Food, wine, travel, music
The Marches – rural Italy.
A visit to this beautiful region some years back has me wanting to get back there with friends. I have given here some idea of my experience and described wines which are probably not available now in the vintages I tasted at the time. To that end I have deleted the vintages and hope that whatever is available now is something like my experience. It’s always worth a gamble to try a bottle, so I hope I can encourage you to ask for wines for the region. Retailers are usually happy to indulge those who take an interest in the their work and will seek out whatever you fancy. And you don’t have to buy more than a bottle until you know you like it.
The Marches is bordered to the north by Romagna, to the west along the spine of the Apennines by Tuscany and Umbria, to the south by the Abruzzi and to the east by the Adriatic Sea. Most tourists visit the Marches region of Italy’s east coast to lie on Adriatic beaches, but those who wander into the interior in search of wine will be well rewarded. The wine paired with local food is a marriage made in heaven, and the rural simplicity of hills topped with castles, monasteries and walled towns rolling down from the Apennines to the Adriatic can make for a happy week tasting and relaxing.
For wine lovers there is much to discover and spark interest. Slowly the wines are arriving in Ireland through adventurous importers and some pioneering restaurateurs who, discovering the Marches, have them on their lists as a leading edge badge of honour. The Verdicchio grape is the main variety grown in the hillside zone that stretches from Jesi towards the interior, where the Esino river divides it in two. Verdicchio is an autochthonous grape grown in the area since 1569, at least. It is particularly well suited to the Marche Region’s central hillsides – the only place in Italy, and in the world, where it is cultivated. The Verdicchio wine produced form the Castelli di Jesi vineyards was officially granted DOC appellation status in 1968. Approved in 1995, the latest production regulations recognise and define 5 distinct Verdicchio classes: Classico, Superiore, Riserva, Passito (dessert wine) and Spumante (sparkling). The same grapes are used in all five, but per hectare yields and harvesting schedules differ. The Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi features a fruity bouquet with floral tendencies on ageing and a fresh, sometimes sharp, sometimes full, taste.
Sangiovese and Montepulciano, the Marche region’s traditional red varieties are blended in varying proportions to make wines whose extensive production zone spreads out over a vast area of the south and central Marche. Due to its sprawling production area, the large number of micro climates and soils involved and the variable proportions of its blend, this wine often has a wide range of characteristics, but, nevertheless retains a recognisable personality. Soft, supple and delicate, quickly maturing wines are produced as well as many suitable to lengthy ageing. A third grape type is another revelation: Close to Ancona can be found the Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, a Latin grape variety which has a distinctive raspberry perfume and lots of soft fruit on the palate. Marconi Lacrima Morro d’Alba from Falconiere has a lychee type heaviness, and sometimes a dried rose perfume and flavour, along with a light muscat influence. Rabbit, pork and lamb are best with it and the Mancinelli which has a light muscat fruit nose, a good mouthful of fruit and light tannins, is good with herbed meats. The Verdicchio wines from Sartarelli have plenty of fruit, and light acid freshness. Their Tralivio Classico Superiore is a full wine, ideal as an aperitif. For those whole like a lively wine try the Marconi Cornona Reale Superiore which has a crisp finish, plenty of fruit and is delicious with smoked or fresh salmon. Moncaro Superiore Verde di Ca’Ruptae made from selected grapes of different producers in a co-op, has some light sweetness, good fruit and goes well with oriental food, smoked salmon, and the sweetness might suit blue cheese. Their Rosso Conero Riserva, made from the local variety of the Montepulciano grape, is a light wine which with the required ageing of a Riserva results in a lovely rounded dry style wine. They also makes a superb olive oil for local restaurants. Casalfarneto Fontevecchia, and it’s sister Grancasale, a sweeter heavier wine good for cheese and light fruity desserts. The Mirum has that slightly manure like nose at first, but give it a chance in the glass and enjoy its roundness and slightly sweet accents; San Biagio Vigneto Braccano has rich fruit on the nose, good length and floral tones. Fazi Battaglia Le Moie gets my three star rating. From one of the oldest cellars in the region in a well located vineyard there is a sweet fruity nose, a good full mouthful, yet light and crisp. They also do a Riserva San Sisto which has delicious honey tones on the nose and lovely balance. Umani Ronchi have the Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore made from grapes picked at full maturity to give a full slightly sweet mouthful, with oak on the nose but not on the palate. Their Rosso Conero Cumaro, made from 100% Montepulciano grapes, has a fruit of the forest feel to it, someone suggested even a slight rustic old room with tinges of damp! I could see what he meant but concentrated my tastebuds on the light tannins, rounded fruit and suitability for with a good stew. Garofoli Podium Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore has a lovely fruit/acid balance with medium body, and is sold in amphora style bottles. The Rosso Conero Agontano from 100% Montepulciano grapes has a hint of cherries and is a well structured wine with potential to develop further. Watch out for Mancini Rosso Piceno DOC made from Sangiovese grapes and some Montepulciano for that comforting cooked raspberry hints on the nose, some wood, good balance, length. The Verdicchio from the same producers is good and can be found in some good restaurants. Colonarra IGT Marche Rosso Torremagno has ripe fruit on nose and palate, good balance and interesting. To find out where to get it in your area: firstname.lastname@example.org Moroder’s Rosso Cornero made from 100% Montelpulciano grapes has slightly sweet fruit which has potential to develop, makes it interesting enough to want more. The Rosso Carnero Leopardi Vigneti del Coppo is another one which is good with steak and roast beef, and I hope that the wines of Guiseppe Bonci will be picked up soon. Offida is the new DOC of the Marches using Puccolino, Passerina, Peribianca, Montepulciano, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grape varieties.
Marche wines are on the march, with the whites leading the way. In the meantime, ask your wine merchant about what they have from the region and give you a chance to experience wines brimming with personality.