November 21, 2022

Zaccarì 2020 – the story of Passerina vinified in oak barrels

Zaccarì's story is proof that you must never give up when you firmly believe in your ideas.
First of all the name: it is the nickname given to one of our distant ancestor which as a trademark has been handed down from generation to generation. In rural centers nicknames are widespread practice, so before being Vallorani we are 'those of Zaccarì' (the heirs!). Passerina is one of the most widespread and appreciated white wines in the entire Adriatic area. It is a very fresh wine, not very structured, delicately perfumed, floral and fruity notes, obtained from the native vine in le Marche and Abruzzo. It has always had the connotation of an aperitif wine and given the large quantity produced it was also nicknamed "debt payment" by the farmers themselves.

With my brother we have always believed that Passerina could have greater depth and freshness, that it would go beyond the limit of a "simple wine". However, quality work can only start from a well-tended vineyard with low yields. Hence the idea of a vinification, maceration, fermentation and ageing of eighteen months directly in oak tonneau. Clearly not being able to immediately sell a wine to which we have sometimes dedicated even 24 months of aging has had a strong economic impact, and for us it represented a limit because we offered it at a higher price than the market. Among other things, the grapes come from vineyards over 50 years old with low yields that can be translated into just over a thousand bottles produced. At the beginning, needless to deny it, it didn't run very well and we ended up with a full cellar. And so also the following year. My brother started to doubt the wine itself going so far as to suggest they stop producing it. Disappointment and discouragement accompanied me. I couldn't understand why a wine that was capable of expressing greater depth, freshness and persistence wasn't understood. But the harsh law of the market is like this. We had reached the third year of production with poor results. Maybe it was time to accept the evidence.
The turning point. In Fornovo. Early November 2017. At the winegrowers' market. A gentleman, Xavier, appears to me, wearing eccentric clothing, speaking French, he begins to taste our wines and to ask me a few questions, and while tasting Zaccarì I glimpsed a smile that I didn't know how to interpret. Accustomed as always to having to justify the winemaking choices, I was already on the defensive. He had never heard about the Passerina grape and by tasting it, to my great surprise, he immediately showed a particular interest. Hence the question that took me by surprise: he asked me how many bottles I had available because he intended to buy them all to distribute to his customers in France. At first I thought it was a joke. He pressed me expressing all his enthusiasm for a wine that winked at Burgundy but overlooked the Adriatic thus demonstrating that he knew the Italian territory well. I was incredulous, a little confused and happy: in short, I had nothing left of what could have been the last vintage produced, 2014. Back home we decide with my brother to try again and instead of giving the mass in the blend we decided to follow up with the new vintage: after all we really liked it as it was and given the few bottles we had we decided to let restaurateur friends, wine merchants or particularly curious customers to taste it. Months later another episode occurs which once again left us speechless. We were at Vinitaly, waiting for an American distributor in San Francisco, he told me that he had tasted Polisia in New York and would like to taste our other wines. I proceed with the tasting and while I replace the empty bottles with full ones from under the counter, I decide to take Zaccarì too, of which I had brought a few bottles. The distributor smiles at me, grabs the bottle in his hand and tells me how much he appreciated this wine tasted in a Paris restaurant. I returned the somewhat embarrassed smile because I was moved, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Colli del Tronto: seeing that people on the other side of the world spoke well of a wine that is little or nothing appreciated at home, I could hardly believe it. It goes without saying that even in this case a good part of Zaccarì, together with our other wines, flew to California! Back home we decided to let those who already knew our production philosophy and wanted to taste something different from the usual taste Zaccarì during visits our cellar. At the same time we changed the labels on the bottles: we strongly wanted to create a connection with local artists, a synergy of intent, to highlight the character.
For Zaccarì we chose Emiliano Patalocchi's painting "Cactus hunter" because we wanted to get the message across that only those who dare to take paths less traveled, stepping out of their comfort zone, can achieve unexpected results. In any area of life, trust me! We began to offer it more and more convinced of the extraordinary capacity of this vine and without any kind of media or social media advert. Appreciation is always nice but above all to offer a version of Passerina that shakes off the label of easy wine. Today our Zaccarì is in great demand, and has also found space in the wine lists of some starred restaurants. For our part, due to the limited quantities that we produce only in certain years, we find ourselves today having to limit sales.
Isn't it incredible?
And we were about to stop producing it!