Giving value to esoteric, so-called indigenous grape varieties, is becoming more and more a trend in the wine world. Here we will talk about a couple of grape varieties that are lesser known but that give some very interesting white wines.
At the end of January, Marco Santori, the owner of Tenuta Santori in Le Marche, was my guest at #WinesOfItaly #LiveStream. Marco is a young winemaker who started out his wine producing adventure only a few years ago. I first met him when I attended the wine event #Autochtona which is organized every year in Bolzano. As I very much like his wines and his approach, I convinced him to be a guest at my live stream.
The image quality in the replay video is very low, but I hope you enjoy listening to us anyway.
Old meets New – Winemaking in Le Marche
Tenuta Santori is an organic winery situated in Ripatransone, close to Grottammare in Le Marche. Marco decided to recuperate old vineyards belonging to the family and to build a new winery thus starting out his winemaking adventure in 2012. Since then he has bought up some other vineyard lots comprising now a total of 15 ha (37 acres).
Marco’s aim is, indeed, to give value to the territory in which he is located and to fully focus on native grape varieties. He is a very dynamic person and has united heritage and tradition with a more innovative view on winemaking. He stresses that his winemaking experiences abroad have helped him to better understand how to combine his heritage with a more modern vision.
Marco mentioned that the territory in Le Marche is very particular because within a radius of 40 km he is surrounded by mountains of an altitude up to 2000 m.a.s.l. and hills on one side, and the sea on the other side. Le Marche is a bit of a hidden gem along the Adriatic coast, tucked in between Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo, and Emilia-Romagna.
Marco cultivates the grape varieties Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Pecorino, Passerina, and Trebbiano. Thanks to the location close to the sea and the favorable exposition, Marco can produce elegant and well-structured red wines and white wines with a beautiful minerality. Le Marche is a region which is indeed known for its white wines. Even though it is a region who has been living a bit in the shadow of other more promoted and well-known Italian wine regions, it seems to be up and coming for the moment.
Passerina and Pecorino
Passerina is a grape variety that together with the Pecorino is produced within the denomination of Offida DOCG (denomination of controlled and guaranteed origin). The denomination Offida DOC gained its DOCG status in 2011. They are the two most important DOCG’s for white wines in the Piceno area in Le Marche. As grape varieties, they are completely different from each other.
The Passerina has a very high yield. In the past, it was given the nickname “pagadebiti” because it was the grape a lot of the local farmers cultivated in order to pay their debts. It permitted them to have a secure income from year to year.
Pecorino, on the other hand, has a quite low yield. In the past, it suffered a low period where it even risked extinction due to its low productivity level. During recent years, a lot of research and work has been made in order to recuperate and restore this important grape variety being native to Le Marche.
Pecorino is, furthermore, a grape variety with a good structure contrary to the Passerina which gives lighter wines. Still, there are some common denominators for the two grape varieties, such as their freshness and good acidity level.
Passerina as Sparkling Wine
An interesting wine to look out for is Marco’s sparkling wine, Passerina Spumante Brut. It is a 100% Passerina wine produced with the Charmat method, i.e. in autoclave. According to Marco, the Passerina grape is very suited for the production of sparkling wines. This is a popular wine which appeals very much to the general wine lover.
The Red Wines from Tenuta Santori
Here I will only briefly mention the red wines that Marco produces, as you can listen to more about this approximately 20 minutes into the interview below. His Rosso Piceno DOC is called Ziziphus and it is a blend of 40% Montepulciano, 40% Sangiovese, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.
For those of you who want to read more about the historical background regarding the production of French grape varieties in Le Marche, see Boccadigabbia – A Winery in the Wake of Napoleon.
His other red wine, the Rosso Piceno Superiore Zizarè has the same blend as the above mentioned Rosso Piceno. They are wines where the fruity notes together with the notes from the grape itself and, to a certain extent, the under vegetation are predominant.
Next year, he will launch a new red wine, namely the Offida Rosso DOCG. This will be a 100% Montepulciano wine and serve as a sort of flagship wine among his red wines. So look out for more news about this wine next year!
To learn more about Marco and his winemaking at Tenuta Santori, you can listen to the episode below.
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