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Pass the Passerina

Last month, we talked about Zibibbo, an ancient grape being rediscovered. This month, we present another diamond in the rough, an ancient grape varietal indigenous to the Marche Wine Region of Italy known as Passerina.

Vinyard in Italy with grapes and wine bottle under cloudy sky

Passerina does not make a bold wine like Verdicchio or Pecorino, it rather presents sheer elegance in your glass. Until recently, Passerina was mainly used as a blending grape to add that characteristic elegance to other white Italian wines.

In fact, the grape was called pagadebit (pay debt) in recognition of its ability to render cash flows to farmers for its generous harvests. Wines made primarily of Passerina now present a great value.

Most Passerina vines are still sited in the Marche Wine Region, located in the central-eastern part of the country bordering on the Asiatic Sea. In general, wines from Passerina are defined by aromas of white flowers and delicate herbs including thyme and sage, with hints of apricot, pear, peach and honey with a pleasant salinity from the Asiatic Sea breeze.

At Metro Wines, we have “Rivafiorita” Passerina from Madonnabruna. Winemaker Carlo Petracci hand selects his estate grown fruit later in the ripening season and blends 85% Passerina, and 15% Fiano and Pecorino. The result is an elegant and complex wine that delivers notes of white flowers and stone fruits. The well-balanced acidity and fruit provides a long, complex finish.

“Rivafiorita” Passerina was recently presented to The Asheville Wine Focus Group hosted by Metro Wines. Open to the public, the Focus Group meets on the first Wednesday of each month and considers four wines to add to the selection at Metro Wines. “Rivafiorita” was wildly popular with the entire group. One participant described the wine as “covering your entire palate at once, a blanket of flavor!”

Madonnabruna was born and continues through generations as a family business. Passerina vines were first planted in 2012. The family says: “We at Madonnabruna have always had a great respect and concern for the ecosystem that surrounds us. From this commitment, our wines are born, expressing the flavor brought by the sea breeze, the acidity of the clay soils and the color of the sun.”

The pairing potential for Passerina is endless. Recently, a well known chef served “Rivafiorita” with this menu: Osso Buco braised with root vegetables, Italian Pork Sausages with sautéed red pepper, sweet onions and basil, Prawns Piccata with red polenta and Fontina cheese, roasted fingerlings with parmesan and scallions and braised celery with pancetta and tomato!

But this full-bodied white pairs well with everyday dishes too such as salmon, pasta in cream sauces and mushrooms. And Passerina is absolutely perfect with a basil and pine nut pesto! The winemaker recommends that you serve his wine at 55F in a large format glass to enjoy the nose!

Not easy to come by in this country, at the time of this writing, Metro Wines is one of the few shops to offer this bottle!

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