Bringing Italy to Chicago – Francesca’s Marche Wine Dinner

Everyone has heard of Tuscany and Umbria but fewer people have heard of Marche which is the wine region just east of Umbria and right off the Adriatic Coast of Italy.  Blessed with similar calcareous soils and those famous rolling hills, this is a region waiting to be discovered.  Francesca’s Bryn Mawr will highlight this region at their bi-monthly wine dinner series on June 29 at 7pm. 


You can expect terrific wines from Marche (pronounced Mar-kay) as the grape varieties grown here are Sangiovese, Montepulciano (both are red grapes), and Verdicchio (a versatile white grape which finds one of its best expressions in Marche).  Marche’s diverse climate of extreme cold in the north to Mediterranean temperatures in the south produces quality wine styles for every taste.

Sangiovese is the central grape used in famous Tuscan wines from Chianti and several other regions in the central part of Italy.  Sangiovese is thought to be quite ancient and its name means “blood of Jove”.   It is a high quality grape with high acidity, robust tannins, and typical flavor expressions of dusty red fruit, leather, and dried herbs. 

Montepulciano is a vigorous red grape that produces deeply colored wines with supple, ripe tannins.  I find this grape a tad softer than Sangiovese which may explain why the two grapes complement each other so well in blends.  There is also a warmth and rusticity in Montepulciano that I’ve always liked.   Incidentally, if you’ve heard of the wine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, this wine confusingly does not use Montepulciano but is based on Sangiovese instead. 

Verdicchio is a unique white grape that shows zesty minerality, nervy acidity, and flavors of apple, peach, and mandarin orange.  Its home in the Castelli di Jesi DOC (Marche’s largest quality wine-growing region) produces many styles of this grape from dry table wines to concentrated Passito wines (made from dried grapes). 

 Garofoli is the featured producer at the Francesca’s wine dinner and the following wines (and dishes) will be served:

 Komaros Rosé 2015 – 100% Montepulciano grapes which are given brief skin contact to obtain its striking coral-pink color.  A delicate wine in nature with refreshing flavors of cherry and white peach.

                 Served with:  Fried squash blossoms with herbed ricotta

 Macrina 2015 – 100% Verdicchio tasting of mandarin orange, peaches, and apples backed by lively acidity.

                 Served with:  Arugula salad with marinated artichokes, shaved cow cheese, and lemon-honey vinaigrette

 Podium 2013 – 100% Verdicchio which is elegantly structured with flavors of citrus, yellow fruit, and slight honey notes.  This wine is fuller in body than the Macrina with a long lingering finish.

                 Served with:  Stewed clams, shrimp, and scallops in a light tomato-chili broth with saffron scented orzo.

 Farnio Rosso Piceno DOC 2012 – 60% Montepulciano and 40% Sangiovese tasting of ripe plums and black cherries with subtle tannins.  Aged in stainless steel, this wine is light on its feet and aimed at early drinking.

                 Served with:   Fennel dusted tuna with caper-tomato tapenade and Nichol’s Farm greens

 Pian Carda 2013 – 100% Montepulciano from Monte Conero which is known for its high quality and chalky clay soils high in lime.  This wine is aged in traditional oak for a year before bottling making it more robust and age-worthy.  A brilliant ruby color, this complex and elegant wine tastes of brambly red fruit, plums, and cherries, and earthy minerality. 

                 Served with:  Grilled Bavette steak with roasted butterball potatoes, red onions, veal demi-glaze, aged balsamic


                 Served with:  Assorted homemade Italian cookies

I have attended many wine dinners and particularly like Francesca’s as they are very low key, informal, educational, and offer excellent value for the price ($59).  The last dinner I attended there featured wines and cuisine from Sardinia which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Plus I discovered a new favorite wine in the Terre Brune Carignan.  If you’d like to attend, please call Francesca’s Bryn Mawr at 773.506.9261 and make a reservation.

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