A crisp white from the Passerina grape and poached Sole are John Ducker’s wine and food matches for July 2016.

John writes:-

The summer’s heat of the Italian Adriatic provinces may well stand in sharp contrast to the cool and distinctly soggy day that finds me writing this, but lets hope the British July will provide at least some glimpses of solidly blue skies and suitably balmy weather in which to enjoy the crisp refreshment that a bottle of Passerina IGP 2015 can provide.
(The Europe-wide wine designation IGP indicates an intermediate status below DOC).

An unfamiliar name maybe and a real rarity, Passerina is a large-berried, almost seedless white grape variety grown in the southern Italian ‘Adriatic’ provinces of Marche, Abruzzo, Molise, and maybe patchily elsewhere ‘down south’. In fact I remember having first encountered local wines made 100% from this grape variety on a holiday in the Marche region of Italy more than a few years ago.

vineyards in abbruzzo

Vineyards in Abruzzo on Italy’s Adriatic Coast

I hadn’t seen the wine for sale in the UK which is hardly surprising given that a couple of reference books in my possession on Italian wines ignore it completely, consequently I hadn’t thought about the name Passerina since. Imagine, then, my surprise and delight to find it recently on the wine shelves as a new introduction to the Tesco ‘Finest’ range at my local branch.   An instant sale!   Could my purchase even bring back memories of my visit to the wine’s sun-baked homeland?   The thought struck me as I unfurled my umbrella in order to get across the car park to prevent my being rain-soaked to the skin.

So can it? Here it is – gently chilled in a glass in front of me.   Prior to unscrewing open the bottle I had imagined the colour of the wine to have been enriched by the action of sunlight on grape-skins in its local vineyards, the hallmark of its aromatics to be as robust and ripe as the day-long warmth its Adriatic vineyard sites provides …. but no, this example from the Abruzzo’s Terre di Chieti region is a very crisp and cool customer indeed. Amazingly pale though the wine may be on the eye – barely coloured at all – it is certainly interesting, reflecting the most delicate of greenish nuances.

I find that the nose hints very delicately of almonds, the palate having an equal lightness of touch with fleeting suggestions of white peach, following on to a shortish but pleasantly dry finish. Airy freshness, delicacy and cleanness are the keynotes here as this particular example is very much a wine to be enjoyed in its first flush of youth – so there’s not much point in looking for great complexity or any evidence of oak treatment….if you’re me, you’ll want to sample its direct deliciousness straight away and not let it hang around!   Chilled down properly, this is ideal summery drinking either simply by itself or as a friendly partner for light-tasting dishes of poultry or fish, to which end I offer a recipe below that might well match it.

The name ‘Passerina’, incidentally, is shared with that of a small brightly-coloured bunting, a bird which apparently enjoys eating ripening Passerina grapes off the vine. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of them left for ourselves…. newly on the wine shelves at Tesco!

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN Italy (Abruzzo – Terre di Chieti)
NAME OF WINE Passerina IGP 2015
STYLE Crisp, youthful dry white
PRODUCER CVSC. (Abruzzo Co-operative)
ALCOHOL 13% abv
RETAILER Tesco Stores
PRICE £ 8.00 (Tesco Finest range.)



Given the crisp simplicity of the wine above I’m suggesting the following totally uncomplicated recipe which has a warmly herbal taste-twist:

Serves 4


  • 4 Dover Sole, cleaned, skinned and trimmed
  • 150 ml   extra virgin olive oil (allow a little extra for drizzling)
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 tblsps fresh thyme leaves
  • salt
  • pepper



Put the prepared fish in a deep-sided frying pan, add cold water just to cover together with a pinch of salt. Bring up just to boiling point then immediately lower the heat substantially and allow the fish to poach very gently until tender.

Remove and drain the fish, transferring it to a serving dish and drizzle lightly with olive oil and lemon juice. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile put the thyme leaves and a pinch both of salt and pepper into a bowl and progressively stir in the remaining olive oil.     At the point of serving the dish spoon this ‘sauce’ over the fish.   Serve the dish cold with a crisp salad alongside, together with some good crusty bread.