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Straw yellow with sparkling golden flecks whose greenish nuances determine the name of the widely known Verdicchio varietal. Since the VII century, this white wine has been produced in the central Italian region of Le Marche on the hills between the towns of Jesi and Matelica. Formerly underrated, Verdicchio is now enjoying a wave of popularity thanks to its structure, good acidity and alcohol content.
In mouth, its aromatic suite is extremely complex with green and floral notes. The salient characteristic of this varietal is an unmistakably tangy and almond-tasting finish, which is agreeably bitter.
When of superior quality, this wine has extremely good ageing prospects and, in the case of favourable vintages, may even exceed twenty years. It offers aromas of citrus fruits, peach, pear and apple with a tropical touch and a lingering aftertaste. On swirling the glass, green notes of linden, elderberry, hawthorn and mimosa also come to the fore. The grassy hints recall broom as well as chamomile and, more rarely, even acacia and jasmine.
Barrel fermentation and ageing confer aromas of vanilla and charcoaled wood to Verdicchio, qualities which are further accentuated by the use of the barrique. In mature wines, it is frequent to perceive aromas of honey and yellow fruit preserves.
With Verdicchio grapes, it is possible to produce different styles of wine, thanks to a good structure which enables them to withstand several years of bottle ageing. With a core that is often more robust than most white wines, it has earned itself a reputation for being “a red wine disguised as a white”.
It is considered to be the classical wine for serving with fish, with a predilection for the salty aromas of the sea. Perfect with fish starters, except for “scapece” fish, because vinegar disrupts any type of pairing.
Traditional trenette pasta with Italian pesto sauce. Pesto demands a light white wine which is as grassy as the sauce itself. The essential oils of basil team up well with those of the herbal aromas of this wine, the most common of which are thyme and sage.
An ideal pairing is with Ascoli olives (stuffed green olives, breaded and fried) and bruschette with ciauscolo sausage (two specialities of Le Marche), coniglio in porchetta (rabbit deboned and stuffed) and fish soup.
When it comes to seafood risotto or paella and spaghetti with clams, Verdicchio behaves like a “red“ wine, despite being white. Indeed, its complexity and acidity well withstand the hint of chilli pepper which is called for in dishes with such a strongly flavoured sauce.
If still quite young or in a sparkling version, Verdicchio wines love to pair up with fried zucchini, prawn tempura, fried mozzarellas, fried chicken nuggets and chips because, like all bubbles, they help cleanse the greasiness on the palette and also contain the right amount of acidity.
With sushi: its sweet, tender and delicate taste is enhanced by the green freshness of a young Verdicchio.
With gratin of mussels or other shellfish. This is a highly successful pairing: the sapid flavour of the molluscs is offset by the smoothness of Verdicchio, especially when accompanied with ingredients tending towards sweetness, such as a breadcrumb topping.
What to avoid: Verdicchio with a Florentine steak and, generally speaking, any red meat in which there is a pronounced taste of umami. This would risk creating a metallic effect on the palate. The same goes for Parmesan cheese.
Anything barbecued with a bitter aftertaste.
Other wrong pairings include chilled desserts, creamy sponge cakes, choux pastries, millefeuilles and charlottes owing to the presence of liqueur. Remember the general rule: wine should be sweeter than the food it accompanies.