Verdicchio, native Italian wine grape variety considered Italy’s best for white wine. Ian d’Agata ( 2019, p312) describes Verdicchio as a ‘native wine grape with international appeal [capable] of making ageworthy, site-specific wines.’ He rates Verdicchio with Carricante, Garganega, Fiano, and Trebbiano Abruzzese as giving among Italy’s best white wines. Its name derives from its green or ‘verde’ colour (see also its synonyms, below).

Where grown | It is grown mainly in Le Marche region (see below). It is also found in the Veneto (see list below), Lombardy (‘Lombardia’) and many other Italian regions. Le Marche: Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC. | Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC Classico Superiore. | Castelli di Jesi DOC Verdicchio Riserva DOCG. | Verdicchio di Matelica DOC. | Verdicchio di Matelica DOCG Riserva. | Veneto: Verdicchio can be included in Lugana DOC, Soave DOC, Soave Superiore DOCG, Recioto di Soave DOCG, Gambellara DOC, Garda Colli Mantovani DOC.

Green-something grapes | A number of Italian wine grapes like Verdicchio have ‘verde’, the Italian word for green in their name (Verdello, Verduzzo etc). This is because either grapes or wine have a strong green hue. In Verdicchio’s case this is true even in the case of its synonyms Verdone, Verzana, Verdetto, and Verzello (D’Agata 2019, p312-213). 

Family relationships | Verdicchio has close family relationships with two other white grapes, Trebbiano di Lugana (now called Turbiana) and Trebbiano di Soave. Trebbiano di Soave which is found in Veneto, and Verdicchio which is found in Le Marche are identical genetically, but each adapted over time to their very different habitats. It is best, D’Agata suggests, to think of them as biotypes, and they give different wines. A follow-up study showed that Verdicchio and Trebbiano di Lugana are not genetically identical. This prompted the Lugana producers to rename Trebbiano di Lugana as Turbiana. The conclusion says Ian D’Agata (2019, p313) is to think of Verdicchio and Trebbiano di Soave as biotypes, and both as varieties distinct from Turbiana.

Clones | R2 clones are  productive, and good for erveryday wine). | CSV clones have thicker skins and so are suited to late harvest and sparkling wine styles. D’Agata (2019, p313) finds the CRV clones give wines which are not particularly ageworthy. | The ERPT 155 and CVP 01-162 (for quality, wines with good ageing potential) are derived from Turbiana, hence D’Agata suggest the powers that be in the Jesi should refrain from using them.

See also | Incrocio Bruni 54, a crossing made from Verdicchio and Sauvignon Blanc.

Ripening | Verdicchio ripens slowly, and evenly.

Wine styles | Versatile. Verdicchio is classed as a semi-aromatic variety. Its grape skins are rich in catechins. This means if the juice is macerated too long the wine may be raw-tasting and bitter. Verdicchio also has potentially high levels of tartaric acidity, which contributes to its ageability and suitability for sparkling wines. It is one of the few Italian white wine grapes which copes well with oak ageing, which enhances its ageing potential and complexity.

Burton Anderson (1990, p171) points out that Verdicchio has the advantage of excelling as base for sparkling wine by both bottle and tank fermented methods. This is due to its medium-plus to high acidity levels. Styles for still wines range from dry to sweet. The still, dry versions are seen as the most serious, structured, full-bodied and age-worthy incarnations of Verdicchio. David Gleave (1989, p125-6) describes Verdicchio as like an ‘Adriatic Muscadat’ due to its salty, crisp, nutty characteristics and affinity with seafood. Verdicchio is suited to sweet styles too because it takes to noble rot fairly well and its acidity offsets the sweetness, although because it is a not an aromatic variety it lacks the complexity of Riesling or Zibbibo [Muscat of Alexandria (D’Agata 2019, p213). Both dry and sweet styles, young or old, show a sweet almond note verging to marzipan, from around 8 years after the vintage (D’Agata 2019, p313).

Typical wines | Verdicchio’s classic markers are gentle floral and herbal aromas and flavours. They are due to fermentation esters. Aromas and flavours may be modified by the presence of more fermentation esters eg isoamyl acetate (banana note), hexanoate (pineapple, pear, apple) and butanoate (apple, pineapple). The level of any riper tropical fruit notes (eg. pineapple) is linked to how much direct sunlight the berries received in the early stage of the growth cycle. In warmer, brighter conditions some grape varieties are more prone to develop hydrocarbon-like aromas and flavours than others. Others find floral and fruity notes in young wines, a note of diesel fuel with age.

Atypical wines | Contemporary wines, especially from Jesi, show increasing fresh citrus notes–especially lime, but also grapefruit–if subjected to gentle pre-fermentation maceration on the skins and in hyper anaerobic conditions. The problem D’Agata identifies is that such techniques risk the disappearance of Verdicchio’s traditional almond notes, which are linked to the traditional non-reductive winemaking of the past, meaning a degree of oxidation (D’Agata, 2019, p314). Modern Verdicchio wines from Jesi which show lime and grapefruit notes are being made with gentle pre-fermentation macerations and in the absence of exposure to oxygen. This has led to Verdicchio’s classic almond note becoming less noticeable or even disappearing completely. 

Not being Sauvignon, Verdicchio lacks the level of thiol (sulfahydril) needed to give reductively made Sauvignon Blanc its characteristic gooseberry and passion-fruit notes (D’Agata 2019, p314). Research by Di Lecce et al. in 2013 showed how notes of lime and tropical fruit are the result of the increase in anti-oxidant molecules and the synergy that exists between molecules such as 3-mercaptan-hexenol and 3-mercaptan-I-hexenol acetate (Fedrizzi et al. 2007), says D’Agata (2019, p314).

In the 2013 study Di Lecce and associates showed that skin contact in low-oxygen conditions leads to an increase in phenolics and glutathione and tyrosol in both must and white wine (but both glutathione and tyrosol, another antioxidant typical of white wines, were found to decrease in in older wines). So, contemporary Verdicchio’s with strong citrus notes get them from winemaking [rather the from the grape or terroir] (D’Agata, 2019, p314). 

Possible health benefits | Ian D’Agata (2019, p314) cites experimental data by Boselli et al. which shows a link between Verdicchio and help in treating liver disease. The study found that a purified extract of ethyl caffeate (caffeic acid), one of the main natural phenol antioxidants present in Verdicchio, helps reduce the loss in body and liver weight that would otherwise occur if exposed to a liver toxin called dimethylnitrosamine.

Verdicchio tasting note terms

Colour: Pale straw or sunflower yellow with a green tinge.

Fruit: Citrus fruit. Dried orange peel. Honeyed almost. Lemony apricot. Yellow stone fruit and a hint of laurel. Persistent fine bitter note balanced by intense fruit.

Flavours | Sweet almond, hazelnut, lemon zest, white flowers, white peach.Develops Riesling-like flintiness as it ages.

Savoury: Broom, camomile, camphor, oatmeal, salty, stony.

Bibliography

Dr Ian d’Agata, Native Wine Grapes of Italy (University of California Press, 2014).

Dr Ian d’Agata, Italy’s Native Wine Grape Terroirs (University of California Press, 2019).

Italian Wine Unplugged (Positive Press, 2017), p.138-9.