This Italian White Wine Belongs in Your Cellar and It’s a Great Value

Posted on: June 1st, 2019 by

In the halls of legendary wines rewarding decades of patience in a subterranean cellar, surely reds reign supreme. Burgundy, Bordeaux, Barolo, and beyond. But at a recent media dinner I was flabbergasted by the ageability and affordability* of an Italian white wine: Garofoli Verdicchio. This winery is making surprising whites, recalibrating any notion that cellaring wines means plunking down loads of cash on trophy reds.

Vineyards in Montecarotto that grow grapes for Garofoli Verdicchio.

Verdicchio vineyards

Garofoli is located in the Marche, not too far from the Adriatic. It’s east of Umbria and south of Emilia-Romagna. The Verdicchio comes from hilly regions set back a bit from the sea, protecting vines from strong breezes.

Before I jump into the aged bottles, let me say a few words about the welcome wine, the 2018 Macrina ($15). This Verdicchio was fresh, medium-bodied, and not too acidic. I don’t know if it’s middle age but I’m a little less keen on white wines with enamel-chipping, gum-bleeding acidity.

Garofoli Verdicchio: The Eye-Opener

We shifted to the main (wine) course: Podium. This is Garofoli’s top Verdicchio; we enjoyed a few aged bottles. Ok, first we started with a more recent vintage, the 2015. It was kinda minty and licorice-y, with a Sherry-like body. Certainly not oxidized, but with a subtle nutty quality. Intriguing! Also I must note that this is an unoaked wine.

The next two bottles were the game-changers, ones that had me thinking of smashing all my expensive reds in the cellar to make way for some Garofoli Verdicchio. Ok, that sounds kind of psychotic. Forgive me, the aged Podium duo was so dang good I was out of my mind and prone to rash thoughts. Rather, I would drink all my reds to make room. Or invite my friends over to have a big cellar depletion party. (If I had a cellar, took a little artistic license there to make a point. Hey, I live a Brooklyn apartment that roasts in the sun. Maybe I could turn it into a Madeira facility in the summer.)

We drank the 2010 and 2004 side-by-side. At this point I’d like to introduce Gianluca Garofoli. He’s the fifth-generation winemaker and owner of his family’s eponymous winery. How rude of me not to mention him earlier, my apologies, Gianluca. I was reminded of his comment about Garofoli Verdicchio, specifically Podium: it’s like a “white Barolo.” Quite audacious to compare ANY wine to Barolo, let alone a white wine, but I was on board after sampling the duo of library bottles.

Step Up to the Podium

2010 was a cold vintage, while 2004 was a warm one. So I’d expect the former to be a little leaner and the latter to have more round richness. Though with the six years of age disparity, they’d be in different stages that might mute vintage difference. Anyway, the 2010 was rich, powerful, and full of tingle.

The 2004 was beguiling, like a collection of Stevie Nicks shawls. (Sidebar: She has a vault for all of them!) There was almost a botrytis (“noble rot”…focus on the first word not the second) type of honeyed richness with a tinge of funky intrigue. Big finish on the wine, some heft from alcohol in a good way from this warm vintage. (No burning.) A wine well-developed but certainly not fading. I don’t know if it would get much better, so I’d err on the side of opening and drinking the 2004.

Ooh, let’s get to the best part about the Garofoli Verdicchio: the price! A bottle of the 2016 Podium will set you back $26. Where else can you get a bottle with 15-years-plus aging potential for that amount of coin? (Maybe a few off-dry German Rieslings? Aussie Riesling/Semillon? Anybody?)

Ok, I’ve spent a lot of time on the whites but the rosé, called Kòmaros, was really good, too. It had something a lot of pink wine lacks: F-L-A-V-O-R. I’m guessing because it’s made from the Montepulciano grape. We had the 2018 and it’s 14 bucks. Very good deal!

The only bummer were the reds, the 2016 Piancarda and the 2012 Grosso Agontano. Both were too heavy and jammy. Not my bag.

CONCLUSION: If you are a drink-now kind of person, stock up on the Macrina and Kòmaros. Both are $15 and under and will make you happy all summer/year-long. If you have a wine fridge/storage, tuck away a few cases of Podium and start pulling them out after five years. I wouldn’t say no to an invite to either party, ok?

*In the context of the great red wines of the world, $26 is affordable. I know that’s still a lot of money to spend on a bottle of wine. But if you had $300 disposable wine income, think how many more awesome bottles you get to pull (and share) by getting a case of Podium.

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