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Milano in Marche

Ampelio Bucci seems to embody the elegance and style of Milan. Yet, he is making an impact in that most un-Milan of places, the rugged hills, mountains and coastlines of Le Marche. Since the 1700's the Bucci family has lorded over their estate in Le Marche, but despite the long family history, only under the current generation have their vineyards been raised to greatness. The aptly named Ampelio (coming from ampelos, ancient Greek for vine) has transformed this estate into one of Italy's most interesting white wine producers and a leading producer of Rosso Piceno.

The large property, almost 1,000 acres, not only produces fine wines, but sugar beets, corn, wheat, sunflowers and an extraordinary extra virgin olive oil from the ancient Carbonella olive. Since 2002 all the crops on the estate have been officially certified as organic by the EEU. Ampelio has taken extreme care in his vineyards, refusing to tear up old vines even though their production is severely reduced meaning his yields are less than half that allowed by the DOC. Old vines from extraordinary vineyards farmed with great care of course produce exceptional grapes and Ampelio is to be highly commended for choosing a winemaking approach that brings these essences from the vine to the bottle. No barriques, only large well-used barrels touch his wines. The resulting verdicchio wines literally sing with complexity, richness and fresh acidity. His efforts clearly show the potential of verdicchio from the right vineyards in the right hands and decidedly make the point that barriques and their resulting oak flavors add only confusion to the richly honeyed flavors of verdicchio.

While the labels are similar, wines labeled only Bucci are the regular cuvees (and lovely they are), while wines labeled Villa Bucci are reserve wines from the oldest vines and best vineyards.

As excellent as the red wines of this property are, it is their exceptional and age-worthy Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico wines that make them stand out in the crowded world of wines. Their unique flavors, textures and complexity make delicious companions to the finest meals. They are among the world's finest white wines.

2000 Villa Bucci Riserva, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore ($35)
Bright light gold. Smooth crème brulee aromas open into toasted hazelnut, vanilla with touches of ripe oranges. Rich, yet firmly bitter on the palate. Creamy, nutty flavors blend with a lively touch of bitter orange and ripe mangos. The firm flavors dominate the full, but structured finish. An extremely balanced and complex wine that I recommend aging a few more years to allow all the components to grow and blend.

2002 Villa Bucci Rosso Piceno($35)
Bright light ruby, just translucent. An elegant, layered complex nose with touches of bitter and sweet plum, black cherry, blood oranges, spices and fresh mint. Exceptional balance and refinement on the palate as bitter cherry flavors dance with chocolate, sweet plums, spices and cranberries. The finish is long, and lively with each of the aromas and flavors repeating themselves. A lovely wine that is ready to drink now and over the next 5 or 6 years. Villa Bucci Rosso Piceno wine is 70% montepulciano and 30% sangiovese.