Utopia from Montecappone, the modernity of Verdicchio
Montecappone is a solid and reliable estate where Gianluca Mirizzi produces Utopia, an amazing Verdicchio as this vertical tasting, which goes back to 2008, shows.
On a beautiful day in September, I was able to organize a visit to the beloved land of Verdicchio. I had wanted to do this for some time but work and organizational problems always got in the way. Those who have follow me for years know how much I love Verdicchio, so much so I named my English bulldog after it, and so I was very pleased to have gone to Montecappone, which belongs to the Roman wine retailer family Bonprezzi – Mirizzi headed by Gianluca Mirizzi. Gianluca moved to Jesi many years ago with his family to follow every step of production, a constant full-immersion experience. And it was he who was our “Virgil”, guiding us during our long visit to the vineyards, olive groves and the winery.
Montecappone was created in 1960 but the current owners only came into full possession in 1997. They own 40 hectares of vineyards, lease another six and have 17 hectares of olive groves. The cultivation of olives is not a secondary activity but rather a key component of the estate’s income. The extra-virgin olive oils they produce, whether they be a single variety or a blend, are very good and ever year have great success everywhere where they are presented.
Although their farming methods are not organic, they do seek reduce to the impact on the environment, with a great effort made to reduce the use of chemical substances to a minimum. Another family enterprise in the area of Jesi, the very new Azienda Vinicola Mirizzi (founded in 2015), is in the process of becoming certified organic. We will talk about this another time but it is sufficient to say now that the Verdicchio wines they produce are really very good and resulted in the estate to winning the Emerging Producer of the Year prize in the 2021 edition of DoctorWine’s Essential Guide to Italian Wine.
At the Montecappone estate the principle varietal is naturally Verdicchio but they also cultivate a significant amount of Montepulciano and Sangiovese. During my visit there, I tasted all the wines (as well as some oils), including some older ones. Here we focus on the estate’s showcase wine, Verdicchio Riserva Utopia, which we enthusiastically sampled in a vertical tasting of eight vintages, from 2008 to 2016 (the first vintage produced was 2007 but it is practically impossible to find today).
Utopia is a great Verdicchio, one which absolutely respects the characteristics of the varietal and, something that I personally really appreciate, faithfully reflects the weather conditions of that particular year. Each year is interpreted in a different way but enologist Lorenzo Landi, in agreement with Gianluca, never forces his hand when modifying its impact on the wines.
The winery has an enormous production capacity but serves to meet the estate’s current needs ad production protocols. The vats for fermentation and maturing the wines are of different sizes and are all stainless steel. This because they are harvest by precise zones, just before they ripen to a peak. This means processing small amounts of wine each time, continuously, day after day. For this same reason, even the old glass-lined cement vats are of a reduced sized. As soon as the grapes are harvested, with a yield of seven tonnes a hectare, they are subject to air-tight cold maceration at 10°C for 12 hours, which efficiently protects them from oxidation and allow for a greater extraction of aromas. After being pressed, the must decants statically at 12°C after which the wine ferments in stainless steel vats for 2-3 weeks at a temperature of 16°C. The wine is then transferred into cement vats, with the fine lees, to continue to mature for up to a year. This was the case up until the 2014, while starting with the 2015 harvest 10% ferments and matures in 900l barrels for the same period of time.
Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Classico Utopia Riserva 2016
97/100 - € 28,00
100% Verdicchio grapes. A straw-yellow color with bright and vivid green reflections. The bouquet is very expressive, intriguing and assorted with scents of anise, almond, linden and thyme, along with hints of white fruit and perhaps balsamic sensations. The mouthfeel is straightforward, distinct, consistent and dense with a strong flavor. Thanks to the pronounced salinity and basic freshness, this wine can be consumed in generous sips and has a very long persistence. A very great white, a great Verdicchio without ifs, ands or buts.
Bottles produced: 10,000
Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Classico Utopia Riserva 2015
95/100 - € 35,00
100% Verdicchio grapes. A straw-yellow color with bright, yellow reflections. The nose is expressive and assorted, with notes of ripe, white fruit, exotic hints and those of gorse, chamomile and elder. The mouthfeel is bold, glycerol, with a strong flavor upheld by an always present saline element and a freshness that makes it pleasing and its persistence long.
Bottle produced: 10,000.
Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Classico Utopia Riserva 2014
92/100 - € 35,00
100% Verdicchio grapes. A straw-yellow color with green reflections. The product of a small harvest and rainy season that produced a different aroma than usual, playing on floral notes and those of anise, almond and plums. The mouthfeel remains saline, fresh and nicely bold, pleasing and persistent. An excellent interpretation of a year that was absolutely not an easy one.
Bottles produced: 6,500.
Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Classico Utopia Riserva 2013
95/100 - € 53,00
100% Verdicchio grapes. A straw-yellow floor with bright and yellow reflections. The bouquet offers very expressive and assorted aromas: ripe, white fruit, Mediterranean shrubs, almonds and an interesting note of hydrocarbon mixed with scents of hawthorn. The mouthfeel is very distinct, bold and glycerol, upheld by a constant salinity and a freshness that persists all the way through the long finish.
Bottles produced: 6,500.
Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Classico Utopia Riserva 2012
91/100 - € 41,00
100% Verdicchio grapes. A straw-yellow color with green reflections. The bouquet is fresh but not expressive, floral and balsamic with light scents of exotic fruit and thyme. The mouthfeel is perhaps a little too bold, while remaining saline with a nice body, freshness and persistence. Good but without hitting the heights we have become accustomed to.
Bottles produced: 6,500.
Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Classico Utopia Riserva 2011
88/100 - € 46,00
100% Verdicchio grapes. A bold, straw-yellow color with very intense yellow reflections. The aroma is tenuous, fresh, with notes of cut grass and light almond, chamomile and balsamic sensations. The mouthfeel is not too light but short, undoubtedly varietal and typical but not that very interesting. Nevertheless, it is saline and has a nice persistence. A decidedly minor year.
Bottles produced: 10,000.
Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Classico Utopia Riserva 2010
94/100 - € 65,00
100% Verdicchio grapes. An intense, straw-yellow color with bright, yellow reflections and an ethereal and very assorted aroma: ripe white fruit, anise, thyme, rosemary, mint and a distinct citrus component. While sumptuous and rewarding, the mouthfeel is fresh and has a strong acidity with a persistence that seems endless. Truly, very good.
Bottles produced: 4,000.
Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Classico Utopia Riserva 2008
93/100 - € 56,00
100% Verdicchio grapes. A straw-yellow color with green and bright reflections. The bouquet is distinctly floral, balsamic, with notes of Mediterranean brush and a distinctly evident one of almond. The mouthfeel is classically good, rewarding, still very fresh and saline with an excellent persistence. Although 12 years old, this definitely doesn’t show it and I think it can even age some more.
Bottles produced: 4,000.