Q&A With Central Italy’s Iconic Winemaker: Angela Velenosi

by Beth Graham

Angela Velenosi is founder and current director of Velenosi Vini in Italy’s Le Marche region. I spent an afternoon with Angela in Los Angeles, tasting some of her amazing, and very affordable wines. I also wanted to find out what inspired, and continues to inspire her, in her winemaking.

Q: You started this company when you were just 20 years old? What vision did you have or what led you to start Velenosi?

A: In the 1970s, people were abandoning the wine industry in rural areas to go work in the big cities. The Italian government stepped in and offered incentives to young people to encourage them to join the wine industry. This was my calling. I, along with my former partner, started Velenosi in 1984. It was, and still is, my passion. I’ve never looked back.

Q: So how did you learn the wine industry? Did you have formal training or a mentor?

A: I worked very hard to establish myself and learn everything I could about the industry. I started with very basic red and white wines and with a lot of trial and error, continued to build my portfolio of wines. I also hired the best of the best wine consultants to guide me in this process and help establish my roots as winemaker. 

Q: You were one of the first female winemakers in Italy. What were some of the challenges you faced?

A: Most wineries in Italy are inherited. I had to buy my way in and my resources were certainly limited. But I am tenacious and a hard worker and that has certainly helped others in the industry take me seriously as a winemaker. I worked, and continue to work, very long hours. 

In 2014, I was elected President of the Consorzio di Tutela Vini Piceni and in 2015, I represented the Marche region at the Expo in Milan. 

Q: Today, you are considered one of the largest family-owned wineries in Le Marche. How do you manage it all?

A: Running the day-to-day business is all-consuming, but I’ve been very strategic in surrounding myself with the best team. I’ve been fortunate to work with one of the best winemakers in the world, Attilio Pagli, for the past 20 years. He ensures that we’re producing the finest wines and that our process is streamlined. We produce about 2,500,000 bottles each year and export them to 52 markets around the world, under more than 30 labels. We’re not showing any signs of slowing down and I’m still just as passionate about this business as I was the day I started it 34 years ago. 

Le Marche is craddled between the Apennine Mountains in the West and the Adriatic Sea to the East. The terroir is diverse which lends itself to growing a wide variety of grapes. 

Velenosi currently produces the following wines:

Whites – Chardonnay, Passerina, Pecorino, Sauvignon Blanc, Treggiano, Verdicchio

Reds – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Montepulciano, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Sangiovese

Here were our wine/food pairings at the wine tasting in LA at Cafe del Rey:

Pecorino DOCG 2016 paired with Herbed goat cheese on marble rye toast

– 100% Pecorino aged in stainless steel was elegant and the fresh fruit was a great pairing with the earthiness of the goat cheese.

Verdicchio 2017 paired with Spinach and stone fruit salad with orange vinaigrette

– 100% Verdicchio was earthy, straw colored with floral and herbaceous notes.

Lacrima di Morro 2017 paired with Butternut squash and chocolate bread pudding with dried plum sauce

– 100% Lacrima was floral, tannic, and fruit forward which paired perfectly with the plum sauce.

Ludi Offida DOCG 2014 paired with Roasted peppered venison with shaved fennel and cranberry slaw with pernod dressing

– 85% Montepulciano, 8% Cabernet, and 7% Merlot with a long maceration on the skins and blended after aging. A perfect pairing and one of my favorites of the day.

Roggio del Filare Rosso Piceno Superiore 2013 paired with 48-day dry aged beef in mushroom sauce 

– 70% Montepulciano, 30% Sangiovese is a late harvest, single vineyard wine with the body to stand up to beef. 

Vernaccia di Serrapetrona DOCG 2016 paired with Almond flour cookies

– 50% is harvested and vinified with the other 50% dried for three months then fermented. They’re then blended for a third fermentation. A lovely end to a great meal!

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