Le Marche is a relatively small region lying at the eastern edge of central Italy. In recent decades it has been frequently overshadowed by neighbouring Abruzzo, Umbria and Tuscany, but to dismiss the region as insignificant is to miss out on a vast lineup of exciting wines.
Le Marche has a growing reputation in Italian wine circles and the trajectory is likely to continue. Renewed enthusiasm for the country’s stable of native grapes has thrust the white Verdicchio variety into the limelight as wine lovers fall for its fresh acidity, trendy mineral character and tendency to give unctuous citrus flavours. Verdicchio, known in the north as Trebbiano di Soave and Turbiana is the principal grape of two of the region’s important appellations - Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and increasingly fashionable Verdicchio di Matelica.
Although many producers choose to bottle and label their estate’s every-day white wines as Marche IGP, there remains a steady belief in promoting micro territories. The wines of DOCG Offida are a prime example, with local winemakers comfortable showcasing eminently trendy grapes such as Pecorino and Passerina in connection with one of Italy’s least well known DOCGs. Elsewhere there is support for other terroirs such as the hills immediately north of the town of Pesaro and close to Macerata.
There are some high quality red wine territories as well. The most famous, and perhaps most respected, are the wines produced around the town of Cònero, just south of the coastal city of Ancona. Produced from a minimum of 85% Montepulciano and up to 15% Sangiovese its wines were granted DOCG status in 2004. There are some excellent value wines to be found here and can certainly hold their own against the top wines from neighbouring Abruzzo. They must be aged for a minimum of two years before release.
One of the region’s hidden treasures is the Lacrima di Morro d’Alba grape. As an aromatic red variety it gives powerful floral and berry expressions in the glass and continuously surprises the uninitiated with its concentration of dark fruit. Such natural characteristics also pave the way for a sweet passito wine, which although difficult to find, can be excellent.
Produced around the town of Macerata in Le Marche, the Colli Maceratesi DOC is known for the cultivation of the white Maceratino variety. Alongside this there are a number of simple wines produced from both international red varieties as well as the typical grapes of central Italy.
Verdicchio di Matelica is a premium growing area for the Verdicchio wines. Matelica’s long growing season provides higher sugars and thus higher alcohol. It’s relatively high altitude means that is maintains freshness. In addition cool night temperatures add further complexity to its aromatic profile.