On Walkabout in the Marche

Every woman has a Shirley Valentine moment in their lives if they are lucky. Mine came during my solo walkabout in Central Italy, July before last. The only difference between Shirley’s solitary table and chair on the beach at sunset, and my experience was that there were two of us. Two ladies “d’un certain age”, feet in the sand, being served the most amazing parade of simple, jumping fresh, fish dishes and nattering about wine, our families and the world in general, at the local sailing club. On the darkening Adriatic horizon, the twinkling mast lights of a line of small fishing boats were out catching the next day’s dinner.

The lady in question was the lovely Daria Garofoli, the matriarch of the eponymous Garofoli family, winemakers in the Marche, who was, just that morning, off a flight from Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo, by way of a tasting in Northern Europe. An indomitable lady.

The Garofoli family have been making and selling wine for generations in Loreto, the extremely imposing Marian shrine town, high on a hill above the sea near Ancona. The magnificent Basilica is home to what is reputed to be entire home of Our Lady, transported during dangerous times, by angels, to Italy, for safety. Older generations sold wine to refresh the pilgrims climbing the steep hill to the town.

The Marche is a part of Italy often overshadowed by its better known neighbours, Tuscany and Umbria, but is stunningly beautiful. The hinterland is the thickly wooded Appenine spine of the country, but right on the coast is the striking hill of Monte Conero, which drops straight down to gorgeous beaches, many only accessible on foot. Monte Conero is the true home of the luscious, fleshy and very friendly Montepulciano grape variety. The Garofoli Piancarda and its big brother the super intense but elegant Agontano are 100% Montepulciano and other more entry level wines, such as Montereale, are a blend with Sangiovese or a single varietal Sangiovese. These wines are perfect accompaniments to red meats such as beef, venison and the native wild boar, cinghiali.

The white Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is quite distinct with its crisp, citrussy style masking quite considerable ageing ability. It is a far more serious wine than its popular “La Lola” green waisted bottle would suggest; so called because it was said to be a tribute to Gina Lolabrigida! The serious Podium can hold for several years, with intriguing evolution, suitable for chunky, meaty fish dishes, and the lighter, fresher Macrina is just perfect for enhancing shellfish dishes.

Garofoli also make a Montepulciano and a white Pecorino from nearby Abruzzo as well as a wide range of other wines, suitable as house wines with a difference. As with all Italian wine, consuming with local food is so much more rewarding than just glugging it back. Considering that pasta, pizza and risotto are now firmly planted in many Irish families’ cuisine, what better to match than a local Italian wine?

Loreto itself is a charming place to spend a few days. The piazza in front of the Basilica is spectacular, though tightly guarded by police and army. The door to my delightful Airbnb apartment was just five steps down from the piazza so I felt very safe! Lovely little restaurants and smart shops abound but it was definitely not over touristy.

Down at the beach under Monte Conero was a lovely seafood place which hired out smart beach furniture. The azure water looked so tempting, but being on my own, I decided not to swim and am still regretting it.

Daria is not only peripatetic, but solved my tech problem in seconds. I was driving a new Jeep, and with my ten year old car, I was completely unaware of these new-fangled automatic keys that lock the car as you walk away and open it on approach.

Mine was the sole car in a vast public car park, so anybody looking out of the windows of the giant walls circling the town, would have been puzzled by the sight of an elderly Irish lady running round her car in circles, like a demented hen, trying to lock the car. Daria saved the day!

Gianluca, Daria’s son has taken over the day to day running of the winery, though he still has to travel a lot to support his overseas customers with tastings and sales calls. His uncle and father are still taking part on the home front, so it is a truly family enterprise.

           

The Garofoli range is also available in presentation gift packs which are very smart. They are ideal for festivities, golf prizes, corporate gifts and magnums of Agontano are particularly impressive. It is advisable to order these as early as possible in the year.

Our next blog will move North to the impressive Dolomites.

By Monica Murphy