The Wine Drinker

This is the Dead Letter Office of my wine writing. These stories ended up not fitting on our company's Facebook page (Piedmont Wine Imports) or website,, for reasons that I think are clear once you scroll through a few posts. Less professional musings, impressions that ultimately never got past the rough prototype stage. Um... enjoy!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Notes on Rio Maggio Telusiano

I’m very jaded regarding wine. I taste just too many wines from estates operating at a high level to get overly enthusiastic about particular products. For wines I consider drinking with meals at home or would consider serving at Lantern, very good has become the norm. I’m very spoiled. It’s only human to lose enthusiasm for something that you are constantly exposed to, which is one fair argument against Salon Champagne and Osetra caviar for breakfast, among many others. Pity us in the food business, constantly exposed to a quality of products most people consume infrequently. But ennui is a tangible thing.

But I’m very excited about Rio Maggio, so excited that I sold six cases of the wine at my store in the first two weeks that we had the product. And really we could have sold more. We were out of stock most days thanks to our overenthusiastic promoting. This is a very special wine, from a winery that is new to me. Admittedly it’s easier to get a thrill out of the totally new, and I do wonder a little if I would be over the moon if the wine was made by a producer I’d tasted a dozen times in the past. But I think I might be. There’s a moment of “wow” in tasting Rio Maggio, when the citrus/saline aromas intensify into a very exceptional ripe/fresh overload that wipes out the possibility of not paying attention. The wine steps over the line of what should be possible from a food product with a kind of hypernatural vividness. It’s saying “I’m made of really perfect fruit, dammit, and you’re going to be aware of me.” Talking wines, wow. Maybe time to look at some hard facts.

Simone and Tiziana Santucci are the proprietors at Rio Maggio. Giancarlo Soverchia is their consulting oenologist. Simone’s father Graziano originally planted the vines here, which have a perfect southeastern exposition in a hilly area between the provinces of Ascoli Piceno and Macerata, an area of the southern Marche north of the town of Montegranaro. The family bottle 1,100 cases annually of this vibrant white. They feel that 2005 was a particularly successful vintage for the property, and I can’t argue with them. Being the first vintage from Rio Maggio that I’ve encountered I do not know if the obvious quality in the glass is a sign of enlightened winemaking or perfect weather, but either way the wine offers a lot of immediate appeal and charm. Fermentation of this white occurs in stainless steel tanks at cool temperatures to preserve freshness. The Marche is stylistically a border zone, with whites that seek to mirror the fresh flavors of northern areas like Friuli and the Veneto, and reds that are often plump in a typically southern Italian way.

The Marche is a region along Italy’s Adriatic coast too often overlooked by drinkers of Italian wine. And, to be fair, quality is uneven at best in the region: even well-regarded subregions like Piceno and Conero suffering from inconsistency and frequent abuses of oak. Add to that notably poor vintages in 2002 and 2003 and it could seem like the Marche isn’t ready to take a place among the top wine zones of Italy. On the other hand, there are hidden gems, more than enough of them to keep an adventurous drinker busy. And the prevailing mediocrity in the zone has a moderating effect on prices for even the better wines, to our benefit.

Crudo is a specialty in many restaurants along this stretch of the Adriatic coast. Winemakers invariably love to eat, and I firmly believe this white was shaped with raw fish in mind. Tuna, sea urchins, anchovies, swordfish drizzled in olive oil with drops of balsamic. If you’re looking for warm food, a well-made brodeto from the region would also pair nicely here, but personally I think the perfect freshness of Rio Maggio deserves very clean raw flavors.


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