The Wines of Marche

The Marche region is well known for the quality of its whites made from the prolific Verdicchio grape. Crisp, fresh Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi wines, easily recognisable from their green amphora bottles, have impressed wine lovers on an international scale as great partners for seafood.  However some exceptional modern wines can be found in standard bottles, many of them well-structured wines of great depth and character.

Marche's vineyard on the hills near AnconaA typically verdant Marche’s vineyard, on the hills near Ancona. © iStockphoto/Thinkstock.

Although many commercially successful wines are produced in Castelli di Jesi, in the hills west of Ancona, it is in the mountainous terrain of Verdicchio di Matelica that the most distinguished wines are made, with a fuller mouthfeel and greater complexity than those from Jesi. In terms of overall quality though, Verdicchio in all its forms undoubtedly ranks among Italy’s finest whites, with quality steadily improving for many years as producers have realised the grape’s potential for making interesting wines that are capable of developing in bottle. Some good sparkling wine is also produced from Verdicchio, using both the Champagne method and the tank method of fermentation.

Despite the dominance of the Verdicchio grape, some very fine reds are also made in this serene region on the Adriatic sea. Sangiovese and Montepulciano are important, both in blends and as single varietals. Two DOCGs exist in Conero and Vernaccia di Serrapetrona. Rosso Piceno is important in terms of volume, made largely from Sangiovese grapes grown in the DOC zone across the east of the region, from Ascoli Piceno to Senigallia’s rolling hills along the coast. The Montepulciano grape thrives on the slopes of the Conero massif where Rosso Conero DOC wines are made from no less than 85% Montepulciano. Historically both Rosso Coserno and Rosso Piceno were areas in which easy to drink, approachable reds were made. More recently though there has been a trend towards producing wines that are capable of ageing: in the best vintages they can age for up to ten years.

Marche's rolling hills landscapeGently sloping from the Apennines, the Italian peninsula’s mountainous spine, to the Adriatic sea, Marche’s landscape is well suited for wine grape growing. © iStockphoto/Thinkstock.

Recently promoted to DOCG, Vernaccia di Serrapetrona is an unusual spumante red which is now gaining a following abroad. Another intriguing wine made from Vernaccia grapes is Lacrima di Morro d’Alba which gains extra flavour and concentration from the addition of a must produced from partially dried grapes, which induces a second fermentation. To the north, in Colli Pesaresi, Sangiovese dominates the reds, producing wines that are usually drunk young although wines from the best years have a complex structure and can age for 3-4 years. Many wines from this area are similar to those from Romagna just to the north.

Some pleasant dry whites come from the DOC of Bianchello del Metauro, whose best examples show some class. A fortified Vin Santo wine is also permitted here. Quality reds from Montepulciano and Verdicchio and dry whites from Verdicchio are produced in Esino DOC. There is also a regionwide IGT for Marche under which many interesting blends are made using local varietals as well as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay which grow well on the temperate slopes. A substantial proportion of the grapes grown in the Marche region are destined for IGT wines.


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