Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Wines of Le Marche

The Great North-South

Le Marche is a region in limbo, no one  seems to know if the region is in northern Italy or southern Italy. To the northern regions, Le Marche is a northern extension of Abruzzi, therefore it is most certainly a region of southern Italy. However, to southern Italy, Le Marche is merely a continuation of the region of Romagna, therefore most definately a northern Italian region. It is due to this crisis of identity that the Le Marche region has such diversity in not only its history, traditions and customs, but more importantly it's cuisine and wines. Geologically speaking, Le Marche shares it's various soil structures with it's northern neighbours, Umbria and Tuscany. But climatically speaking, Le Marche is much more southern Italian, sharing it's maritime climate with it's southern neighbours Abruzzo and Lazio. But viticulturally speaking Le Marche shows the best of both worlds, taking it's grape varieties, viticultural, vineyard and wine making techniques from both it's northern and southern neighbours.

The regions vineyards cover the areas of hills that run along the Adriatic coast line, and occasionally extend right down to the sea, especially around the rocky outcrops around Ancona.  This close proximity to the sea gives the regions slightly cooler climate than Le Marches southern neighbours and the sea also gives the regions soil structure good moisture and minerality, which in turn add complexity to the regions wines. Probably the most famous wine from Le Marche is the white wine Verdicchio, which since the 1950's has been sold in iconic green amphora-shaped bottles. Many people believe that the amphora bottles are the traditional bottle-shape of the region, but nothing could be further from the truth. The amphora bottles where the brainchild of a wine marketing company from Milan who believed, and quite rightly so, the eye-catching bottles would lead to greater sales and give the wines an image of quality and heritage. Despite this success the Le Marche region has seen a distinct shift in the quality spectrum of it's wines over the last couple of decades from white wines to quality red wines, many of which are based upon the what many people consider the saviour's of Italian red wine production Montepulciano and Sangiovese grape varieties.

Red Wines of Ancona

The best-known and mostly probably the best quality red wine from Le Marche is the Rosso Conero. Rosso Conero should only ever be made from Montepulciano, however in reality a little Sangiovese often finds it's way in some wines to improve complexity and fruit flavours. Rosso Conero originates from the  coastel regions around the city of Ancona and has developed over the past couple of decades into an often top quality red wine. Every year around 9,504,00 gallons of Rosso Conero are produced in Le Marche, due to these immense volumes Rosso Conero can still be purchased very cheaply despite it's ever increasing quality, an advantage that has unfortunately been lost with many other good quality Italian regional wines.

Rosso Piceno, on the other hand is from the southern part of the Le Marche  and is, unlike Rosso Conero, officially a blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano grapes. There are many people who believe that Sangiovese and Montepulciano are simply hybrids of the same variety, but others believe them to be very distinct and separate varieties in their own right. But to many the Sangiovese grape variety gives Rosso Piceno blend it's magnificent finesse, whereby the Montepulciano grape variety gives these blends their body, fullness and complexity.

Change Of Style For

When it comes to the white wines of Le Marche Verdicchio is the best performing wine in the region. The two DOC regions for Verdicchio, Castelli di Jesi and Matelica are really the only two major players within the region. Until very recently both wines were rustic to say the least but in the last couple of decades increases in quality have seen both DOCs producing some stunning wines. Verdicchio's where once strong, high alcohol wines lacking all the quality, elegance, finesse and freshness modern day wine drinkers look for when purchasing a white wine. However, since Le Marche wine producers stopped the practice of letting the wine must stand on the crushed grape skins and the ancient Governo practice of adding dried grapes to the finished wines to restart fermentation, Verdicchio has becoming a wonderfully fruity, light, medium strength wine that's more of a pleasure to drink than the chore it once was.

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