Wines of the Marche: Hidden Treasures of Italy

May 07, 2024Daniele Borgogno
Rolling Hills and Vineyards

The Territory of the Marche

Le Marche is an extraordinary region for viticulture, located along the Adriatic coast of central Italy. This region is characterized by a varied landscape that extends from the Apennine peaks to the sandy beaches of the Adriatic. The unique geography of the Marche, with its gently rolling hills and variable climates, creates ideal conditions for growing grapes.

The region enjoys a predominantly continental climate in inland areas, with hot summers and cold winters, while coastal areas benefit from sea breezes that mitigate summer temperatures, providing a milder climate. These different climatic conditions significantly influence the characteristics of the grapes and wines produced here.

The soil in the Marche varies greatly: from limestone and clay in the hilly areas to sandier soils along the coast. This diversity of soils contributes to the complexity of the region's wines, with minerality and acidity reflected in the organoleptic characteristics of the wines. The proximity to the Adriatic not only moderates the climate, but also adds a marked salinity to the wines, especially those produced near the sea.

Main grape varieties of the Marche

The Marche is a remarkably versatile region in terms of viticulture, with a variety of grape varieties that adapt well to both maritime and mountain climates. Among the most important vines we find:

  • Verdicchio : It is the symbolic grape variety of the Marche, known for producing high quality white wines with great aging potential. Verdicchio wines are appreciated for their freshness, structure and aromatic notes which range from white pulp fruits to mineral and floral touches.
  • Montepulciano : This grape variety is predominant in the red blends of the region, in particular in Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno. Wines from this grape variety are rich, robust, with intense red fruit aromas and a good tannic structure.
  • Sangiovese : Although most commonly associated with Tuscany, Sangiovese is widespread in the Marche, where it contributes to the production of balanced and aromatic red wines.
  • Trebbiano : Used for lighter and more accessible white wines, Trebbiano in the Marche is expressed with fresh and fruity wines, ideal for young consumption.

History of the beginning of vine culture in the Marche

Viticulture in the Marche has ancient roots that date back to Roman times, but it was during the Middle Ages that vine cultivation began to take shape significantly, thanks also to the influence of the Benedictine monasteries. The latter, in fact, have played a crucial role in the systematization of viticulture, selecting the vines most suited to the climate and soil of the Marche and improving cultivation and winemaking techniques.

During the Renaissance, viticulture in the Marche region received further impetus thanks to the interest of the noble families of the region, who invested in the production of wine as a symbol of social and economic prestige. This era saw the introduction of new agronomic practices and the expansion of vineyards, which helped to further raise the quality of Marche wines.

Sensory Characteristics and Terroir Influences

The unique terroir of the Marche contributes significantly to the variety of sensory profiles that its wines offer. The interaction between climate, soil and regional topography is reflected in the wines produced in this area of ​​Italy.

Climate and Terroir

The Marche benefits from a Mediterranean climate along the coast and more continental inland, with maritime influences that bring freshness and minerality, particularly beneficial for white grape varieties such as Verdicchio. The internal hilly areas, protected by mountain chains and characterized by calcareous and clayey soils, offer an ideal environment for red vines such as Montepulciano and Sangiovese, which here express a robust structure and complex aromas.

Aromatic Profiles

  • White Wines : White wines from the Marche, especially those based on Verdicchio, are known for their liveliness and freshness. They often show notes of citrus, white flowers and a characteristic minerality that reflects the limestone-marine terroir. Their well-balanced acidity makes them excellent for various gastronomic combinations.
  • Red Wines : Red wines, such as Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno, tend to have richer and more intense profiles, with notes of ripe red fruits, spices and sometimes touches of damp earth and aromatic herbs, which testify to the complexity of the terroir and the winemaking techniques.

Mention of the most important DOC and DOCG

The Marche is home to several denominations of controlled origin (DOC) and denominations of controlled and guaranteed origin (DOCG) which attest to the high quality of the wines produced. Among these, the best known include:

  • Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOCG : This DOCG is famous for Verdicchio which produces wines of great expressiveness and longevity, capable of evolving magnificently over time. The wines here are prized for their structure, freshness and mineral notes, making them ideal for ageing.
  • Verdicchio di Matelica DOCG : Similar to Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi but grown in a smaller area, the wines here tend to be more concentrated and minerally.
  • Rosso Conero DOCG : Derived mainly from Montepulciano grapes, this wine expresses the character of the coastal terroir with its robustness and deep aromas of cherry and plum, enriched by a well-present tannicity that promises excellent aging capacity.
  • Rosso Piceno DOC : A blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese, resulting in versatile and aromatic red wines, suitable for a variety of dishes.

In-depth information on DOCG

Rosso Conero DOCG

Sensory Characteristics of the Wine Rosso Conero is a robust and full-bodied wine, mainly produced with Montepulciano grapes, often mixed with a small percentage of Sangiovese. This wine stands out for its intense red color, almost ruby, with violet reflections that tend to shades of garnet with aging. On the nose, Rosso Conero offers a complex bouquet of ripe red fruits such as cherries and plums, enriched by spicy notes and sometimes by a light hint of tobacco and chocolate, deriving from aging in wood.

The palate of Rosso Conero is vigorous and full, with a well-marked tannicity that softens elegantly with age. The presence of well-balanced acidity contributes to a long tasting persistence, making it a wine with good aging potential.

Suggested Pairings Rosso Conero pairs beautifully with rich and structured dishes. It is ideal with grilled or braised red meats, such as seared lamb or sliced ​​beef. It also goes well with dishes based on mushrooms and truffles, as well as with medium intensity mature cheeses. A classic regional pairing is with "Rabbit in porchetta", a typical dish from the Marche where the rabbit is stuffed with aromatic herbs and roasted.

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOCG

Sensory Characteristics of the Wine Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is renowned for its fresh and vibrant profile, characterized by a straw yellow color with greenish reflections. This wine best expresses the qualities of the Verdicchio grape, offering aromas of green apple, citrus, and floral notes of acacia and jasmine, sometimes enriched by mineral nuances and bitter almond towards the finish.

In the mouth, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi shows great acidity and freshness, with a body that can vary from light to medium depending on the vinification. Its balanced structure and slightly bitter aftertaste make it particularly persistent and pleasant on the palate.

Suggested Pairings Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is extremely versatile at the table. It pairs perfectly with fish, both in simple preparations such as grilled fish and in more elaborate dishes such as fish broths typical of Marche cuisine. It is excellent with seafood risotto or with light appetizers such as fresh salads with shrimp. Its fresh and acidic profile also makes it suitable as an aperitif or accompanied by vegetarian dishes based on green vegetables, such as asparagus or courgettes.

Comparison between Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOCG and Verdicchio di Matelica DOCG

Verdicchio is one of the most representative vines of the Marche, and its two most famous expressions, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOCG and Verdicchio di Matelica DOCG, offer distinctive profiles that reflect the particularities of their respective terroirs.

Location and Climate

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is located in the largest and most influenced by the maritime climate, thanks to its proximity to the Adriatic coast. This climatic factor makes the wines generally fresher and more aromatic, with a marked acidity and floral notes. On the other hand, Verdicchio di Matelica is produced in a more internal and mountainous valley, with an exposure and climate that tends to be more continental. These conditions lead to a longer growing season and more variable day and night temperatures, which contributes to a greater concentration of flavors in the wines, with a richer and more complex structure.

Sensory Characteristics

Castelli di Jesi wines are known for their lightness and liveliness, with a palate that often features notes of green apple, citrus and a distinctive almond aftertaste. These wines are ideal to drink young to appreciate their freshness and aroma. In contrast, wines from Matelica tend to be fuller and more robust, with a greater intensity of ripe flavors such as peach and apricot, as well as a more evident minerality that reflects the area's limestone terroir. These wines have excellent aging potential, developing complexity and depth over time.

Production and Styles

The production of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is significantly larger than that of Matelica, making Jesi wines more accessible and well-known on the market. Furthermore, Jesi has successfully experimented with the production of sparkling wines and dessert wines, exploring the versatility of the grape variety. Matelica, despite being more limited in terms of quantity, has earned a niche reputation for wines that can challenge the most demanding palates with their intensity and longevity.

Gastronomic pairings

Castelli di Jesi wines pair beautifully with light appetizers, fish and seafood dishes, thanks to their acidity and freshness. Matelica wines, with their structure and richness, are ideal for accompanying more substantial dishes such as roasted white meats, mushroom risottos or mature cheeses.

In summary, while both offer the excellence of the Verdicchio grape, the wines of Castelli di Jesi and Matelica stand out for their unique interpretations that reflect differences in climate, terroir and winemaking techniques. This diversity offers wine lovers a wonderful opportunity to explore and appreciate the variety and complexity of Marche wines.

Traditional pairing with typical Marche cuisine

The cuisine of the Marche, varied and rich in flavors of the land and sea, pairs beautifully with regional wines. Traditional dishes such as "Brodetto di pesce", a rich and aromatic fish stew, pair perfectly with Verdicchio, whose fresh and mineral profile balances the richness of the dish. Likewise, local pecorino cheeses and processed meats, such as ciausano in "Olive all'ascolana", an appetizer based on stuffed and fried olives, find an ideal pairing in robust reds such as Rosso Piceno, which with its Tannic structure balances the richness of the dish.

In conclusion, this book not only celebrates the viticultural diversity of the Marche through a detailed exploration of its wines, but also invites you to discover the profound connections between these wines and the rich gastronomic offer of the region. From fresh, minerally white wines to intense, structured reds, the Marche offers a palette of wine experiences that reflect the history, culture and terroir of this magnificent part of Italy.

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