Cooking to the Wine: Azienda Santa Barbara Verdicchio and Tuna Melts



Today we’re celebrating the everyday bottle. Regular readers will know that I’ve recently been trying to work through some higher-end bottles. Today’s post is not that. Today I'm tipping my hat to a happy, easy-drinking bottle that does not break the bank. 

To be honest, most bottles we drink around here fit into this camp. I was recently reminded of how important these bottles are by this article by Eric Asimov. I fully believe that there are many, many wonderful dining experiences to be had that don’t break the bank. That’s the idea behind the 8 & 20 series, and I’ve shared quite a few inexpensive favorites here as well. (I’ll drop a few links at the end.)


The Azienda Santa Barbara Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi 2016 falls squarely into this company at just $12. It’s crisp, refreshing, and goes down easy. The kind of simple thing you want sitting right by you on a hot day. The Kermit Lynch (importer) site says it all: “ . . . this Verdicchio from Azienda Santa Barbara is not a profound, long-lived wine: this bright, zesty, lemony quaffer is destined for early drinking, at a price that encourages unlimited thirst-quenching pleasure for all.”


Verdicchio (now also known to be the same as Trebbiano di Soave and very similar to Turbiana) is a grape worth knowing about for several reasons. It tends to have high acidity, which makes it extremely refreshing and a wonderful food wine. Verdicchio tends to be bursting with citrus notes, crispy apples, plenty of minerality, and hints of almonds. The “little green one” gets its name from the greenish hue of the grape skins, which gives the wine a subtle, greenish hint as well. Maybe it’s the power of suggestion from the color, but I tend to get light herbal notes as well. Complex and ageable versions of the wine exist, as do bubblies and dessert options, in addition to the many easy-drinkers, like today’s wine. It’s a great alternative when you want to switch things up from Sauvignon Blanc.


Verdicchio has been grown in the Marche in central Italy since the 14th century, according to the Oxford Companion. It probably originated further north in the Veneto, but it travelled down and made itself right at home in the hilly regions running along the Adriatic coast. Legend has it that when Visigoth troops, under King Alarich (370-410), marched on Rome, they drank Verdicchio to maintain their strength. Sounds good to me.


There are two DOC’s for the wine in the Marche: Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and Verdicchio di Matelica. (There are also corresponding Riserva DOCG options.) Castelli di Jesi is the bigger of the two regions, and was generally known for producing the lighter style between the two,  however, yield restrictions were tightened in the area, generally increasing the quality overall.


 

THE PAIRING

Azienda Santa Barbara Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi 2016 is the first wine brought in from the region by famed importer Kermit Lynch. While there wasn’t that much information on the producer, they farm sustainably and the Kermit Lynch site notes that “owner Stefano Antonucci has a track record of creating benchmark wines from the Marche.”


 

True to type, on the day we tried this wine Greg and I picked up notes of green apples, lime, and light herbs on the nose. The palate matched right up with the crispy green apples (Greg called it “unripe apple core”) and lime making a comeback, along with some grapefruit pith, a pleasant bitter herb note, the lightest hint of white flowers. It’s was simple, but really refreshing with a hint of spritziness, and a tangy roundness to the mouthfeel.

This is the kind of wine you get specifically because it’s easy, refreshing, and it’s going to pair easily with many things at your table. It’s an ideal cafe wine. On this particular night, we decide to pair it with one of our at-home-cafe favorites–tuna melts. Maybe that’s more of a diner classic, but we jazzed it up to cafe status.




One of my favorite things about tuna melts is that they’re really easy to customize to my mood. The classic versions are always good, but I also love to add curry powder at times to give it a spicier note. In this case I decided to keep it simple, but with light additions to resonate with the wine. I added capers for the light green and slight floral notes, as well as a little lemon zest. I usually like to swap in Greek yogurt or sour cream for part or all of the mayo, in this case I also thought that the tangy quality of these two would resonate well with the wine.


A really easy way to make something as simple and basic as a tuna melt feel special is by upping the quality of the ingredients. Splurging for higher-end canned or jarred tuna is one easy swap–we like Tonnino. And of course then there’s the bread! I’d been working on a story on a couple of wonderful pop-up bakers in the South Bay, and had a beautiful loaf of country bread from Little Sky Bakery. That definitely upped the sandwich game!


The two made a tasty match.  Combined with a couple of bowls of tomato soup, it all made for a very chill and delicious evening.


THE GEEKY DETAILS

Quick details taken from Kermit Lynch’s Website:


Producer:    Azienda Santa Barbara

Vineyard:    30 year old vines, 25 ha
Soil:            Sandy tuffo
Aging:        Wine ages in stainless steel for 3 months
Farming:    Sustainable
Alcohol:    12%

Find more details on their tech sheet.



MONEY TALK


At $12 this a no-brainer House Wine.



OTHER POSSIBILITIES

There are so many. This will go easily with most seafood and light chicken dishes. I think this would be great with pesto or pasta primavera. It also will pair well with porches and warm days.



Photo credit on all of the food shots: Greg Hudson

Caper-Lemon Tuna Melts


Let’s be honest, this is a non-recipe. You don’t need detailed instructions and measurements for this. Here are guidelines for 2 sandwiches.



INGREDIENTS


4 slices of good bread

Shredded cheese, I use a mix of mozzarella and Parmesan
4 oz canned or jarred tuna
1 Tbsp (or as needed) Greek yogurt, sour cream, mayo or a combination
Dijon mustard (optional), to taste (maybe ½ a tsp)
1 Tbsp capers
Lemon zest, to taste
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Avocado slices


INSTRUCTIONS


1. Layer the cheese over two slices of bread. Arrange all four on a toaster oven baking sheet and lightly pre-toast the bread. (I like the bread to be crispy, so I like to get it going in the toaster before finishing it in a grill pan or panini press. It also helps get the cheese to melt evenly.)


2. While the bread toasts, mix together the next six ingredients in a bowl to taste.


3. Once the bread is toasted assemble the sandwiches. Layer the avocado and tuna mixture on the plain bread slices and top with slices with the melted cheese.


4. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a pan. Add the sandwiches to the pan and drizzle a little more olive oil on the top bread slices. Allow the bottom slice to get crispy and golden. Flip and repeat on the second side.


5. Remove from the pan a serve with a simple salad. 




*****

Quick postscript: I picked up this wine at Minimo in Jack London Square, here in Oakland, after a wonderful event on Sexism in the Wine Industry. Wanted to give them a quick shout-out for putting together such a wonderful and positive evening.

 

(Aside, I’m involved in planning an event with similar goals–I’ll hopefully have more information to share soon!)



*****

Join the rest of the Italian Food, Wine & Travel group this month in exploring this grape. Check out the rest of their posts.



Finally, for more great wine options that won’t break the bank, check out these posts:


Valentine's Date Night with Broc Cellars Love Red & a Cheese Plate
Kicking Off 2018 with Corbières and Minervois
Three Nights of Prosecco Holiday Fun: Carbonara, Sabering, Friends, with a Side of Pear Endive Spears
Cooking to the Wine: Tetramythos Roditis with Stuffed Calamari and Salsa Verde
Cooking to the Wine: Domaine de Majas Côtes Catalanes Blanc with Butter Poached Salmon and White Asparagus
Cooking to the Wine: Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico with Italian Meatloaf and Pasta Pomodoro
A Wine & Cheese Night #MadeinFrance
2 oz Pours: Campsite Dining
2 oz Pours: Looking at the World Through Rosé Colored Glasses
2 oz Pours: 16 French Wine Values
Cooking to the Wine: Casa Rossa Rosé with Sardine & Roasted Zucchini Penne 
Cooking to the Wine: Jean-Marc Brocard Sainte Claire Chablis with Clam and Burrata Pizza
2 oz Pours: Warm Weather Vibes 


As well as my regular 8 & $20 features on WineSpectator.com.




 


Additional sources used for this post:
The Oxford Companion to Wine via JancisRobinson.com
Wine-Searcher.com 
Vinpair.com
And : 

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15 comments

  1. I had never heard of this varietal before this event. I think I, too, have found an everyday wine choice.

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    1. It's so nice to find those easy go-to's :-)

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  2. Great pairing, as usual! And I'm interested to read more about the panel you're participating in. I hope you'll keep us posted on what's happening with that. Cheers Nicole!

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    1. Will definitely keep you all posted as things become more finalized!

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  3. Your tuna melts look anything but everyday! Still, I love a meal which requires no recipe and an easy drinking but authentic, affordable wine.

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    1. Thanks! This was definitely fast, easy, and pure pleasure :-)

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  4. Upscaling a tuna melt seems like a brilliant idea! I don't think I have ever had one with wine at all since they are usually a lunch item (and I don't generally drink wine at lunch, only at dinner). I can see how this wine-food pairing creates a new balance of flavors, though.


    I'm enjoying my visits to all the participants in this fun blogger event, seeing what they put with the wine.

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping in Mae! Join us sometime. Cheers!

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  5. I love tuna melts...and what a great idea to pair them with Verdicchio. Great job. Thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. Thanks Cam -- loved your take on a panzanella as well!

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  6. You are so right about Verdicchio as an everyday wine, it is a super value. I like how you also paired this everyday wine with a simple tuna melt with a few upgrade twists, my kind of weeknight dining!

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    1. Thanks Jane! And yes, so many night recently have been on the hectic side -- this hit the spot perfectly.

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  7. Love the simplicity of this pairing. Everyone needs an inexpensive bottle and easy meal prep time to time. Thanks for sharing! That event sounds interesting as well that you attended.

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    1. Thanks! Low stress and delicious was just the thing. And yes, it was a really great event.

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  8. Sounds good this Tuna Melt sandwich, I need to try that one. :-) And that it paired so well with the Verdicchio is no surprise. :-)

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