Wines and People
The Le Marche region has a lot to offer to wine lovers. There are 5 DOCG wines and 16 DOC wines. From the prestigious and famous Verdicchio, to the Vernaccia di Serrapetrona, from the Offida Pecorino to the Offida Passerina. Also: Bianchello del Metauro, Colli Maceratesi, Colli Pesaresi, Esino, Falerio dei Colli Ascolani, I Terreni di Sanseverino, Lacrima di Morro d'Alba, Rosso Conero, Pergola, Rosso Piceno, San Ginesio Many of these wines are little known outside of Italy but visitors to the region have a pleasant surprise when they try the local wine produced by many small aziendas and cantinas.
Curated by Mariano Pallottini
With its pebble beaches, dramatic valleys, rolling hills and tall mountains, the eastern central coast of Italy is a land of rugged and untamed beauty. At its heart sits the wine regions of Le Marche and Abruzzi, a region that is known as one of the greenest places in Italy.
With more wildlife sanctuaries and conservation land than anywhere else in Europe, much of this region is unkempt wilderness – the literal green heat of the entire Mediterranean. While the heights of the inland Apennine foothills have a much cooler, temperate climate, it’s the coastal areas where one can find the majority of people and vineyards.
These coastal villages and cities have been the home of a unique cuisine and winemaking tradition that dates back millennia, some even predating the founding of Mother Rome! Like many of Europe’s winemaking regions, Le Marche and Abruzzi have seen their fair share of trial and tribulations over the past century. During the Second World War, many of this area’s vines were destroyed by one man’s greed – Benito Mussolini. With dreams of making Le Marche and Abruzzi the center of his new Italy’s industrial power, Mussolini ordered many of this lands vineyards ripped from the soil to make way for factories and cities. Fortunately, much of this grand scheme never came to fruition, and once again Abruzzi and Le Marche are emerging as major players on the international wine scene.[...]
... The lovely Piceno hills are indeed the ideal for growing Montepulciano...
In the past ten years a host of small winemakers have started up production in the area of Piceno. Before winegrowers there used to sell their grapes to cooperatives but when these began having trouble some growers decided to convert their vineyards to different uses, while others set up their own wineries and pumped new blood and ideas into the sector. As I did in my piece on Piceno whites, here again I will focus on small producers, the craftsmen. This is by no means a complete panorama of the territory but I hope it will serve as an introduction, something to spark your curiosity to know more about this blessed area of the Marche region.
Montepulciano grapes are also used to make Rosso Conero and are, in any case, widely used throughout the Marche. It is a high-yield, robust and bold grape that gives a wine backbone, personality, structure and very long life. It is also very versatile but in order to obtain the best results it needs to be ‘tamed’ and this is not always easy. The following wines are made using diverse approaches and I hope I have been able to capture the different nuances. [...]
While Italy is one of the largest producers of wine in the world, its whites are often regarded as simple. Four regions in central Italy are making an effort to add more character and flavour to their white wines: Umbria, Italy's land-locked region famous for its Orvieto; Emilia-Romagna, home of Parma ham, Parmesan cheese and Bolognese sauce; Marche (pronounced mar-kay) and Abruzzo, two mountainous regions hugging the coastline.
Pecora, the Italian for sheep, gives it name to both the Pecorino grape and Italian cheeses made from sheep's milk. While an ancient grape variety, its tiny yields made it non-commercial and almost extinct until saved in the 1980s. Grown mostly in Marche and Abruzzo, its high acidity matches well with oily and creamy dishes.
Trebbiano is often added to a blend of more flavoursome grape varieties to perk up the acidity and add freshness. It is popular with olive oil-dressed salads with chicken, white fish or cheeses.
Verdicchio is derived from verde for the tint of a green hue the almost colourless wines can have. [...]
Produced in the Marche province of Macerata, Vernaccia di Serrapetrona Dolce DOCG is primarily made from Vernaccia Nero grapes and sometimes has some Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo added. These rare and unique red sparkling wines can be made in form dry secco or semisweet to sweet dolce as is the case with this wine. These wines undergo three fermentations that result in its spumante [read more ... click on the photo]
La Vernaccia di Serrapetrona is a sparkling red wine, the only one in the world which endures three fermentations. It comes from the native vine called “Vernaccia Nera” and was the first DOCG in Le Marche, recognized in 2003. It is one of the smallest DOCG in Italy. The denomination zone includes the entire municipality of Serrapetrona and in small parts two surrounding towns.
East-Central Italy’s most famous wine regions are the Abruzzi and Marche. In the Marche, the coastal area near Ancona, the most famous wines are the Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno. The Rosso Piceno is a blend of Montepulciano, Sangiovese along with some lesser supporting varietals. Rosso Conero is made with 100% Montepulciano and is considered among the most representative wines of that varietal. Incidentally, Montepulciano, made famous by Vino Nobile di Montepulciano usually only has about 15% of the varietal blended with Sangiovese.
Look – Deep dark purple, almost black and murky/inky in clarity with brick/brown and garnet hued edges. When swirled, the legs are initially slow and thick and then streak down the side of the glass.
Smell – Well developed and integrated with clear ‘old world’ style and aromas. Layers of strawberry and ripe plums, hints of spicy red pepper, toasted cedar and a distinct earthy herbaceous component.
Feel – Warm, smooth and dry; full-bodied with medium-mild tannins, med-low acidity, and a creamy/fatty feel.
Taste – Not all all fruit forward. Old-world subtle fruit with ripe plums, hints of sweet-tangy fruit, tobacco, leather and earthiness.
Finish – Warm and mellow with lingering flavors of its oak barrel regimen, earthiness and ripe plums.
Matthew Jukes recommended this wine in the Daily Mail, writing: “With simple, juicy red fruit and a lovely tang of acidity on the finish you might dismiss this wine as being rather one-dimensional, but there is charm and character here in this delightful little chap and it’s a bargain, too. A superb party wine for all palates I highly recommend Moncaro. (£5.59, Waitrose).”
Quality, respect for the environment and conviviality are the principal traits of Lumavite, a farm located on the beautiful hills of Rapagnano, near Fermo.
The Vidacilius is an excellent wine, blended from sangiovese, montepulciano and syrah grapes, strictly hand-picked. In 2012 the airline company Alitalia chose it for Bussiness class in its international routes.
This important wine is dedicated to an ancient great warlord of this land and rests in the wine cellar for 18 months in small barrels.
The 2009 vintage has a deep ruby color and aromas of blackberry, violet, musk and green pepper. Well balanced, warm and soft on the palate, with a pleasantly long finish. A braised veal is the suggested food matching for this wine.
Maybe it is just a coincidence, but here I am writing for the first time about Marche wines other than Verdicchio and my bulldog, whose name is Verdicchio, is a little nervous. But he has no reason to be jealous because my love for that wine is eternal. The fact is a proper journalist cannot ignore white wines that are rapidly gaining popularity among wine lovers, those made from Passerina, Pecorino and Trebbiano grapes, both single-grape wines and blended ones. Wines that owe much of their success to the recent, very strong interest in indigenous grapes, for which Italy is undoubtedly the world leader. Unfortunately, many here apparently have not understood this and seem to be doing everything possible not to invest in them as much as they should. In order to understand this reality I needed Virgil who could guide me though the sweet hills of Piceno in search of those small producers who over the past decade have dedicated themselves to making wine from these grapes. [...]
Vetri in Philadelphia one of the best meals of my life
The food at Vetri in Philadelphia is simply breathtaking. I had the great fortune to dine there last night with my great friend and client Paolo Cantele.
There were many extraordinary wines poured last night but the one I can’t stop thinking about was the Bonci 1998 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, [Le Case] selected by my friend Steve Wildy, the restaurant’s wine director (one of the sweetest and most gifted people in the trade).
This fifteen-year-old expression of Verdicchio seems to be drinking at its peak (and perhaps has more years ahead of it): rich and complex, it was such a great example of an indigenous Italian grape (one of the few) that benefits from small-cask aging. It was a brilliant choice by our sommelier and I loved its unctuous mouthfeel. [...]
Notes on wines that received at least one vote are from tasters Jason Bond, Josh Cole, Felisha “Flea” Foster, and Ellen Bhang. The shop name with each wine is the retailer who nominated it; most bottles have good distribution in our area. Check with your local shop and if they don’t sell the wine, they can probably get it for you.
2012 Fontezoppa Verdicchio di Matelica, Marche (Italian white, $12, The Urban Grape). “Flowers, green apple, fresh lime zest, stone, creamier than it looks or smells, long finish.” Josh Cole
A solid argument for ‘never judge a wine by its label’. For a Verdicchio specialist, ColleStefano sure make a good Rosé. A nose of strawberries, icing sugar and nectarines. Perhaps a suggestion of powdery mineral. Inviting. The palate is dry and shows off some sour cherry flavour and something like baklava (though it could just be the Syrian pop music I’m listening to. Omar Souleyman, if you must know). Almost a wine to out-Provence Provence. Refreshment, flavour and balance. Love that little bit of powdery grip from the tannins.
Simply put, great Rosé. Not showing signs of tiring either.
Excellent / 93 points
More about Colle Stefano: http://omwines.com/colle-stefano
Le Caniette is a winery with 16 hectares of vines and it is certified organic, somewhat of a novelty in Italy in general and in this area in particular. Michelangelo gave the name 'Rosso Bello' or Beautiful Red to a brilliant red color that this full bodied wine is named after. This wine was produced in the land of Ascanio Condivi, named after the apprentice, friend and biographer of Michelangelo. You will find this wine intense and persistent recalling red fruits, cherries, rose petals & violets." - Winery Notes
Blend: 45% Montepulciano, 45% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet
It goes well with all kinds of vegetables, pasta dishes accompanied by strong sauces, fresh pasta stuffed and cured meats. This Rosso Bello also pairs well with spaghetti and roasted white meats.
Zara Edwards, beverage manager at Caiola’s, loves the San Savino Offida Ciprea Pecorino 2010 ($22, Wicked), a wine from the Marche region of central eastern Italy that benefits from proximity to the Adriatic Sea.
She writes, “What is so remarkable about this bottle is the vast changes it goes through, both in aroma and flavor characteristics, and in a surprisingly rapid duration, from the time of opening to its last sip. When first opened, this Pecorino is floral and acidic with sharp green tints that sparkle through an intense straw color. It is a great wine to start a meal with, as it will pair with anything from peppery green arugula salads with citrus and even goat and sheep cheeses.” (Pecorino is likely not named after the sheeps’-milk cheese whose name it shares, but instead because historically sheep who roamed the vineyards seemed especially fond of nibbling that grape.)
Edwards continues, “However, with minute aeration, much of the acidity that allows it to pair with such appetizers dissipates, and allows it to develop powerful notes of sage and wildflower, a hint of wood, and a unique viscous texture that could almost be compared to almond milk. What starts out as an acid-driven floral number becomes a creamy, rich, structured wine that can stand up to creamy herbed pasta and grilled white meats and whole fish ...” Too often a wine buyer will put a wine on a list after tasting it once with a salesman. But no one could say what Edwards does about this Pecorino without having formed a relationship with it, having followed its story.
Name: La Monacesca Verdicchio di Matelica 2009
Grapes: At least 85% Verdicchio grape but this DOC allows Malvasia and Trebbiano in the blend. The last vintages I tasted of this wine were 100% Verdicchio although there is no mention of other grapes on the label… so we guess 100% Verdicchio.
Region: Matelica DOC
The smaller and less famous of the two Verdicchio DOC’s (the other being Castelli di Jesi), Verdicchio di Matelica DOC covers an area of around 300 hectares just under 4kms from the Le Marche town of Macerata. The area produces dry whites (this one), passito wines and a spumante.This DOC, and this producer, also produce a popular and lauded riserva version which is highly celebrated and this year scooped the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri award. These standard versions must contain at least 85% Verdicchio grapes and, as mentioned above, can include Malvasia and Trebbiano up to 15% in the blend.
La Monacesca Verdicchio di Matelica 2009 – BUY - £9
A golden yellow in the glass with distinctive green hues. On the nose this wine gives out a tremendous waft of aromatic beauty with citrus, anise, honeysuckle and green under-ripe walnuts. Striking acidity and a luscious mouth-feel gives this wine a rich, opulent tone with sour citrus notes continuing to the mid palate. The finish is generous but very bitter, so much so as to shock the unexpecting. The wine’s fruity, almost blossom-like nose is so beautiful that the bitter finish creates an unpleasant ending for my palate but this is Verdicchio and you must decide for yourself. My score: 87 Points
Towards the middle of December I visited this lovely winery in the Marche region that produces excellent classic Verdicchio wines as well as one that is very special, Balciana.
This was not the first time I had been there and so I already new how beautiful it was, with a splendid natural amphitheater that surrounds the winery. From its balcony you can see how the surrounding hills are covered with well-ordered vineyards, occasionally broke up by small clumps of forest. If the winter's day is warm and clear, as it was when I visited, the view is quite spectacular. At eye-level to the right, towards the south and at an altitude of about 300m, is the Balciana vineyard. In front, to the left and a little below, are the vineyards that produce the Classico and Tralivio wines. Sartarelli only grows Verdicchio grapes and the wines are made in the classic style, simple and rigorous, without any use of wood. [...]
Click on the photo to read more
Velenosi Rosso Piceno Superiore Brecciarolo Gold, 2010, 14%, €19.90. Lots of Rosso Piceno in the Marche area (about mid-way on the eastern coast of Italy) but only a very limited zone is designated Superiore. Brecciarolo refers to broken stones, typical of soil in the area and the grapes are Sangiovese and Montepulciano.
The Montepulciano gives it the heart while the San Gio lifts it with aromatics. It is soft on the palate, well structured, well balanced and Very Highly Recommended.
Colour is deep purple and the aromas are of cherries certainly, violets also and more. It is lovely and fresh on the palate, no shortage of fruit flavours but all with a refreshing acidity and then a good spicy finish.
Just outside of the picturesque medieval town of Offida located in the southeastern part of the region of Le Marche lies Società Agricola Ciù Ciù (http://www.ciuciuvini.it). The winery, begun in 1970 by Natalino Bartolomei and his wife Anna, and continued today by sons Massimiliano and Walter, occupies 150 hectares of vineyards on which are grown a variety of organic grapes that all reflect the traditions and land of Le Marche. From these grapes the Bartolomei family produces a variety of white and red wines that, based at least on our tasting, embody the finest characteristics of southern Le Marche wines. [...] After a tour of the spotless winery, we were treated to what I believe is the optimum way in which taste wines, a meal.
Driving the short distance to the town of Offida, we went to Cantina del Picchio, a combination Ristorante / Enoteca now owned by the Bartolomei family. There we feasted on the offerings of Chef Emilio Pasqualini while sampling the Ciù Ciù wines.
We began the white wines with a 2011 Altamarea Vini Spumante Brut 100% Passerina which was made from hand selected grapes cryomacerated and then must fermented with selected yeasts at controlled temperatures. The wine was aged using the Charmat Martinotti method followed with three months aging in the bottle. Pale yellow in color, this 12% alcohol wine had a light flower nose and a fresh finish. If you like spumante wines, this was a nice example. [...]