Ciù Ciù Offida Rosso Esperanto 2001
This week something completely different as I take a look far beyond the few wine regions with which I am truly familiar to make a brief examination of the Italian DOC of Offida. This region is located in Marches, which lies on the east of Italy’s central portion. The vineyards here are perhaps not so far from those that give us Chianti, Amarone or Barolo, but in terms of my familiarity with them they are perhaps worlds apart. I have had some wonderful wines from Rosso Conero in the past, another Marches DOC, although the last bottle I recall was in 2002, which perhaps illustrates how low the wines of this region are on my radar. I have never before, however, tried a wine from Offida; this fact would perhaps not surprise aficionados of Italian wine, as this is a relatively new DOC, being a 21st Century creation.
The red wines of Offida were once bottled and sold as Rosso Piceno, but this changed with the delimitation of the Offida region in 2001. There are in fact a number of different styles associated with the region, and the reds have their own Offida Rosso DOC, distinguishing them from the likes of Offida Pecorino and Offida Passerina, made using the two indigenous white varieties Pecorino and Passerina respectively. Offida covers 24 communes in two distinct areas, three in Ancona, very near the coast, and 21 communes in Ascoli Piceno, including the vineyards around the hilltop town of Offida, which has given its name to the DOC. The varieties permitted include the typically Italian Montepulciano, which must constitute at least 50% of the blend, and also the more international. Cabernet Sauvignon, which must account for at least 30%. In addition a maximum of 20% of other non-aromatic varieties are eligible for inclusion. Once fermented there is a minimum period of ageing stipulated, at least 24 months of which at least 6 months must be in wood, before the wine may be released onto the market.
I recently had the opportunity to see what Offida Rosso is all about, at least as interpreted by the brothers Walter and Massimiliano Bartolomei of the Ciù Ciù estate. They run their vineyards, which are situated at an altitude of 300 metres on calcareous soils, along organic lines. With advice from their visiting oenologist Pierluigi Lorenzetti they turn out a range of wines, including an example of the aforementioned Pecorino. The 2001 Offida Rosso Esperanto, named for the international language, is a blend of 70% Montepulciano and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine, which comes in a rather heavy-weight, broad-shouldered bottle, has an intense and dark hue when poured into the glass, leaving a dense, crystalline deposit in the bottle. There is plenty of character apparent on the nose, where the aromas come in waves, first black olives, roasted meats and bright yet smoky liquorice, and then tar-tinged blackberry and bramble fruits mixed with the rich aromas of honeyed new oak. Later, notes of animal and leather, and a slightly high-toned element creep in. It is hugely appealing, and this sense continues on the palate which has a great depth of texture and warm, ripe, rounded mouth-filling flavour. There is grip, and the structure of as yet unresolved tannins, with a very taut and incisive flavour profile like that on the nose, although with broader, warmer, more furry characteristics. Having said that, although the wine has acidity it is largely subsumed by the substantial weight and plush texture, and so this wouldn’t appeal to those looking for a sharper style of wine. But there is structure and something of a frame to it, with its bitter chocolate notes and firm sense of grip. I have to confess I find much here to enjoy, particularly the wealth of flavours that drape the bones of this wine. And it is a wine that may well display more with time. Very good indeed. 17+/20 (22/9/08)