Pievalta, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Classico Superiore, 2012
Sometimes it is about the simple pleasures. When I first got really excited about wine I was drawn to the more expensive, prestigious wines. The average price I paid per bottle started creeping up. Looking for something "unusual" for the Wine Rambler contributed to this trend. Over time though I got a little frustrated with this approach. After all, all these "special" bottles need "special" attention. They want to be carefully selected, properly photographed, precisely analysed and interestingly described. What happened to just enjoying a nice looking bottle with dinner without feeling the need to pay too much attention? This feeling led me to order more "drinking" and less "reviewing" wines, and recently I even managed to put an order in where the average price per bottle was below seven quid.
The wine you see above is one of these wines, although I put a little more effort into selecting it. After all tradition dictates that the first wine to be reviewed on the Wine Rambler each year does not come from Germany.
Why the Pievalta? First of all I like Verdicchio, amongst other reasons for its good acidity, and I still feel I have to make amends for ignoring Italy as a wine region for so long. This is really hard to justify - although I blame the cheap Prosecco and bland Pinot Grigio served to me in Munich in the 90s - considering the amazing variety of regions, grapes and styles of the country. The Pievalta comes from the Verdicchio die Castelli di Jesi DOC in the Marches region north-east of Rome. It is made in biodynamic style from grapes grown on chalky soil and fermented with natural yeasts in stainless steel tanks. The winery itself is relatively young - it was founded in 2002 by Alessandro Fenino and Silvano Brescianini - and apparently was the first in the region to obtain Demeter certification as biodynamic. Don't worry, I am not going to turn this post into a treatise on the pros and cons of biodynamics (although I appreciate sustainability and individuality in winemaking). After all this was about finding a friendly dinner companion, and not about lecturing. And the Pievalta certainly delivered on that front: light, with a clean straw-gold colour, refreshing, easy to drink, with some character but not attention seeking. In fact, at first it was a little muted on the nose, but I enjoyed its fresh spiciness ("würzig" in German is just the better word) and after a while fruit and hay aromas came through. Between apple, peach and a touch of mango I got an almost ozone-y whiff of the seaside and memories of my chilled sweet melon and chilli soup. Coupled with a light but lasting finish and a certain chewy texture you get a wine that drinks well, does not distract but neither bores you. Add some nicely cooked fish, fresh veg and a slice of bread and you have ingredients for a good evening - ideally on a terrace between rolling hills of the Marches, but it also works in rainy February in London.