La Staffa, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva Superiore "Rincrocca"
La Staffa, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva Superiore "Rincrocca"

La Staffa, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva Superiore "Rincrocca"

Marche, Italy 2019 (750mL)
Regular price$47.00

La Staffa, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva Superiore "Rincrocca"

The Italian white variety on everyone’s lips these days—and, of course, in their glasses—is Verdicchio. This time-honored speciality of the Marche region has always been ranked at or near the top among indigenous Italian varieties, but lately, the wines have really found another gear: Each new vintage brings more critical acclaim, and the young proprietor at La Staffa, Riccardo Baldi, is among the most talked-about rising stars in the Italian wine community. So, whether you’re an old hand at Verdicchio (and maybe even remember when one producer sold it in fish-shaped bottles, to hammer home its seafood-friendly personality) or a newcomer, La Staffa is a name—and a wine—you need to know. No longer can Italian whites be relegated solely to the ranks of the “cheap and cheerful.” This is serious white wine with all the texture, tension, and aromatic complexity you could ask for, and it’s a terrific value!

But let’s be honest: It wasn’t always this way. Traditionally, if you were to uncork a Verdicchio in one of the Marche’s many seafood temples along the Adriatic Coast, you’d likely classify it among the best whites of your life as you snapped photos of the label. But was your impression the same when you encountered the same wine back in the States? Probably not. These days, however, that narrative is changing. Author/educator Ian D’Agata describes Verdicchio as “arguably Italy’s greatest native white grape,” and Riccardo Baldi is among those providing him with the evidence to support this thesis.

Baldi, only in his mid-20s, organically farms 12 hectares of vines in the town of Staffolo—one of the many communes in the province of Ancona that comprise the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi appellation (DOCG). Ancona is an Adriatic port city and a jumping-off point for ferries to Croatia and Greece, and just to its south is a magnificent stretch of coastline in the Parco del Conero, a national park. The “Castelli di Jesi,” or “Castles of Jesi,” are a series of medieval-era fortified towns, including the namesake commune of Jesi, that stretch inland into the foothills of the Apennine mountain range. The soils in the Castelli di Jesi are clay with limestone, with an interplay of mountain and maritime influences (the Apennines form the Marche’s border with Umbria on this part of the peninsula). Baldi’s vineyards are at 400-500 meters’ elevation, which helps preserve natural acidity in grapes over the course of a longer growing season.

And while Staffolo is about 40 kilometers inland from the Adriatic, the Verdicchios of the Castelli di Jesi area have kindred qualities to “coastal” whites from other regions of the world. Perhaps the closest analog would be Albariño from Rías Baixas or some of the other crisp, fragrant whites of Galicia in Spain; the two regions share a similar green lushness to their landscapes and a hint of seaborne salinity in their wines. “Verdicchio” translates roughly to “little green one” and indeed there’s a “green-ness” to the fruit character that may remind you of Austrian Grüner Veltliner as well. 

Baldi has achieved organic certification for his vineyards, which include an heirloom site planted in 1972 from which he sources fruit for “Rincrocca.” Comprised of 100% Verdicchio, the wine is fermented in a mixture of stainless steel and concrete, then aged on its lees for a year before bottling. It then ages another year in bottle before release, lending the wine a deep yellow-gold hue with hints of green at the rim. The aromas are flecked with green as well, as in green apple, green melon, lime peel, and green herbs, along with a touch of nectarine, chamomile, chalk, and wet rocks. To introduce another analog, Verdicchio offers up a similar push-pull of juicy, palate-coating texture and racy acidity found in Loire Valley Chenin Blanc: it leans toward medium-plus in body but zips up with freshness on the finish. Today’s 2019 is ready to drink now and over the next year or two with herb-and-lemon-drizzled seafood of every stripe: Simply pull the cork 10 minutes before serving in all-purpose white wine stems at 45-50 degrees and pair it with grilled or roasted branzino. This is one of those essential combinations every wine lover must experience. And this is an essential Italian white—don’t pass it by!

La Staffa, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva Superiore "Rincrocca"

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