Dorico Moroder, Montepulciano by the sea (1)

by Francesco Annibali 12/19/17
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Dorico Moroder, Montepulciano by the sea (1)

An area, Conero, underrated wine-wise. A producer, Alessandro Moroder, too small to be known. Let’s see what he has to say.

If it was not for the Monument to the War Dead acting as a dam, Viale della Vittoria (Victory Avenue), which cuts through the Passetto neighborhood, would run straight into the Adriatic. The road is an imaginary gangway, a connecting link between the city and its alter ego: the sea it has always faced. Speckled with lovely Liberty-style villas, Passetto is Ancona’s most elegant neighborhood. It is a reminder that even though in this region was oppressed the Vatican, a small (very small) sampling of the upper middle class was able to survive over the centuries. The repression of the Counter-Reformation was particularly brutal and this historic period explains the silent character of the Marchegiano people and their resistance to change.

But Ancona is an exception in the region having always been, geographically, cut off from the rest of the Marche. And this is what has made the Anconetani ‘Anconetani’ and not exactly Marchegiani. The wall that separates the city from the region is Monte Conero, a huge chalk-limestone peninsula covered in Mediterranean colors. It takes no more than ten minutes to reach the top by car and there you will find a countryside – rather a mountain - by the sea. At its feet, at the bottom of a pine-lined cliff, is the beautiful beach of Portonovo, a popular and elegant tourist destination only a couple of hours from Bologna. Portonovo has much to offer: a clean sea that immediately becomes deep; an extra-large and super-tasty variety of mussels called moscioli; excellent restaurants including the Clandestino of Moreo Cedroni; and a thousand other attractions.

At the top of the cliffs are the Montacuto vineyards that are the northernmost for Montepulciano. This is the most widespread grape of the Abruzzo and Marche regions and is the ampelographic base for Rosso Conero DOC wine and the more recent Conero Riserva DOCG both of which must be at least 85% Montepulciano. The rest of the blend is composed of Sangiovese, which rarely produces a good wine on its own but adds a floral component and dynamism to Montepulciano wines. The Rosso Conero DOC appellation was created in 1968 to legally recognize and distinguish the character and personality of Ancona’s red wine. It is a kind of marine Rosso Piceno cru, nourished by the chalky soil.

The Montepulciano here always has the varietal’s proverbial concentration but the tannins are livelier than those found in the wines of Piceno and Abruzzo (apart from the area of L’Aquila where the tannins are fresher). The result is a drier wine. In cooler years the tannins have difficulty blending into the structure but they always add a unique austerity to the wine. The bouquet of the wines here, aside from Marasca cherry, has notes of marjoram and nutmeg and aging adds a balsamic/wild sensations. In the southern and western areas of the appellation, Osino and Numana, the balsamic element is more pronounced because the soil has more clay and the exposures are more open.

The Moroder estate is in Montacuto and for the past 30 years has been, despite its small size, the standard bearer of the appellation thanks to an excellent ad consistent average quality level. Dorico has always been the estate’s top product and it is made using only their best Montepulciano grapes and matured in barriques, although in 2016 larger barrels were also used. With the 2015 vintage, Dorico became a cru of the estate’s oldest vineyard planted in 1969. While it is true that the characteristics of the Montepulciano grape and those from aging in barriques tend to separate once the wine is bottled, it is also true that with Conero the use of small barrels helps to amalgamate the tannins into the structure. The zone of Conero is not that popular among wine lovers and this despite the many good wines it produces.

In the beginning of the 1980s, Alessandro and Serenella Moroder left Rome for the countryside and today their children Marco and Maria are also involved with the estate as is the enologist Marco Gozzi, who may be young but has a vast international experience (Germany, Austria, New Zealand and Australia) and is a big fan of clean and complex red wines.

Alessandro is still firmly at the helm of the estate and active in both the vineyards and the winery.

DoctorWine: How did the Rosso Conero we know today come about?

Alessandro Moroder: The vines were acquired from the Rauscedo estate and neighboring nurseries in Friuli that in turn had gotten them from the Agrarian Technical Institute of Ascoli Piceno. It is difficult to ascertain exactly where they originated from.

DW: Conero is at the same time the red wine with the greatest potential in the region and one from the most developed area for tourism in the region. Yet despite this, over the past 20 years Piceno has surpassed Conero in regard to popularity and reputation among wine lovers.

AM: We are all well aware of this and it’s a shame. The production of Conero reds has declined over the years and in my case this was due to a lack of funds to invest in promoting it. Plus Conero has never had an estate that can act as a driving force, the way Caprai did for Montefalco Sagrantino or Ca’ del Bosco for Franciacorta.

DW: But Rosso Conero is also produced by some large wineries.

AM: Yes, but they have always focused more on Verdicchio. The trade press is also in part to blame because wine critics have all but ignored us in recent years.

DW: Why do you think that is?

AM: They have accused us of not having a stylistic uniformity something that, aside from microclimatic and geological considerations, I have not noticed. And this despite the fact that yours truly and other producers continue to produce some great wines.

(Tomorrow we will conclude our interview and follow it with a vertical tasting of Dorico).

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