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Wine from Marche

Wine from Marche

Savoring “Le Marche”: Discovering Its Distinctive Wines


Le Marche is a sparse, long, mountainous region, renowned for its evocative coastlines and ancient towns like Ancona and Urbino, where the great painter Raphael grew up. Its name describes its former status as the border territor (‘march’)y of the Holy Roman Empire, and is something of a bridge between the centre and the south of Italy. It’s known as well for its strong artisanal tradition, from the shoes of Macerato to the famous paper of Fabriano, which invented the watermark – and this artisanal attitude is most definitely carried over into their wonderful wines.

Geographically, Le Marche is an east-coast region, bordering Emilia-Romagna on the north side, Umbria to the west with small corners of Tuscany and Lazio on either side, and Abruzzo to the south. It is a dramatic land, with a tiny littoral of flatland along the coast quickly giving way to extravagant mountains. This is the land that shapes its viticulture: high altitudes, steep cliffs, wine-friendly soils of clay, limestone, sand and of course volcanic minerals. Its mountainous border with Abruzzo can be considered the spine of Italy.

Wine Tasting room at Filodivino Winery in Marche
Grapes and Harvest in Marche at Filodivino Winery

The wine

Marche is best known as a white wine region, though that isn’t the whole story. Of its five DOCGs, two are red, two are white, and one can be either. There are a variety of red and white grapes prominent here, but there’s no doubt who the star is: Verdicchio.

Verdicchio is responsible for two of those DOCGs, as well a whole host of DOCs and other wines in the region. It’s considered likely to be indigenous to Le Marche – it was certainly first recorded there – and is said to be named for the colour of the resulting wine, which can be noticeably greenish and very, very pale. It is renowned for its really quite huge acidity, its pronounced citrus flavours, and sometimes a fine note reminiscent of bitter almonds.

The first and perhaps best known area of production for this grape is Castello di Jesi, in the province of Ancona. The DOC wine is the classic verdicchio (which makes up 85% of it at least), the colour of straw and leaves, zippy and tangy, mostly vinified in stainless steel; the Riserva DOCG, however, is aged for at least 18 months in oak barrels and at least 6 in the bottle, leading to a richer, stone-fruity, honeyish wine.

The Verdicchio di Matelica DOC and DOCGs in the province of Macerata follow a very similar template, with the same grape compositions, the same ageing rules for the Riserva DOCG, similar soil compositions (clay, limestone), and Le Marche’s trademark high elevation. There are two major differences however. The first is sheer volume, with Castelli di Jesi producing more than Matelica by a very wide margin. The second is the location: with Ancona being on the coast, Jesi gets a lot stronger and cooler wind influence than Matelica. This is decisive in the fact that, rather counter-intuitively, the wines of Matelica tend towards a strong minerality, while those of Jesi tend to be a bit richer in the fruit department.

The other region responsible for DOCG-level white wine in Le Marche is Offida, towards the southern part of the Ascoli Piceno province, itself in the south of the region. There are two different varietals allowed to carry the label of Offida Bianco DOCG: one, from at least 90% pecorino; the other from at least 90% passerina. Pecorino is an ancient, early-ripening variety that makes a flowery, deep-flavoured wine of moderate acidity (its name supposedly derives from the fact that sheep – pecore – would eat the berries); passerina is a very rare variety, found virtually only in Le Marche, that makes fresh, bright, vibrant wines (its name supposedly derives from the fact that sparrows – passerini – would eat the berries). The DOC Terre di Offida wines must be similarly varietal, but with other regulations somewhat relaxed (higher yields and so on).

But Offida doesn’t just make white wine. It also makes a red wine of DOCG status from the montepulciano grape, one of the region’s – and indeed the whole of central Italy’s – most important. Most famous for its role in creating the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine from Le Marche’s neighbour, montepulciano is planted all over the centre and south of the country and is notable for its medium-body, medium tannins and medium acidity, as well as its capacity to yield a lot of wine which doesn’t overly compromise the flavour. In a DOCG like Offida, of course, those yields are tightly controlled (the Terre di Offida Rosso, of course, less so), and the final wine is renowned for its whispery, enigmatic expression of the grape.

Montepulciano is also responsible for the great DOCG red of Cònero, a neighbour to Jesi in the province of Ancona. At least 85% of the wine must be juiced from the fruit of that vine, while the remainder must come from sangiovese (it is common, however, to make a simple, 100% montepulciano varietal wine). Mount Cònero is a striking, heartstopping piece of nature, whose chalky soils help boost the grapes’ acidity and whose great bulk shelter the vines from the worst effects of the wind from the sea. All this comes to a head in a wine reminiscent of left-bank Bordeaux – dry, rich, full of complex tertiary aromas like anise and tobacco.

Le Marche’s final DOCG is a truly unique one. At first glance, Vernaccia di Serrapetrona in Macerata province looks like it must, surely, be a white wine, as in the famous Vernaccia di San Gimignano from Tuscany. But this wine is in fact made from vernaccia nera – black vernaccia – an incredibly rare autochthonous variety that seems to be related to grenache. It produces a really rather extraordinary wine, a sparkling red at least 40% of which must come from passito grapes, a wine lighter-bodied and fresher than the montepulciano DOCGs, with appealing hints of bitter cherries.

Vernaccia nera is also the crucial grape for the Maceratese Terreni di Sanseverino DOC, the first of many that use unusual grapes and grape combinations. Indeed, Le Marche is especially notable for these, from the whites of the northwestern Bianchello del Metauro DOC made from the elusive and delicate biancame variety, to its neighbour, the fresh and meaty Pergola DOC from the rare aleatico grape, to the frankly weird Lacrime di Morro d’Alba DOC to the north of Ancona, with its extraordinary flavours of herbs and violets. In addition to which there are sangiovese-based DOCs like San Ginesio, Cònero and Serrapetrona each have DOCs more relaxed than their bigger brothers, broader regions around Macerata and Pesaro, sweet wines, sparkling wines, and so on – none of which, however, is more important than the vast Rosso Piceno DOC, a huge area stretching from the top of Ancona province all the way down to the border with Abruzzo producing extremely pleasing and friendly wines from – what else – montepulciano.

Le Marche is a classic ‘small but mighty’ region in Italian terms, as though in terms of land area it’s no pygmy it is nonetheless a rural, craggy region of middling population. Its wine, however, is full of quotidian joys and unique classics. In our own terms – a land of hidden gems.

The breakdown

Location: central-east.

Climate: cool, Mediterranean, maritime.

Soils: chalky, marl, limestone.

Elevation: consistently rather high.

DOCGs and some DOCs: Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio DOC & Riserva DOCG, Verdicchio di Matelica DOC & Riserva DOCG, Offida DOCG, Cònero DOCG, Vernaccia di Serrapetrona DOCG; Lacrima di Morro d’Alba DOC, I Terreni di Sanseverino DOC, Rosso Piceno DOC.

Main red grapes: aleatico, lacrima, montepulciano, sangiovese, vernaccia nera.

Main white grapes: biancame, passerina, pecorino, verdicchio.

Hidden gem: Lacrima di Morro d’Alba is unlike anything else you’ll find around.

About Wine Shop all’Amarone

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Wine Shop all’Amarone in Venice offers an exceptional selection of Italian wines, spotlighting the distinguished Amarone della Valpolicella. In addition to our Amarone focus, we proudly feature select wines from Marche, showcasing the diversity and richness of Italy’s winemaking regions. Our curated collection is designed to offer wine lovers a taste of Italy’s finest, from the robust flavors of Amarone to the unique profiles of Pugliese wines.

Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:30 AM to 7:30 PM, Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

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