The TerroirMarche festival, which took place May 16-17 in Ascoli Piceno, was remarkable for a number of reasons.
Foremost among them was that this project, mounted by the eleven member wineries, represented the first concerted effort to draw attention to and raise awareness of the many excellent wines made in the Marches (Le Marche) and the people who grow, raise, and bottle them.
There were a number of notable speakers, including top Italian taster and author Sandro Sangiorgi, Slow Wine editor Fabio Giavedoni, and JancisRobinson.com editor Walter Speller, not to mention freelance Italian wine writers Paolo De Cristofaro and Giampaolo Gravina.
They all delivered memorable and stimulating talks and they presided over some great tastings.
But the most looked-forward-to tasting was, by far, the three mini-verticals of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, which included a flight of three wines from Pievalta.
Speaker Armando Castagno may not be well known among American and Anglophone readers. But he is a familiar face on the Italian Sommelier Association tasting circuit and he is — hands down — one of the finest presenters working the Italian wine scene today.
He delivered a phenomenal overview of Jesi and its wines. And he made a number of observations that surprised the attendees as much as it thrilled them.
The subsoils of Jesi, he pointed out, are roughly the same age as those found in the Langhe, where Barolo and Barbaresco are produced.
As in the so-called “Barolo-Alba” divide, the soil types can be generally dated as Tortonian-era and Serravallian-era (and Armando was quick to point out that Serravallian is the proper term, although Helvetian is still sometimes used by Italian wine pundits).
The age of the soils, he said in his talk, is one of the elements that gives Verdicchio its extraordinary ability to age and to evolve in the bottle (the oldest wine tasted that day was the 2001 Eremi by La Distesa and the now fourteen-year-old wine showed gorgeously in the glass).
He also made a point of noting that right bank Jesi subsoils are not tufo (i.e., volcanic sandstone) but rather arenaceous in nature, in other words, granitic sandstone.
Even though it’s often called tufo in Jesi, the difference is a huge one and it helps to explain why Jesi is able to produce such extraordinary wines with great structure, nuance, and longevity.
Chapeau bas, Armando, for such a great talk!
And congratulations and thanks to La Distesa and La Marca di San Michele for such a remarkable tasting!