As we prepare for Thanksgiving, many of us are searching out good, but different wines that will not break the bank. Italy is a country blessed with so many exciting wineries in all of its regions. Two Italian regions that I am particularly fond of are located along the country’s eastern coastline—Marche and Abruzzo. Both regions produce some outstanding wines, with Marche, the more northerly region, better known for its white wines and Abruzzo more renowned for its red wines, although each region produces both.
Umani Ronchi is a family winery, founded in Marche in 1957 by Gino Umani Ronchi in the Classico zone of the Verdicchio grape variety—Castelli di Jesi. A few years later, Mr. Umani Ronchi sold his winery to the Bianchi/Bernetti families (related thru marriage). Umani Ronchi’s main wineries are still located in Castelli di Jesi, and in the nearby Conero region, by the Adriatic Sea. In the 1970’s, Umani Ronchi doubled its estate and replanted 85 percent of its old vines. In 2001, the winery purchased some vineyards in northern Abruzzo. Today, Umani Ronchi is one of the largest wineries in these two regions, with its wines imported into over 60 countries.
Umani Ronchi’s principal wines are its white Verdicchio, its red Rosso Conero from Marche and its red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Abruzzo. All of Umani Ronchi’s vineyards are organically farmed. The Bernetti family still owns and opeates the winery, with President Massimo Bernetti and his son, Michele Bernetti. It is Michele who actively runs Umani Ronchi and promotes the wines. I recently met with Michele Bernetti in New York, and tasted seven Umani Ronchi wines—first three white, and then four red wines.
Umani Ronchi “Centovie” Pecorino 2017 (Abruzzo, $18): Made from 100% Pecorino, it is a new wine for Umani Ronchi; it was first produced in the 2015 vintage. I happen to love Pecorino; it grows mainly in Marche and Abruzzo, but Michele Bernetti prefers the Abruzzo version. Pecorino is the perfect apéritif white; it has a light greenish tinge. is fresh, vibrant, with great acidity, and is medium-bodied. Centovie is a small village in Abruzzo where the Pecorino variety is grown. Since Umani Ronchi only recently began distributing its Pecorino in the U.S., it might be difficult to find, at first. 90
Umani Ronchi “Casal di Serra” Verdicchio Vecchie Vigne 2017 (Marche, $31): The Verdicchio variety reaches new heights with this wine, made from 50 year-old vines planted in the early 1970s. Umani Ronchi favors full ripening, not picking the grapes until mid-October. The resulting wine, 100% Verdicchio, is full and complex, with so much citrus flavor, accompanied by great acidity. I loved this wine! It was easily the wine of the tasting for me. And retailing at $31, it’s a really great value. 97
Umani Ronchi Verdicchio Riserva DOCG “Plenio” 2017 (Marche, $31): Umani Ronchi’s Reserve 100% Verdicchio is aged longer than its other Verdicchio wines, and is a richer wine, more full-bodied and elegant. I did think it was exceptional, but for me the Vecchie Vigne is the better wine. Plenio retails at the same price as the Vecchie Vigne. 94
Umani Ronchi “Cùmaro” 2015 (Marche, $37): Umani Ronchi’s most important red wine, Cúmaro is made in Marche’s Conero region near the sea, in Umani Ronchi’s revitalized winery in the city of Osimo. Cùmaro, a Rosso Conero DOCG wine, is made from 100 % of the Montepulciano. grape It was first produced in the 1985 vintage, as a complement to Umani Ronchi’s Verdicchio wines. Umani Ronchi does not release its wines until they are ready to drink; this 2015 Cùmaro, released just this year, is perfect to drink now. It has some soft tannins, with good acidity. It is fully ripe, with excellent balance and structure; it should be fine for drinking for a decade or more. 94
Umani Ronchi “Centovie” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2015 (Abruzzo, $41): This is Umani Ronchi’s first vintage of its Montepulciano from its newly acquired vineyards in Abruzzo. Also 100% Montepulciano, at this stage in its first year of production, it resembles the winery’s Cúmaro, but is readier to drink. It has soft tannins, and has been made with ripe grapes, seemingly a trademark of Umani Ronchi’s wines, especially its reds. 93
Umani Ronchi “Campo San Giorgio” Conero Riserva 2015 (Marche, $71): Also from the Conero region, Campo San Giorgio is a single-vineyard Rosso Conero Riserva from a very small (2.5 acre) select vineyard that was planted in 1999, with the first vintage made in 2009. The wine, 100% Montepulciano, is aged in new oak for 12 months, and then transferred to large oak casks. This is Umani Ronchi’s most tannic red wine; it will be at its best with several more years of aging. Only 5,000 bottles are produced annually. It should last for decades, and may well merit a higher score with aging. 94
Umani Ronchi “Pelago” 2015 (Marche, $48): From vineyards in the Conero region of Marche, Umani Ronchi’s Pelago is a blended wine. It seems that almost every winery in central Italy makes at least one wine with Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot. Pelago, first produced in the 1994 vintage, normally has 50% Montepulciano, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10 % Merlot. This 2015 has a 45-45-10% ratio. Pelago is made only in the better vintages. The 2015 Pelago is drinking well now, still retaining its Italian heritage in taste. 92
Umani Ronchi’s wines, both white and red, are drinking better than ever. I have noted its vast improvement within the past two decades. Its Verdicchio Vecche Vigne 2017 is the most impressive white wine under $50 that I have tasted in a very long time. It reminds me how underrated Verdicchio wines still are. A good Verdicchio, such as Umani Ronchi’s Vecche Vigne, is one of Italy’s finest white wines.