This month, we turn the spotlight on the Italian region of Marche. Le Marche (lay MAR-kay), occasionally referred to by the English equivalent The Marches, is located on the eastern (Adriatic) coast of the Italian peninsula and is best known for white wines made from Verdicchio, with its hallmark high acidity.
One of Italy’s lesser-known gems, the region cascades down from Apennine peaks right into the sea, with postcard-worthy medieval hill towns dotting the landscape. Aerial views reveal that most of the valleys making up this unique landscape run west to east, rather than parallel to the coast. This has resulted in the production of a wide range of wine styles as you progress from north to south.
The towns of Ascoli Piceno (left) and Urbino offer artistic cultural attractions and mouthwatering cuisine, respectively. Along with all the usual Italian culinary delights such as cheeses and cured meats, its position between sea and mountains allows Marche to do both meat and seafood extremely well, along with a treat of meat-stuffed fried olives called olive ascolane.
Of Italy’s 20 regions, Marche is 13th in wine production, with a little more white wine than red made. There are 20 denominations—areas that produce specific types of wine—with 5 of those at the higher DOCG quality level. Probably the most familiar of the Marche denominations in export markets is Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC. The region has only one wine area at the less strictly regulated IGP quality level—called IGP Marche, appropriately enough—which can be a source of good wines at a lower price point.
Here are a few other representative denominations of Marche:
- Verdicchio di Matelica DOC: Most Verdicchio wines come from the Marche coast near Jesi, but equally respected are the Verdicchios of the inland valley around Matelica. A “white dressed in red” is how the local winemakers describe this version of the region’s signature white grape. Coming from a more interior location, these wines are less accessible when young than their Jesi cousins. They benefit from a bit of age and can show complex notes of white flowers, apple, exotic pineapple, almonds, and honey.
- Rosso Piceno DOC: Marche’s largest source of red wines, Rosso Piceno (pee-CHAY-no) makes red blends of Italy’s stalwart Sangiovese and Montepulciano varieties, as well as some all-Sangiovese wines. Don’t confuse this area with Rosso Cònero DOC, another well-exported denomination from that makes only Montepulciano-based varietal wines.
- Lacrima di Morro d’Alba DOC: Lacrima is a red grape of Marche that is a specialty of the coast north of Ancona. It belongs to the small class of Italian aromatic red varieties. A distinctive nose of red roses and intense red and black fruits (raspberry, strawberry, currant, black cherry) combine with low tannins to yield a wine that is best drunk young.
- Vernaccia di Serrapetrona DOCG: You might have heard of Tuscany’s Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG, but this is made from Vernaccia Nera, a red grape variety, and not the better known white one of Tuscany. Vernaccia di Serrapetrona is a rare, highly unusual wine from the central uplands of Marche—a red, high-alcohol, sparkling wine made with dried grapes. It offers a bit of everything across the aroma/flavor spectrum, starting out with cloves, then moving to black raspberry and currant, and finishing with a bit of dried prune. You’ve never tasted anything like it!
Producers to Look For
Here is an illustrative list of some top producers of wines in Marche.
Bisci (BEE-shee; imported to U.S. by Marc de Grazia, Skurnik): Located in Matelica since 1982. Production of 7,500 cases from 50 acres of vineyards. Wines include Verdicchio di Matelica DOC, Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva DOCG, and IGP Marche (Merlot, Sangiovese).
Bucci (BOO-chee; imported to U.S. by Empson USA): Located in Ostra Vetere northwest of Jesi since the 1700s. Production of 10,000 cases from 70 acres. Wines include Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Riserva DOCG, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC, and Rosso Piceno DOC.
Collestefano (koh-lay-STAY-fah-no; imported to U.S. by several importers, including Oliver McCrum Wines, RWK Imports): Located in Castelraimondo, just south of Matelica, since 1998. Wines include Verdicchio di Matelica DOC, both still and sparkling.
Garofoli (gah-ROH-fo-lee; imported to U.S. by Dalla Terra): Located in Castelfidardo near Loreto since 1871. Production of 165,000 cases from 125 acres of vineyards. Wines include Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC, Cònero DOCG, Rosso Cònero DOC, Rosso Piceno DOC, and IGP Marche (Montepulciano, Sangiovese).
Il Pollenza (eel pohl-LEN-za;imported to U.S. by Vias Imports): Located in Tolentino, Macerata province, for centuries, with wine production reinstated in the 1980s. 170 acres of estate vineyards. Wines include Colli Maceratesi DOC (Maceratino) and IGP Marche (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Montepulciano).
Le Terrazze (lay tay-RAHT-zay; imported to U.S. by Marc de Grazia, Skurnik): Located in Numana, inside the Monte Cònero Regional Park, since 1882. Production of 7,500 cases from 39 acres of vineyards. Wines include Cònero DOCG, Rosso Cònero DOC, and IGP Marche (Chardonnay, red and rosato Montepulciano).
Pievalta (peeya-VAHL-ta;imported to U.S. by Winebow): Located in Maiolati Spontini, west of Ancona, since 2002. Production of 1,000,000 cases from 65 acres of organic and biodynamic vineyards. Wines include Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Riserva DOCG and Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC.
Tenuta Cocci Grifoni (tay-NOO-ta KOH-chee gree-FOH-nee; multiple U.S. importers): Located in San Savino in southeast Marche since 2002. 75 acres of estate vineyards. Wines include Offida DOCG (Montepulciano, Pecorino), Falerio DOC (Pecorino), and IGP Marche (Passerina).
Umani Ronchi (oo-MAH-nee ROHN-kee; imported to U.S. by Vineyard Brands): Located in Cupramontana, Ancona province, since 1959. 520 acres of vineyards in Marche and Abruzzo. Wines include Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Riserva DOCG, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC, Cònero DOCG, and Rosso Cònero DOC.
Velenosi (vay-lay-NO-zee; imported to U.S. by Vias Imports): Located in Ascoli Piceno since 1984. Wines include Rosso Piceno DOC, Offida DOCG (Montepulciano, Pecorino), Lacrima di Morro d’Alba DOC, and Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC.