Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico, 2011
It could have been the cheap Pinot Grigio. It could have been all the talk about boring Super Tuscans. Or maybe it was growing up in Munich where everyone who wanted to be trendy drank Italian wine and annoyed the heck out of me with their cheap Prosecco talk. Whatever the reason, I don't tend to look to Italy when it comes to buying wine. Now, it has been established that I am a cool climate sucker and a certified acid hound, but a country with such a great wine tradition and amazing range of grape varieties and regions should have something to offer that I like.
Well, it does - and even more shockingly I found it in a supermarket.
If you follow our ramblings you will know that every once in a while I buy - and drink! - whatever cheap German wine I come across in British supermarkets. Usually these experiments don't go well, but I have on occasion been lucky with cheap supermarket wine from the new world. This time I went for Verdicchio.
I bought it because of the bottle shaped like an amphora. I bought it because it was reduced from £7.49 to £4.99*. I bought it because I had some decent feedback from friends about the "Taste the difference" wine range. But most importantly I bought it because of recent very pleasant encounters with Verdicchio in London restaurants that got me curious.
Verdicchio, you will have gathered that by now, is an Italian white grape variety. It is mostly grown in the Marche region of central Italy where it probably also originated from. Verdicchio has relatively high acidity and features lemon and citrus aromas and notes - all good things in my book. In Marche Verdicchio comes from two zones, Verdicchio di Matelica (further inland and higher altitude) and Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi, closer to the sea. Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi is mostly controlled by grower cooperatives and négociants, wine merchants who buy grapes from smaller growers.
It is through these channels that "my" Verdicchio made it to the supermarket shelf in London and eventually into my wine glass. And this was a very fresh experience - it smelled of citrus, lime and tangerine, fresh green and yellow fruit, spiced up with floral aromas (think spicy flowers, not too perfumed). The Verdicchio is as crisp on the tongue as it is on the nose, refreshing, with a good balance between acidity and substance of riper fruit flavours. In its rougher moments it reminded me of a rough stone taken freshly out of a cool spring sprinkled with citrus and ground almonds.
At the reduced price I consider this excellent value and even at the normal price I can recommend it to both Italo lovers and sceptics. Let's not tell the Munich smart set though!
* Be warned, many supermarket wine deals follow the "double the price and announce a reduction by 1/3 a week later" approach, so be careful!