Although I've said it before, it bears repeating that while the Italian wine industry is unique, the main reason is that growers all over the country work with indigenous varieties. In a world where more and more products - be it wine, food, or whatever - start to become similar, it is wines made from varieties such as Dolcetto, Lagrein, Friulano, Greco, Fiano and hundreds, perhaps thousands of others that stand out as products that reflects the true legacy of the land. These are wines that reflect the soul of the farmers that work with these varieties.
While I've tasted thousands of wines made from indigenous varieties over the course of my 50 trips to Italy, I'm always finding new ones. Recently, I tasted a white wine from Puglia that I had never sampled. The wine is from Masseria Li Veli and it is made entirely from the Verdeca variety.
Masseria Li Veli is located in Salice Salentino in southern Puglia and has begun a special project called "Askos" for limited production wines made from varieties that are threatened with extinction; Askos is a wine jar and is the symbol for this project. The first red is from the Susumaniello variety and now we have a white, Verdeca.
This initial release is the 2010 and the wine is a blend of 90% Verdeca and 10% Fiano Minutolo; the designation is IGT Valle d'Itria. Deep yellow in appearance, due to skin contact, the wine has aromas and flavors of tangerine - this is quite dominant in the nose and very attractive - as well as dried pear and yellow flowers. Medium-full, the wine, aged solely in steel tanks, has a rich mid-palate and a long and flavorful finish with very good acidity. Displaying excellent complexity, this is a delicious white with lovely balance and style. I'd pair this with a variety of foods, from sea bass to roast pork or chicken. It is tasting out great now and will offer a great deal of pleasure for the next 2-3 years. For $18, this is a remarkable wine and an excellent value.
Lest you think that wines such as this are meant only for those looking for something very unusual, this is a real-crowd pleaser and I'm sure that people who like Chardonnay with little or no oak would love this wine. Bravo to Masseria Li Veli for producing this wine and to Dalla Terra for importing this wine into the United States!