|Antonio Failoni at work during the harvest|
The wines featured were from Azienda Failoni from Le Marche in central Italy. The event was held in the White Hart in Chipstead.
After being introduced to us by Stephen, Antonio Failoni, the owner of the property and winemaker, ably abetted by Francisco who did the interpreting, made an interesting presentation of the wines of his estate explaining how the season, the land and the grape come together to influence the vintage.
This was illustrated vividly in the wines we tasted. The same wine, but from different vintages, displayed strikingly different characteristics while retaining a sense of the style and personality of the winemaker.
Antonio is no hereditary wine estate owner. Originally from Milan, his desire to make wine followed a holiday in the Marche region, where he fell in love with the landscape almost at first sight. He immediately set to work to build his dream - working literally all hours - patiently buying the land and the buildings, culminating in the launch of his own estate in Staffolo, near Ancona, in 1990. His wines are born of passion, of course, but also out of hard work, and a close affinity with the land and the vine. You can see that this a man who is at ease working among the vines and in the winery, and sense that he believes in what he is doing.
Particularly impressive were the two Verdicchios (DOC Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi), 2011 and 2012.
Although subdued on the nose they burst into life on the palate displaying citrus fruits (lemon and grapefruit - 2011) and more tropical and honeyed flavours (mango - 2012). This may have been because they a little cold. Antonio mentioned they should be consumed at around 12 C.
Perfectly drinkable now they are built to last (up to 10 years), thanks to the thick skinned Verdicchio grape which is resistant to fungal attack and contains plenty of aroma compounds, and will evolve in bottle if cellared well.
They both drink well on their own, but would go well with, say, spicy prawns.
The reds were no less impressive but also strikingly different. Two types of red wines were shown: Rosso Piceno DOC and Esino Rosso DOC.
Rosso Piceno: there is a story behind the name of this wine.
The ‘Piceno’ part is in fact a local name for a woodpecker, and of the people of the area, descended from the ancient pre-Roman peoples of the Marche region, who were known for their druids carrying a woodpecker on their shoulder in the style of an operatic pirate with his parrot.
A blend of 45% Sangiovese, 45% Montepulciano, and 10% Merlot this is a wine which spends time in Slovenian oak barrels before release, and provides a hit of tannin which would seem to mark this wine out for drinking with protein: roast beef, lamb,...
-Rosso Piceno 2009 - woody nose with flavours of cherries, blackcurrants and spice.
-Rosso Piceno 2010 - more fruit on the nose, and flavours of plums and damsons.
Esino Rosso: This wine is named after the river flowing through the valley below the vineyard. It is a blend of 60% Sangiovese, and 40% Montepulciano. Matured in French oak barrels there are less obvious woody notes and the tannins are subtle and rounded.
-Esino Rosso 2008 - Blackcurrant and dark fruits on the nose. Velvety tannins.
-Esino Rosso 2009 - Blueberries and blackcurrant, with a hint of vanilla on the nose, sumptuous fruit flavours and rounded on the palate with a long finish.
All the reds are drinkable now, but have plenty of structure, so can be cellared for several years. Perfect with any Italian dishes, but particularly good with any carnivorous fare, game (especially hare, venison), mushrooms and mature cheeses.
Largely based on the same Sangiovese grape the reds are also the perfect antidote to Chianti fatigue, offering the same freshness, crunchy fruit notes and structure, but rather better value for money and more authenticity than many of the Tuscan offerings.
Failoni also produces delicious olive oil from centuries-old olive trees.
All in all a very enjoyable evening, and I for one look forward to drinking Azienda Failoni wines for many years to come.
The wines are available in this country from the Essentially Wine shops or from the website