Sparkling Vernaccia Nera from Le Marche – An Exciting Discovery

For this mont’s #WinePW blogging group are discussion is entitled New Year…New to You Grape!

Camilla from Culinary Cam is hosting a discussion about the new wine grapes we discovered on Google Meet this Saturday at 11 AM ET.  If you would like to join in the fun just stop by Culinary Cam and she will be happy to give you the link.  

Here are the posts my fellow bloggers will be dishing about:

My “New to Me’ grape is Vernaccia Nera from Le Marche. I first tasted it this year at Hanukkah. Celebrating the festival of light with this wine was extremely interesting and felt appropriate because I tried the dolce or sweet version. A touch of sweetness to celebrate a holiday which is a testament to resilience seemed right.

Vernaccia Nera is unrelated to Vernaccia di San Gimignano or Vernaccia di Oristano. This red sparkler hails from Le Marche in Central Italy.. It is a wine I have been looking to try for years and thanks to Terra di Serrapetrona, I finally have!!

Floral, with fruit, pepper, and a balsamic note. It was totally unexpected and lovely with freshness, a creamy perlage, and a nice length. The version I tasted was a sweet or dolce version. They also make a drier one. The wine undergoes three fermentations- the first 10-15 days in steel, the second is with the grapes that have been dried using the appassimento method.

By law, 40% of the grapes must be dried but this winery uses 50% dried grapes. The third fermentation is done in the Martinotti method or charmat in autoclave. The wine is perfect with cheese and also with the Apricot Jello mold we have at every holiday meal. Cheers to the first of many sips of this grape.

Looking more deeply at Vernaccia Nera as a grape, I discovered that it is related to Grenanche or Garnacha, Alicante, and Cannonau. Genetically identical apparently but grown in isolation, they each have taken on their own characteristics. Garnacha is actually originally from Spain and perhaps the vine came to Le Marche when the Spanish ruled in Italy. I can’t find information about this anywhere but the wine has been well-known since the 1500s.

The Spanish ruled a large part of Italy under Charles, grandson of Isabella and Ferdinand during for well over 200 years so it is possible that Garnacha came over during this period.

On the palate, it did not remind me of these are wines but brought to mind more Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, also a red floral grape from Le Marche or Ruché, an aromatic red grape from Piedmont.

According to a few articles I red, Vernaccia Nera can also be found in Umbria and in Tuscany but this one from Le Marche is the only DOCG, the sparkling version, and the most well-known.

Vernaccia di Serrapetrona DOCG is very exciting to me and I was able to taste this wine because a friend of mine was at a tasting serving it and at the end of the day offered me a bottle. I mistakenly gave it to my Mother, thinking it was something else. She opened it and was shocked to find a red sparkler in her glass. I was thrilled and we and the rest of the family shared some at our holiday feasts along with one of her signature dishes.

Mom’s Jello Dish for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas

My mom always makes the same two Jello-based dishes for the holdiays. This is a very 1950s recipe. The whole family looks forward to these desserts even though one of our relatives is a professional baker. The extended family including the professional baker also look forward to them, meaning my 40+ great-aunts, great-uncles, uncles, aunts, cousins, second cousins and more. It is one of those dishes everyone expects us to bring. My sister and I have different favorites, mine is the Apricot or orange one which I am sharing with you. While hers is the strawberry, red one.

Serves: 8-10 people depending on the size of the portion

Total Time: at least three hours

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Refrigerate Time: At least 2 ½ hours best overnight


Apricot Jello Mold

5 cups of water

5 cups of sour cream

5 small packages of apricot jello

I 15 oz can of Apricot slices


  1. Grease mold pan, standard size
  2. Line the bottom with a layer of apricot halves
  3. Mix one cup of hot but not boiling water into one package of apricot jello
  4. Add 1 cup of sour cream
  5. Repeat this step until your mold pan is filled almost to the brim. At least 5 packages of jello, 5 cups of water and 5 cups of sour cream.
  6. Cream and stir until not bumpy
  7. Pour into the pan
  8. Put the remaining oapricots into a blender with a little juice from the can and blend.
  9. Add into the mold
  10. Refrigerate
  11. The mold should stay in the refrigerator for at least 2 ½ hours to set properly but it is best done overnight.


    • Martin – Thank you for reading. I loved the Vernaccia and I was really excited to try it because it’s a little off the beaten path. I would love to see what I can pair the dry version with. Cheers, Susannah

    • Camilla – You are a gourmet cook so I get it but we love this jello mold at our holiday tables. Finding the Vernaccia was super fun. I can’t wait to try a dry version too. Cheers, Susannah

  1. Love everything about this story – the unusual find that surprised (not pleasantly!) your mother, the sweet wine for celebrating Hanukkah, and the traditional 1950s jello mold. My MIL once made a cucumber/cottage cheese/lime jello mold, but no one in the family has brought that one to a family gathering in decades!

    • Linda – Literally I think we had a green jello mold at one of our initial meals but I don’t remember cucumber or cottage cheese, I will ask my Mom. David was strict to remind that this is a wine pairing session so I thought even if dated, it is fun to write about . Cheers to you and thanks for reading, Susannah

  2. I loved hearing about how you and your mom enjoy wine together. I miss having wine with my mom. Cheers Susannah.

    • Wendy – I feel very lucky that we have these times together. She and my Dad started me off on this journey. She drank a lot of Lancers and Mateus in the 1970s :). Cheers to you, Susannah

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