March Over to Le Marche

Mark DeWolf | Wine Discovery

It’s said that Umbria lies in the shadow of Tuscany. The region doesn’t get the volume of tourists, nor do the names of its wines drip off the tongue like Chianti does. Then there is the Le Marche (leh mahr-kay), on the other side of Umbria, a province wedged between the Apennines and the Adriatic Sea.

Le Marche is even less well known than Umbria. While North American tourists may lack some familiarity with the Le Marche, Italians know it as seaside resorts and the stunning natural beauty of its landscape. It’s a bit of a national secret that Italians may or may not be willing to relinquish.

The wines of Le Marche, like the place, are for the most part unfamiliar to much of the North American wine buying public, past the Gina Lollobrigida shaped bottles of Fazi Battiglia Verdicchio that long graced the shelves of wine retailers, including the NSLC. The province’s best wines often straddle the line between the rich, soft and approachable nature of their southern neighbours in Abruzzo, with the fresher, more elegant persona of Umbria and Tuscany.

In fact, in its two most popular appellations (wine regions), Rosso Piceno and Rosso Conero, the wines are blends of varying amounts of Montepulciano, a grape that makes jammy, soft-centered reds in Abruzzo, and Sangiovese, best known for its starring role in Chianti.

Verdicchio – Verdicchio is the classic white wine producing grape of Le Marche. Its name, a derivative of Verde, meaning green, references the wines’ pale hued colour. Until recently many producers over cropped Verdicchio which resulted in wines which were often light-bodied and tart.

Now, as quality minded producers focus more attention on Verdicchio the wines better express their citrus flavours but sometimes with the addition of a light almond note. The wines are also comparably more restrained in their acidity but are notably lively and refreshing.

Verdicchio typically pairs well with light seafood dishes but are also good matches to pasta tossed in pesto or served Aglio e Olio (tossed in a garlic and olive oil).

Rosso Conero – Grapes for this appellation come from just south of Ancona, the province’s largest coastal city, in vineyards that sit on the lower slopes of Monte Conero. The wines are blends with Montepulciano, which comprise at least 85 per cent of the mix. Typically the second grape is Sangiovese, which can constitute a maximum of 15 per cent of the wine.

The wines of Rosso Conero are typically ripe and play on the edge of being medium or full-bodied. Their generously fruity nature and relatively soft tannic structure makes them ideal partners to full flavoured casseroles, stews and hearty pasta dishes.

Rosso Piceno – The wines of Rosso Piceno, like Rosso Conero, are blends of predominantly Montepulciano and Sangiovese, but in this case, producers are allowed to and typically include a higher percentage of Sangiovese in the wine. The resulting wines are often a little bit brighter and more refreshing than Rosso Conero. Their slightly tangy nature makes them the perfect partner to pizza night or a light tomato pasta such as the regional speciality Pasta all’ Amatriciana.

 

Occasions recommends: 

  • Umani Ronchi Verdicchio, Italy, $13.99
  • Velenosi Brecciarolo Rosso Piceno Superiore, Italy, $17.29
  • Umani Ronchi Lorenzo Conero, Italy, $19.99

Next week: We stay in Central Tuscany reviewing the wines of Tuscany and Emilia Romagna

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