The Lovely and Unheralded Wines from Offida

Glass of Offida Wine in the Square

Glass of Offida Wine

Offida is a modest commune in the southwest portion of the Marche region of Italy. Offida is home to fewer than 6,000 residents and roughly 450 hectares (1,112 acres) of vines that comprise the Offida DOCG. The area has been settled since at least the 7th century BC and it is unclear if this area produced wines of any significance during the time of the Roman Empire.

If your Italian wine guide was printed in the previous century you will have a difficult time locating Offida within its pages. Offida was not recognized with a DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) until 2001 and one decade later they earned top status becoming a DOCG in 2011. See our Italian Wine Primer for more details.

The Offida DOCG offers two varietal white wines made from Pecorino and Passerina (85% minimum for both) and a Rosso made from Montepulciano (85% minimum).

Pecorino, native to Marche, was all but extinct until a small handful of estates in Marche and Abruzzo gave the varietal attention in the 1980s. It wasn’t until this century that plantings increased to commercial levels albeit still quite modest.

The most recent statistics show that barely 3,000 acres of Pecorino vines exist primarily in Marche and Abruzzo with modest but growing vineyards in Umbria and Lazio. I predict that the number of Pecorino vines will double in the coming decade as the variety is gaining a strong following among winemakers in central Italy.

Pecorino Vineyard in Offida

Pecorino Vineyard in Offida

The grape’s name meaning “little sheep” was given due to the legend of grain sheep and shepherds wont of eating the small green berries from the hillside vines. There is no link between the Pecorino cheese of the same name but the cheese and wine do pair perfectly.

Pecorino produces wines with crisp acidity, aromatics that include thyme, sage, and melon with flavors of apple, pear, and citrus.

Passerina, like Pecorino, is a grape native to central Italy. There are roughly twice as many Passerina vines as compared to Pecorino growing in Italy. Passerina is perhaps more widely known for the sweet wines it creates rather than the dry whites made in the Offida DOCG.

Passerina is primarily grown in Marche with less plantings in Lazio and Abruzzo. The dry wines made from Passerina are very aromatic with bright tropical notes and vibrant citrus flavors that accent the naturally high levels of acidity.

Offida Rosso is made primarily or entirely with Montepulciano and lesser amounts of other approved red grape varietals such as Cabernet and Merlot. Offida Rosso must have a minimum alcohol by volume of 13% and it must be aged for a minimum of 24 months with 12 months of this period in cask.

Offida Rosso is one of just three DOCG wines made primarily with Montepulciano. The other Montepulciano DOCG wines: Conero (Marche) and Colline Teramane Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzo).

Montepulciano grapes in Offida

Montepulciano grapes in Offida

The best known Montepulciano wine by far is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. These wines range from simple, cheap, and cheerful to deep and complex wines worthy of cellar aging. Most wine drinkers are familiar only with the simpler wines made with Montepulciano so the wines from Offida Rosso would be quite a surprise and likely a very welcomed surprise. Learn more about Montepulciano.

At the moment it is bit tricky to locate wines from Offida in the USA. Offida Pecorino is perhaps the easiest to find on American store shelves while Offida Rosso is quite ellusive at the moment. Ask your favorite wine merchant to track down a few bottles. These wines are prime for wide acceptance in the USA as the wines are quite easy to warm-up to and the prices are more than fair selling for well under $20 a bottle.

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