One of the questions I hear most frequently is, “What is the next big wine region?” Everyone wants to know from where they can next find great-quality wines at great prices, wines that haven’t become so commercially popular that their prices are driven primarily by market demand rather than production costs.
Surprisingly (although it should come as no surprise), the Old World is still selling some of the best value wines in the world. Portugal, Spain, France and Italy have been producing wine for so long, you would expect all of their undiscovered gems to have been uncovered years ago. But as the world becomes smaller, previously obscure regions are now making their way across the ocean to delight the palates of pleasantly surprised consumers.
While all of the countries mentioned above continue to impress me with “new” wines with great price–quality ratios, Italy’s Marche region blows me away. The white Verdicchio with its green amphora-shaped bottle put the Marche on the wine map decades ago. But the region has largely been ignored since then … until recently. It is impossible to overlook the Marche, since its wines are just too good and their prices amazingly reasonable.
Neglected by tourists, the region (on the eastern side of central Italy) is sparsely populated, but still one of Italy’s most serene and beautiful. Abundant pastures for raising cattle, sheep and pigs give the Marche a rural, relaxed feel. It might not have the cachet of Tuscany, but that may be why this region along the Adriatic is still able to offer wines at bargain deals compared to its Mediterranean big brother.
The quality of Verdicchio has improved dramatically, but the Marche’s diversity is making the biggest impact. Whites range from elegant and fresh Chardonnay to light and delicate Pecorino and Falerio. Red wines of vigour and depth based on Montepulciano and Sangiovese are deep ruby in colour, with full, round flavours of dark cherries and leather, and big soft tannins. Also amazing are the wonderfully fruity Beaujolais-like wines from the indigenous Lacrima grape.
Just as impressive are the “SuperMarche” wines built on Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah, which express the creativity and skill of the region’s winemakers. A nice alternative to the pricey Tuscan wines from the opposite coast around Bolgheri.
De Angelis, Le Terrazze, il Pollenza, Marotti Campi, and Oasi Degli Angeli are just some of the names to watch for. A few are already available, while others will find their way onto wine-store shelves over the next couple of years. Make sure you don’t miss out on these mind-boggling great wines. And keep this in mind … if these wines were from Tuscany, they would be double the price.
I can’t say enough about this producer’s wines — and they just keep getting better.
Rosso Piceno 2007 ($15.99) is all about freshness and flavour with ripe meaty cherry fruit and a hint of smokiness. A tremendous value!
Better still is the Rosso Piceno Superiore 2005 ($22.99), which shows intense colour and aromas of sour cherries with a touch of balsamic and tobacco. The flavours explode on the palate with a soft richness, finishing long with sweet spice and chocolate. I’ll take this over Merlot any day.
The Anghelos 2004 ($48) is a blend of Montepulciano, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, and it’s extremely generous on the palate, showing well-knitted mouth-filling flavours of cherries, vanilla, mocha and a pleasing smokiness. This would be a $100 wine if it was from the Tuscan coast.
De Angelis also does a great unoaked Chardonnay 2007 ($17.99) that has wonderful fruit and complexity.
Also great, but not yet available in Canada, are the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2005 and the stunning Oro Rosso Piceno Superiore 2005.
Marotti Campi Xyris Lacrima di Morro d’Alba 2007 (approx. $20)
Brand-new from Marotti Campi. This is a wonderfully fun red frizzante, really exuberant, with extreme fresh fruit and tons of blueberry and blackberry. You can tell it is made with Lacrima grapes, since it has that beautiful soft, sweet, fresh, floral, rose nose. Lovely dark red/purple colour with glowing brightness. Not serious, but very well made. Don’t dismiss this wine, it’s not silly. So juicy, so fresh, so pleasurable and so fun!
Owned by petroleum giant Api, this winery is continually improving under the guidance of winemaker Ilaria Tachis (daughter of legendary winemaker Giacomo Tachis). Particularly impressive are the il Pollenza 2003, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Cabernet Franc (15%) and Merlot (25%) with its lovely character, lush fruit, soft tannins and length, and the Pius IX 2004 dessert wine, which shows honey, apricot and orange-peel flavours and great balance between sweetness and acidity.
Oasi Degli Angeli Kurni Marche Rosso IGT 2006 ($120)
Wow! You really have to taste this wine to understand how remarkably great it is. One hundred per cent Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes and biodynamically produced. Raisiny on the nose, with ripe and concentrated black fruit, sweet tannins, multi-dimensional and completely seamless. A great long, fresh finish that lasts forever. This is the type of wine that makes you proud to be a part of the wine industry. Only 5,800 bottles produced.