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Le Marche Wine

Marche Wine

The Italian region of Le Marche, nestled between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea, is a mosaic of rolling hills, medieval towns, and lush vineyards. This scenic beauty is not just a feast for the eyes but also the palate, as it is the birthplace of some of Italy's most intriguing wines. In this exploration of Le Marche's regional wines, we will delve into the history, climate, key varietals, and the wine-making traditions that have been honed over centuries.

History of Wine-making in Le Marche

Le Marche's wine history is steeped in antiquity, with origins tracing back to the Etruscans and Romans. These ancient civilizations recognized the fertile potential of its terroir and the diversity of its microclimates, laying the groundwork for a rich viticultural legacy. Over the centuries, the Benedictine and Cistercian monks preserved and refined wine-making techniques, setting the foundation for the region’s modern wine industry.

In the 20th century, Le Marche’s wine industry began to thrive as it shifted from quantity to quality. The establishment of the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) appellations heralded a new era for the region, focusing on native grape varieties and emphasizing the unique characteristics of each zone.

Climate and Terroir

Le Marche’s climate is characterized by its coastal influences and mountainous terrain, creating a blend of microclimates that contribute to the distinctiveness of its wines. The region benefits from the warmth of the Mediterranean sun and the cool breezes off the Adriatic, providing ideal conditions for a lengthy ripening period for grapes.

The varied topography includes calcareous clay soils in the coastal areas, which impart minerality and zest to the wines, while the inland areas, with their limestone and sandstone, provide a fertile ground for vines to develop complexity and depth.

Key Wine Varietals of Le Marche

The diversity of Le Marche’s wine varietals is a testament to its rich viticultural heritage. Some of the key grapes include:

  • Verdicchio: Perhaps the most renowned white grape of the region, it is the cornerstone of two of Le Marche’s DOCGs: Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and Verdicchio di Matelica. Verdicchio is cherished for its high acidity, complex citrus and almond flavors, and its ability to age gracefully.
  • Montepulciano: Sharing its name with a wine town in Tuscany, Montepulciano in Le Marche is used to produce Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno, offering robust, tannic wines that pair beautifully with the hearty cuisine of the region.
  • Sangiovese: While often associated with Tuscany, Sangiovese finds a unique expression in Le Marche, where it is usually blended with Montepulciano to produce wines that balance acidity and body, often with a delightful cherry note.
  • Lacrima: A grape that produces aromatic red wines, Lacrima di Morro d'Alba DOC is a hidden gem with a floral and spicy profile, reminiscent of roses and cloves, offering a distinct contrast to the more robust reds of the region.
The Whites of Le Marche

Verdicchio is the star when it comes to white wines in Le Marche. The Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOCG, with its hillside vineyards surrounding the town of Jesi, produces wines that are fresh, vibrant, and aromatic, often with a signature green hue, hinting at their youthful vigor. The Verdicchio di Matelica DOCG, by contrast, is grown in a more inland, higher altitude area, resulting in wines with greater structure and potential for aging, revealing layers of complexity over time.

Another notable white wine from Le Marche is the Bianchello del Metauro, made from the Biancame grape, a wine of delicate, floral character, and refreshingly high acidity.

The Reds of Le Marche

Le Marche's reds are robust and full of character. The Rosso Conero DOCG, named after the Monte Conero area, is predominantly made from Montepulciano grapes. These wines are known for their deep color, full body, and rich flavors of dark fruits, with a touch of spice and earth.

Rosso Piceno, which can be found throughout much of Le Marche, combines Montepulciano and Sangiovese to create a wine that can range from soft and fruit-forward to structured and complex, often showcasing the best qualities of both varietals.

The Lacrima di Morro d'Alba, on the other hand, is an aromatic red that is rapidly gaining international recognition. Its bouquet is laden with scents of violets and roses, backed by a palate that can range from light and fruity to surprisingly deep and textured.

Viticulture and Vinification Techniques

The vineyards of Le Marche are often managed with a focus on sustainable agriculture, recognizing the importance of biodiversity and ecological balance. Producers range from traditional family-run estates to innovative wineries that experiment with organic and biodynamic practices.

In terms of vinification, there is a respect for tradition with a willingness to innovate. For whites like Verdicchio, temperature-controlled fermentation is used to retain the grapes’ aromatic profile. Reds, particularly those destined for aging like Rosso Conero, are often aged in oak to develop additional complexity.

Wine and Gastronomy

Le Marche’s wines are inextricably linked to its gastronomy. The crisp acidity and mineral notes of Verdicchio make it a perfect companion to seafood, while the succulent reds are natural partners to the region’s rich meats, like ciauscolo (a spreadable salami), and game dishes.

Visiting Le Marche's Wineries

The wine roads of Le Marche offer an immersive experience for enthusiasts looking to explore the region’s viticultural offerings. Visits typically involve tastings, tours of the cellars, and often a walk through the vineyards. They provide a deep dive into the winemaking process, from grape to glass, and offer a personal connection to the vintners who share their passion and knowledge generously.

Conclusion

The regional wines of Le Marche are a tapestry of ancient traditions and modern innovations. With each sip, they tell a story of a land shaped by history, nature, and the devoted hands of its winemakers. Whether it is the aromatic whites or the hearty reds, Le Marche offers a world of discovery for wine lovers looking for complexity, diversity, and authenticity.

This hidden gem of Italy, with its stunning landscapes and exceptional wines, is a region that once discovered, becomes part of one's permanent lexicon of wine appreciation. It's a testament to the depth and richness of Italian wine beyond the well-trodden paths of Tuscany and Piedmont. The wines of Le Marche not only reflect their environment but also the spirit of innovation and respect for tradition that is alive in the region’s winemakers. They are, undoubtedly, Italy's cherished secret, waiting to be uncorked.

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Notable Wines of Le Marche

The wines of Le Marche reflect a diversity that is deeply rooted in the region's varied climate, terrain, and winemaking traditions. Below is a comprehensive list of Le Marche wines, categorized by type and including some of the most well-regarded DOC and DOCG labels.

White Wines:
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC/DOCG
  • Classic
  • Superiore
  • Riserva
  • Passito (sweet, dessert wine)
Verdicchio di Matelica DOC/DOCG
  • Classic
  • Superiore
  • Riserva
  • Passito
  • Spumante
Bianchello del Metauro DOC
  • Traditional still white
  • Spumante
Colli Maceratesi DOC
  • Bianco (usually with a significant portion of Maceratino)
  • Ribona (also known as Maceratino, single varietal wine)
Falerio DOC
  • Falerio (blend of Trebbiano, Passerina, and Pecorino)
  • Falerio Pecorino (single varietal wine of Pecorino)
Offida DOCG
  • Offida Pecorino (single varietal wine of Pecorino)
  • Offida Passerina (single varietal wine of Passerina)
Pergola DOC
  • Pergola Aleatico (predominantly made from Aleatico, can be still, sparkling, or sweet)
Terre di Offida DOC
  • Terre di Offida Passerina (single varietal wine of Passerina)
  • Terre di Offida Pecorino (single varietal wine of Pecorino)
Red Wines:
Rosso Conero DOC/DOCG
  • Rosso Conero (mostly Montepulciano, with a possible addition of Sangiovese)
  • Rosso Conero Riserva
Rosso Piceno DOC
  • Rosso Piceno (blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese)
  • Rosso Piceno Superiore (from a specified area with a higher proportion of Montepulciano)
Lacrima di Morro d'Alba DOC
  • Lacrima di Morro (mostly Lacrima grape, aromatic red)
  • Lacrima di Morro Superiore (often from selected grapes and/or longer aging)
Esino DOC
  • Esino Rosso (blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano)
  • Esino Bianco (based on Verdicchio and Trebbiano)
Offida DOCG
  • Offida Rosso (made from Montepulciano, sometimes with Cabernet Sauvignon)
Serrapetrona DOC
  • Serrapetrona (sparkling red made from Vernaccia Nera, can also be found as still and passito)
Rosé Wines:
Lacrima di Morro d'Alba DOC (Rosato)
  • Made from Lacrima grape, as a rosé version.
Rosato dei Colli Maceratesi DOC
  • A rosé made from a blend of Montepulciano, Sangiovese, and other permitted varieties.
Dessert and Fortified Wines:
Vernaccia di Serrapetrona DOCG
  • A sweet or dry sparkling red wine made from Vernaccia Nera grapes, sometimes using a passito method.
Verdicchio Passito
  • A sweet dessert wine made from dried Verdicchio grapes.
Vineyard Techniques:
  • *Single-vineyard wines*: Many producers also have single-vineyard wines that showcase the unique characteristics of specific parcels of land.
  • *Organic and biodynamic wines*: An increasing number of vineyards are certified organic or biodynamic, reflecting the region's commitment to sustainability.
Sparkling Wines:
  • Made using both the Charmat and traditional methods, from white grapes like Verdicchio and red grapes like Vernaccia Nera.
Experimental and International Varieties:
  • While not traditional, some winemakers in Le Marche are also experimenting with international grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, producing wines that blend international flair with Marchigian character.

The wines of Le Marche continue to gain prestige on the international stage, as the quality and variety attract connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike. Whether you're looking for a light and crisp white, a full-bodied red, a delicate rosé, or a luscious dessert wine, Le Marche's vineyards offer something for every palate.

Italian Wines
  • Italian Red Grapes
    • Sangiovese

      • The most well known of the Italian grapes and responsible for the famous Tuscan wines. Using tradional techniques, the wines are earthy, full of cherry fruit and cedar. The wines produced include such famous names as: Chianti, Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, Montefalco Rosso. The "Super-Tuscans", produced for the international market, blend the Sangiovese grape with Bordeaux varietals such as: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and often used French oak barrels to age.

    • Nebbiolo

      • Translated, the name means: "Little Fog", which refers to the autumn fog common in the region of Piedmont where it is grown. The grape seems to like these conditions but is difficult to cultivate otherwise. It is responsible for the famous wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, both produced in the Cuneo province of Piedmont. Barolo is often kept for more than 50 years, and is considered by many to be the greatest wine produced in Italy.

    • Montepulciano

      • This grape is planted in Abruzzo,and should not be confused with the town of the same name in Tuscany. It produces a wine with silky plum-like fruit, friendly acidity, and light tannin, recent bottles have improved greatly on those in the past.

    • Barbera

      • This grape is the most widely grown in Piedmont and southern Lombardy, particularly around the towns of Asti, Alba and Pavia. Previously, the Barbera wines were considered a poor alternative to Barolo, but recently they have improved dramatically. The wine has bright cherry fruit, a very dark color, and a food-friendly acidity. It is being produced increasingly for the international market.

    • Corvina

      • This is the grape that makes Valpolicella and Amarone, the best known wines of the Veneto. Valpolicella has dark cherry fruit and spice. If the grapes are dried, a process called "passito", they produce a wine called Amarone. Some are aged for more than 40 years and can command extremely high prices. Amarone di Valpolicella was awarded DOCG status in 2009.

    • Nero dAvola

      • A native varietal of Sicily, this grape was virtually unheard of a few years ago. Now, the quality of the wine is improving steadily and it is becoming increasingly popular on the international market for its plummy fruit and sweet tannins.

    • Dolcetto

      • This grape is called "Little Sweet One", because it is easy to grow and produces great wines for everyday drinking. It is grown alongside the Barbera and Nebbiola grapes in Piedmont and produces wine with flavors of concord grape, wild blackberries and herbs.

    • Negroamaro

      • Translated, the name means "Black and Bitter". It is grown extensively in the region of Puglia where it is used to produce the Salento wines: spicy, toasty, and full of dark red fruits.

    • Aglianico

      • Considered by many to be the "Noble Varietal of the south" Aglianico grapes are primarily grown in the regions of Campania and Basilicata. The name is derived from Hellenic, so the grape is considered to be a Greek transplant. Thick skinned and spicy, the wines are often both rustic and powerful.

    • Sagrantino

      • This grape is native to Umbria. It is only planted on 250 hectares, but the wines produced from it are world-renowned. Inky purple, with rustic brooding fruit and heavy tannins, these wines can age for many years.

    • Malvasia Nera

      • Red Malvasia varietal from Piedmont. A sweet and perfumed wine, sometimes elaborated in the passito style.

Other major red varieties are Ciliegolo, Gaglioppo, Lagrein, Lambrusco, Monica, Nerello Mascalese, Pignolo, Primitivo (Zinfandel in California), Refosco, Schiava, Schiopettino, Teroldego, and Uva di Troia. "International" varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc are also widely grown.

  • Italian White Grapes
    • Catarratto

      • This is the most widely planted white varietal in Salaparuta, south western Sicily.

    • Trebbiano

      • This is the most widely planted white varietal in Italy. It is grown throughout the country, with a special focus on the wines from Abruzzo and from Lazio, including Frascati. Mostly, they are pale, easy drinking wines, but trebbiano from producers such as Valentini have been known to age for 15+ years. It is known as Ugni Blanc in France.

    • Moscato

      • Grown mainly in Piedmont, it is mainly used in the slightly-sparkling (frizzante), semi-sweet Moscato d"Asti. Not to be confused with moscato giallo and moscato rosa, two Germanic varietals that are grown in Trentino- Alto-Adige.

    • Nuragus

      • An ancient Phoenician varietal found in southern Sardegna. Light and tart wines that are drunk as an apertif in their homeland.

    • Pinot Grigio

      • A hugely successful commercial grape (known as Pinot Gris in France), its wines are characterized by crispness and cleanness. As a hugely mass-produced wine, it is usually delicate and mild, but in a good producers" hands, the wine can grow more full-bodied and complex. The main problem with the grape is that to satisfy the commercial demand, the grapes are harvested too early every year, leading to wines without character.

    • Tocai Friulano

      • A varietal distantly related to Sauvignon Blanc, it yields the top wine of Friuli, full of peachiness and minerality. Currently, there is a bit of controversy regarding the name, as the EC has demanded it changed to avoid confusion with the Tokay dessert wine from Hungary.

    • Ribolla Gialla

      • A Slovenian grape that now makes its home in Friuli, these wines are decidedly old-world, with aromas of pineapple and mustiness.

    • Arneis

      • A crisp and floral varietal from Piedmont, which has been grown there since the 15th century.

    • Malvasia Bianca

      • Another white varietal that peeks up in all corners of Italy with a wide variety of clones and mutations. Can range from easy quaffers to funky, musty whites.

    • Pigato

      • A heavily acidic varietal from Liguria, the wines are vinified to pair with a cuisine rich in seafood.

    • Fiano
      • Grown on the southwest coast of Italy, the wines from this grape can be described as dewy and herbal, often with notes of pinenut and pesto.
    • Garganega

      • The main grape varietal for wines labeled Soave, this is a crisp, dry white wine from the Veneto wine region of Italy. It"s a very popular wine that hails from northeast Italy around the city of Verona. Currently, there are over 3,500 distinct producers of Soave.

    • Vermentino

      • This is widely planted in northern Sardinia and also found in Tuscan and Ligurian coastal districts. Wines are particularly popular to accompany fish and seafood.

    • Verdicchio

      • This is grown in the areas of Castelli di Jesi and Matelica in the Marche region and gives its name to the varietal white wine made from it. The name comes from "verde" (green). The white wines are noted for their high acidity and a characteristic nutty flavour with a hint of honey.

Other important whites include Carricante, Catarratto, Coda de Volpe, Cortese, Falanghina, Grechetto, Grillo, Inzolia, Picolit, Traminer, Verduzzo, and Vernaccia. As far as non-native varietals, the Italians plant Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer (sometimes called traminer aromatico), Riesling, Petite Arvine, and many others.

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