-aromatic red grapes are used up to a maximum of 15%. Rosso Piceno is the basic red wine of the region.
Rosso Piceno Superiore DOC is the “big brother” of Rosso Piceno. The main difference between them is that Rosso Piceno Superiore has to age at least one year in barrels, which results in more intense and vairegated aromas. Furthermore. Rosso Piceno Superiore is made in a much smaller area, in fact in just 13 communes it is permitted to produce it.
Falerio dei Colli Ascolani DOC is a white wine produced on the hills surrounding the Medieval town of Ascoli Piceno. It’s a blend of local grape varieties (20%-50% Trebbiano, 10%-30% Passerina, 10%-30% Pecorino, up to 20% non aromatic white grapes). Sometimes the wine is simply called Falerio DOC. The appellation was created in 1975 because back then there was no DOC appellation for white wines in Piceno. The traditional blend consists of equal parts of Trebbiano, Passerina and Pecorino. Much of Falero is exported abroad.
Offida DOCG consists in three variants: Offida Rosso, Offida Pecorino and Offida Passerina. Offida Rosso used to be a only a DOC wine but because of its huge success on the national and international market it was awarded DOCG status in 2011. Offida Rosso a blend of at least 85% Montepulciano and the wine has to age for at least 24 months. Offida Pecorino is made with at least 85% Pecorino and Offida Passerina with at least 85% Passerina. Many wineries tend to produce varietal wines.
Marche IGT is an appellation for the entire Marche region. It’s less regulated and gives the wineries more freedom. International blends from Ascoli Piceno are always classified as Marche IGT.
Blind Tasting Highlights
The blind tasting was split into three parts. First we tasted 12 2013 Offida DOCG Passerina, followed by 20 2012/13 Offida DOCG Pecorino, and by 4 2011 Offida DOCG Rosso. Giving you my tasting notes on all 36 wines would be too much (and probably quite boring) so I’ll just share my personal highlights. Prior to attending the blind tasting I was not very familiar with Passerina. This ancient autochthonous grape variety is mostly grown in Le Marche and Lazio. Italy is home to an abundance of grape varieties and I love discovering more and more of them.
2013 Tenuta La Riserva Offida DOCG Passerina. Nose: Oranges, tropical fruit, very intense. Palate: dry, crisp, mineralic, notes of passion fruit, citrus and bit of herbs, harmonic, lingering finish.
2013 Velenosi Villa Angela Offida DOCG Pecorino. Nose: Salvia, apricot, lime. Palate: dry, fresh, juicy, tasty, slightly mineralic, nice acidity, lingering finish.
2013 San Filippo Offida DOCG Pecorino. Nose: ripe fruit and flowers. Palate: dry, well-balanced, good minerality, complex, long-lasting finale.
2011 Aurora Barricadiero Offida DOCG Rosso. Nose: intense, vanilla, blackberries, black cherries, spices. Palate: dry, tannic, a little salty, good body, nice structure, lingering finish.
2011 Villa Grifoni Offida DOCG Rosso: Nose: intense, spicy. Palate: dry, great structure, nice acidity, well-bodied, harmonic, long-lasting finale.
This concludes part I. In part II I will write about some of the wineries I visited during my stay including La Valle Del Sole, PS Winery and Poderi San Lazzaro.
I was a guest of Vinea at Piceno Open. All views are my own.