The hillsides of Marche hold many secrets, among them the complexity and ageability of well-made Verdicchio. Tom Hyland finds himself intrigued as he explores the region.

The Verdicchio grape, grown in the hillsides of north-central and western Marche, is used to produce a variety of wines, from metodo classico to passito and, in between, some of the longest-lived dry whites found in Italy. Decanter Italy expert Ian D’Agata, in his book Native Wine Grapes of Italy, asserts that ‘Verdicchio is arguably Italy’s greatest native white grape variety.’ In its 2015 Italian wine guide, Gambero Rosso awarded its highest rating of tre bicchieri to 11 examples of Verdicchio – more than any other white in the country. So why is it that you would be hard pressed to find more than one example on wine lists outside of Italy?

There are two DOC zones for Verdicchio in Marche: Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, the more famous of the two, and Verdicchio di Matelica. While most examples are 100% Verdicchio (DOC regulations require 85% minimum Verdicchio), the characteristics of these wines are quite varied, thanks to a series of factors including soil, climate and elevation. The Castelli di Jesi zone is located in northcentral Marche, while Matelica is in the westerncentre of the region, close to the Apennine Mountains that traverse this part of the region, near the border with Umbria. ‘The greatest difference between Matelica and Jesi,’ says Riccardo Baldi, proprietor of the La Staffa estate in the Jesi zone, ‘is the terrains. Jesi is very rich in clay and skeletal deposits, while Matelica is richer in minerals. Also Jesi is more open to the sea, while Matelica is an inland territory, where the influence of the mountains can be felt.’

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