Marotti Campi Orgiolo Lacrima di Morro d’Alba Superiore 2009

Marotti-Campi-Orgiolo-Lacrima-di-Morro-d-Alba-SuperioreThe Marche region of Italy lies on the Adriatic coast, hemmed in by its more famous wine producing neighbors – Abruzzo, Umbria, and Tuscany. Until slightly more than a decade ago, the most readily available product was Verdicchio, a white wine popularized by Fazi-Battaglia’s fish shaped bottles. Today, stellar and adaptable varietals such as Montepulciano and Sangiovese are the key players in the Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno DOCs, wines that have established themselves on restaurant lists and in the marketplace.

Compared to other regions, however, Marche’s lack of an identifiable wine identity relegates a unique native red such as Lacrima di Morro to obscurity. The name derives from the Italian lacrima, or tear, a reference to the juice that berries emit as they ripen; and the Arabic murr for hillside. So it is the “crying” grape grown on the hillside of the town of Alba, which signifies that it is faces east where dawn (alba) rises. Though vinified in the region since medieval times, during the mid-1990s a few intrepid producers championed the grape and saved it from extinction. They have tried various methods to enhance its potential, such as carbonic maceration, late harvesting, less juice-skin contact, even drying before fermentation to reduce the sugar/water ratio.

My first experience with Lacrima was about seven years ago, a bottle of 2002 Mario Lucchetti. The overall effect was so beguiling that I later understood why a winemaker stated that one should only drink it “in the presence of a beautiful woman.” There was no other wine to which I could compare it, though some, with whom I disagree, cite its Beaujolais-like qualities.

The first Marotti Campi I encountered was in Rome a couple of years later, a disappointing 2001 that had none of the vigor and singularty I’d come to expect from having sampled a few others versions in the interim. In hindsight, it may have passed its prime. But it didn’t make me turn my back on Lacrima or its producers, of whom there are a mere handful.

Fast forward to the one I recently found in the PLCB system, the Orgiolo at about $21. This exhibited the true characteristics of the varietal. Sharp, well-defined aromas of cumin, exotic herbs, dried roses and violets, even some dark tea leaves – a spicy, intoxicating potpourri. Distinct earthiness served as a backdrop to dark berry flavors laced with spice and a persistent macchia, sort of an Italian cousin to herbes de Provence. Tangy acidity was balanced by mildly dry tannins, all leading to a vibrant, fairly long finish.

Though it can stand on its own, like most Italian wines it is better suited for pairing with traditional food. Think roast pork with figs, porchetta with fennel and garlic, grilled white fish, and the many regional variations of pecorino cheese. 90-92