The other night, I popped open a bottle of wine that was purchased simply because it was an Italian red under $15. I took a sip and thought it tasted pretty good. So I looked at the label to see what, exactly, I was drinking.
Okay, so it’s made from organic grapes.
I typed “Rosso Piceno” into Wikipedia. The region is so obscure the reference only pops up in Italian.
Onto more credible sources: Jancis Robinson, Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia and the Picenos Consorzio Vini web site. Here’s what I learned.
Rosso Piceno is a DOC – denominazione di origine controllata – in Italy’s Marche region. It was formed in 1968, with modifications made in 1997 and again in 2005, and was the first DOC in the Marche. This region combines with Tuscany and Umbria to form a belt around the country’s midsection.
Tuscany, of course, is among the world’s best-known wine regions and is home to some very fine (and pricy) wines. For savvy wine buyers, Umbria has a reputation as a good source for less expensive but good quality Sangiovese (the key grape in Tuscany’s Chianti wines.)
But Marche has long played third fiddle, and the quality could reflect that lesser status. But since winemakers began focusing on this region’s promise back in the 1980s and 1990s, this area has started to come into its own in terms of wine quality and value.
As in Tuscany and Umbria, Marche enjoys a temperate climate and hillside vineyards. The key red grapes are, unsurprisingly, Sangiovese and Montepulciano.
Rosso Piceno wines must be between 30% and 60% Sangiovese and between 35% and 70% Montepulciano. Other indigenous red varietals can comprise up to 15% of the blend.
The lovely wine I tasted from Saladini Pilastri is made of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Montepulciano, and ages for just four months in French oak tonneaux (700 liter barrels.)