Coined “the New Tuscany”, the Marche Wine Region is one of Italy’s last untouched wine regions and a must for gourmet travelers. Sandwiched between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea, Le Marche was long kept from realizing its full potential as a wine-growing area by poverty and geography; even with the relative prosperity of recent decades and the improvements in communication lines, Le Marche is still off the beaten track. Tuscany and Umbria lie just to the west, but the charms of rural Marche – wines that are as easy on the palate as they are on the wallet, long stretches of pristine coast, and stunning medieval towns like Ascoli Piceno and Urbino – have remained largely undiscovered. Yet this area is as captivating as anything you will find in Italy, and as Marche wines are finally beginning to make their mark on the wine world, the region is inching ever closer to the mainstream.
Le Marche is a beautiful wine region, with miles of untamed coastline, picturesque fishing villages like Portonovo, Renaissance gems like Urbino (where the painter Raphael was born), medieval hamlets such as Urbania, rustic mountain villages like Carpegna and wild expanses of nature that culminate in the splendorous peaks of Monti Sibillini. The most important wine towns include the capital, Ancona, and lovely Ascoli Piceno, Cupramontana, Matelica, Cingoli, Fabriano (and its curious Paper and Watermark Museum), Conero, the fortified beautiful village of Jesi, Recanati (also famous for being the birthplace of one of Italy’s most famous poets- Giacomo Leopardi) and Numana. Other fascinating places include the Grotte di Frasassi, a spectacular cave network which is the largest of its kind in Europe and features million-year-old stalactites!
Like its more famous neighbors
Like its more famous neighbors Tuscany and Umbria, Le Marche boasts Mediterranean flora like Cyprus trees, olive trees, and vines spread across a hilly landscape, and dotted with medieval villages. The calcareous soils here, like those to the west, have proven excellent for varieties like Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Verdicchio, and Montepulciano. Even with enviable growing conditions, the region has just 20,000 hectares of vineyards spread throughout 11 DOCs in the provinces of Ancona, Ascoli Piceno, Macerata and Pesaro; and it ranks 12th among Italy’s wine regions.
The Best of the Reds
The best red wines coming from the region are Sangiovese and Montepulciano, the indigenous black grape varietal that reaches its optimum point in the area’s dry maritime climate and limestone-rich soils. The Montepulciano grape is not related to the Tuscan wine region of Montepulciano where Vino Nobile is made, rather is a separate noble varietal. Both Sangiovese and Montepulciano are used by the two most prolific appellations for red wine- Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno- to make firm, tannic and easily recognizable wines. Moroder is an excellent producer of Rosso Conero.
Star White, Verdiccho Grape
Beyond these two up-and-coming regions, most of the wine made in Le Marche is white, with the crisp and fresh Verdicchio varietal being the star. Although Verdicchio had long been seen as a lesser variety, the work being done by producers like Sartarelli and Pievalta are bringing a newfound depth and personality to the region’s most popular white wine. There are different types of Verdicchio- Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi and Verdicchio di Matelica, Castelli di Jesi being more prevalent. The Pecorino grape is gaining popularity in Marche and many producers are making stellar white wines with this trendy varietal.
Other appellations in Marche include the DOCG Vernaccia di Serrapetrona (a unique red sparkling wine that has been made since ancient times and it is mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy), Lacrima di Morro d’Alba (a sweet red wine made in Ancona province), Falerio dei Colli Ascolani (a wine that dates back to Roman times!), Bianchello del Metauro (named after the white Bianchello grape which is a clone of the Greco grape, and the “Metauro” river), Colli Maceratesi (local red and white wines made in the hills around Macerata), Colli Pesaresi, Esino, Offida, and Terreni di Sanseverino.
Top wines of the Marche include Moroder Rosso Cònero Dorico, Fattoria Le Terazze Rosso Cònero Sassi Neri, Lanari Rosso Cònero Fibbio, La Monascesca Verdicchio di Matelica, Bisci Verdicchio di Matelica Vigneto Fogliano, Sartarelli Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Tralivio and Umani Ronchi Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Casal di Serra, Bucci Verdicchio, La Distesa Verdicchio, Pievalta Verdicchio, and Fattoria San Lorenzo.