#Giro2020 Stage 11 and the Marche Wines from Mario Brunori

News about Stage 10: After hearing that Simon Yates withdrew from the Giro because of a positive COVID-19 test, I feared he wouldn’t be the last. Tuesday morning, the rest of his Mitchelton-Scott team left the race upon notice that four staffers had also tested positive on the rest day.

Overall contender Steven Kruijswijk followed suit and the Jumbo Visma team opted to pull the entire team out of the race; whether for safety reasons or because they suspect there could be more positive tests to come, it seems like the right move.

Sunweb sprinter Michael Matthews is out too; same reason. My worry is that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that the Giro may not make it to the finale in Milan. What a crushing blow to the athletes, teams, sponsors, and fans. I’m wishing the best to all involved.

Now for the good news!

Did you hear the world’s biggest sigh of relief earlier today? It was Peter Sagan, who finally – FINALLY – won his first race of 2020. And what a victory it was: joining the break-away and helping maintain a breathtaking pace throughout the day, eventually he left his fellow travelers behind, pedaling alone to the finish line.

He didn’t claim the maglia ciclomino but edged ever closer: there are now only 20 points separating him from Arnaud Demare, on whose shoulders the jersey currently rests. Onward!

Almeida fought valiantly to defend the maglia rosa; could he keep it until the final stage? Every day he holds on to it, I root for him a little harder. There’s a long way to go yet, but I’ll be cheering him on.

Here’s a quick preview of what to expect on Stage 11 from Porto Sant’Elpidio to Rimini:

It’s another difficult day in the saddle as the peloton moves from Abruzzo to Le Marche and then on to the coastal part of Emilia-Romagna. My guess is it will be another day for the break-away, with the sprinters vying for more points in the tightening battle for the maglia ciclomino.

Stage Profile map: http://www.giroditalia.it

Wine from Central Italy’s Adriatic Coast: the Le Marche Region

The peloton continues on its northward path, leaving the province of Le Marche for Emilia-Romagna. Situated between the Apennine Mountains and the sea, Le Marche’s climate varies quite a bit, depending on where you’re located: it is continental in the north, near the capital of Ancona, but warmer and more typically Mediterranean the further south you go.  Its soils are calcareous; not surprising given that much of Central Italy was once submerged beneath the ocean. 

Compared to its more famous neighbor (Tuscany) to the west, Le Marche is quieter, with rural vineyards tended by small farmers.  In some ways it is a throwback to Italy’s rustic past, when everything was made locally, including your food and wine.  The region is often referred to as “Undiscovered Italy” because it remains authentic, genuine; a place that revels in the traditions of the past, welcoming those who want to take part in them.  It still has its soul, one that is unapologetically old-school Italian.

Brunori vineyards (winery photo)

About Brunori Wines

The Brunori family, whose ancestral home is the town of Cupramontana near Ancona, have always grown Verdicchio grapes, but it was not until 1956 that Mario Brunori began bottling his own wine. Not long afterward, he opened a wine shop in Jesi to showcase not just his bottles but those of his neighbors as well. The shop stands today, offering a selection of local wines from small producers.

The Brunori family (winery photo)

The Brunoris presented their first vintage (1975) of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore in Bordeaux-style bottles rather than the traditional jugs used in the region at that time, hoping it would demonstrate their commitment to making wines of quality. According to their philosophy, this meant restricting yields, and hand-harvesting each parcel of grapes as it achieved ideal ripeness.

That tradition continues today, with the next generation at the helm: son Giorgio runs the business, daughter Cristina manages the office, and son Carlo is the enologist. In addition to Verdicchio (flagship white grape of Le Marche), the Brunori family grows other indigenous grapes such as Montepulciano, Sangiovese, and the mystical, frustratingly hard-to-track-down Alborada from the Lacrima di Morro d’Alba DOC.

Brunori Alborada Lacrima di Morro d’Alba

The Brunori Alborada Lacrima di Morro d’Alba is dark black cherry in color, and releases wafts of intense perfume with nary a swirl of the glass.  The first thing I smell is rose – the delicate yet insistent fragrance of a wild rose at the peak of its bloom.

Lacrima di Morro d’Alba is a highly aromatic red from Le Marche.

Then there is a little woodsy violet, a dash of cinnamon, and just a hint of dirt to keep those profuse aromas in balance.  On the palate, it’s all dark cherry and strawberry, with refined tannins and bright acidity.  The long finish, with notes of nutmeg and other spices, makes me think of a warm kitchen on a cold day, redolent of tasty treats in the oven.  This wine is 100% Lacrima and was fermented in stainless steel vats.  As with many aromatic varieties, oak is rarely used during the winemaking process, not even as a “condiment.”

The outright audacious aromatics of this wine gave me pause when it came to possible food pairings.  What do you do with all that rose perfume?  I decided not to overthink it, and went with a broccoli rabe lasagna, itself a simple dish with earthy, comforting flavors.  (See the full recipe from the New York Times here.)  The acidity of the Lacrima was a great complement to the richness of the lasagna, with its creamy béchamel and cheese.  And the dark cherry and strawberry flavors of the wine rounded out the bitter notes of the broccoli rabe without being overpowered by it. 

Brunori San Nicolò Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore

The vineyard comprises 6.5 hectares in the heart of the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico zone, surrounding the town of San Paolo di Jesi, an area particularly well-suited for grape cultivation. Vineyards face south/southeast on rolling hills, atop soils of sandy clay, which contribute richness and body to Verdicchio. Cool night temperatures ensure adequate acidity in the grapes and encourage the development of their unique aromatic compounds.

Verdicchio is crisp and lemony; perfect for roasted vegetables.

100% Verdicchio, with lemon yellow color fading to pale lemon-green at the edge. The aromas are lemon zest, honey, a touch of roasted almond, followed by an anise/fennel note. On the palate there are bright citrus flavors rounded out by almond butter and honey. This is a rather full-bodied wine that feels very rich on the palate but does not overwhelm, thanks to the balancing acidity which keeps it fresh. The finish is long, with lingering notes of fennel and lemon pith.

I have had this wine several times and know that it makes a dynamite partner with simply grilled fish with a spritz of lemon juice on top. But where this Verdicchio really shines is with roasted vegetables. The fennel notes in the wine bring out similar qualities in the food, highlighting both the sweetness and herbal flavors that emerge after a simple roasting in olive oil and salt and pepper.

See you back here tomorrow for a preview of Stage 12.

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