Le Marche wineries to visit

An under-rated Italian region to visit, John Ducker shares some of the top wineries to visit, plus additional recommendations from Michaela Morris...

Le Marche wineries to visit

Italy’s Marche region? Where’s that? A question one might ask, as the province itself must rank as one of the most secret and under-visited parts of Italy compared, say, to Tuscany, Umbria or the Veneto.

Lying eiqudistant from Rome and Florence, washed by the Adriatic to the east and extending westwards by way of twisting river valleys towards the foothills of the Appenines and the Gran Sasso beyond, it is a region of beautiful contrasts. Ideal wine-growing territory too.

Visiting a winery here is not about the glamour of five star hotels on estates, it’s a rustic, Italian experience.

Even at today’s two million hectolitre wine production level Le Marche’s overall reputation for upfront quality may have lain somewhat in the shadows compared to its Brit-beloved neighbour Tuscany. However, a recent trip hosted by ‘Marchet’, the Marche Chamber of Commerce, proved to its participants that a substantial revolution is taking place and a rethink about the region in terms of its wines is well overdue.

A score of Le Marche’s hundreds of significant wine producers, many working in the organic and bio-dynamic spectrum, were on hand across four fully-packed days of winery visits and tastings to prove not only that youth, energy and dedication is to the fore across the board of Marche wine production but also that the region has gained a new confidence to equal the best Italy can offer to the consumer.

The region’s lengthy Adriatic seaboard, a paradise for sea-food lovers, dictates mostly white wines although wine produced westwards from the sea and regional coastal plain towards and into the foothills of the Appenines and the Gran Sasso beyond offer an astonishingly satisfying range of colour and style apt to service the countryside’s rustic larder; the river valleys providing a perfect terroir for exploitation by Marche wine growers across the centuries.

These wineries I feel are ones to watch….and they all warmly welcome visitors, perfect for your next trip.  John Ducker 

Malacari

An estate farm based around Offagna and owned by the Malacari family since the 16th century. There’s textbook Rosso Conero DOC, and riserva DOCG from 100% Montepulciano, produced organically from old vines with minimum intervention, i.e. virtually no sprays in the vineyard and the use of only natural yeasts, with ageing in an assortment of old barricas. An estate making wine since the 17th century. Rich, dry, dense and sapid wines….with considerable ageing potential. Recommended by  John Ducker.

Hours and visits: Tuesday – Saturday 15:30 to 19:30
There are several casual tasting options for those visiting without reservations but it is advised to email ahead on info@malacari.it
Directions: Only a 20 minute drive South East of Ancona

Bruscia

A family run business where a slew of indigenous Marche grapes are grown across a 50Ha. estate in the gentle hillsides around Constanzo , led principally by the white Bianchello, with Sangiovese as the leading red contender. Lesser known varieties include the white Incrocio Bruni and the ironically named ‘Famoso’. Small quantities of Lachryma too, the thin-skinned ‘weeping’ grape (when over-ripe). A hi-tech winery, with a wide range of wines and very clean-cut production. Recommended by  John Ducker.

Hours and visits: Open Monday – Friday, email ahead on info@brusciavini.it to let them know your plans
Directions: A 40 minute north from Ancona up the stunning coast

Cantina Di Sante

Here’s outreach indeed. The historic Di Sante organic farm at Carignano with 30Ha. of vineyards set in the Colli Pesaresi around Fano is now a leading educational base for food and wine both nationally and internationally. A ‘must visit’ should you happen to be in the region complete with tastings and winery tours. The tufa soils of the estate support a number of varietals including Bianchello, Sangiovese and Montepulciano – but the full range, including olive oil and grappas can be found in their wine shop in Fano itself. Recommended by  John Ducker.

Hours and visits: Open Monday – Sunday, email ahead on info@disantevini.it for a tour of the winery and olive groves. Oil and wines can be bought at the winery or at their shop in Fano.
Directions: A further 10 minutes up the coast from Bruscia

Società Agricola Ciù Ciù

Vegetarians and Vegans rejoice! Ciù Ciù is for you!

This certified organic family winery, founded in 1970 , lies ‘down south’ in the Ascoli Piceno area of Marche around the hill town of Offida, producing a full range of local white varietals including Verdicchio, Pecorino and Passerina, and premium reds including Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Barbera, Merlot and Cabernet. No animal products are used during the fining process…hence the headline. Their shop and tasting room is in Offida itself. Recommended by  John Ducker.

Hours and visits: Advised to fill out the form online here. with at least a week’s notice.
Directions: An hour and ten minute drive South of Ancona along the coast to San Benedetto del Tronto

Villa Bucci

Looking for textbook Verdicchio with real complexity and depth? There’ll be few places better to find it than in the Castelli di Jesi at Ostra Vetere. Ampelio Bucci’s Verdicchio Riserva from his 31 Ha. property must rank as one of Italy’s top white wines, from the lowest yields and strictest possible grape selection across different vineyard plots and with a finish in large Slavonian oak. Production also includes fine Sangiovese/Montepulciano reds in the Piceno DOC. Michaela Morris also says ‘No tour of Castelli di Jesi is complete without a visit to Villa Bucci.’

Hours and visits: Fill out form online to arrange visit or email bucciwines@villabucci.com

Villa Bucci cellar

The cellars at Villa Bucci. Credit: Villa Bucci

Pievalta

For a lesson in the nuances of terroir, head to Pievalta. Here you can compare Verdicchio from the clay and limestone soil of Maiolati Spontini commune with those of the granitic sandstone of San Paolo di Jesi. Winemaker Alessandro Fenino takes willing guests into the vineyards for a crash-course in biodynamic viticulture. Recommended by Michaela Morris.

Wine shop open: Monday to Friday 9.00 – 12.00, 15.00 – 18.00. Tours available but book first+39 0731 705199

Sartarelli

The tasting room at Sartarelli doubles as a museum, giving a useful primer of the Jesi area while offering five styles of Verdicchio, from a charmat-method bubbly to a sweet passito. Recommended by Michaela Morris.

Wine shop open:  Monday – Friday 08.00 – 12.30 / 14.00 – 19.00, Saturday 08.00 – 13.00. Tours available, contact in advance.   +39 0731 89732

La Staffa

Another proponent of organics and biodynamics is rising star Riccardo Baldi at La Staffa. His vineyard is near the town of Staffolo, where the calcium carbonate-rich soil gives structured wines with pronounced minerality. For something completely different, ask to try his Verdicchio ‘pét-nat’ lightly sparkling wine. Recommended by Michaela Morris.

Marotti Campi

At Marotti Campi, the comparison is of a different nature. The estate crafts three Verdicchios, each picked at progressively later ripening times and aged longer on the lees. Salmariano incorporates a small percentage of new barrique and is a testament to Verdicchio’s affinity with oak. Marotti Campi also makes one of the region’s best examples of the intensely perfumed, exotically aromatic red Lacrima variety. Recommended by Michaela Morris.

Contact in advance, wine@marotticampi.net+39 0731 618027

ColleStefano

In Matelica, the co-existence of small and large wineries that defines Le Marche is illustrated by ColleStefano and Belisario. At one extreme, ColleStefano is a tiny family-owned estate that has been farming organically for over 20 years. Most of the production goes into a single bottling, but a visit here will give you a taste of its racy sparkling Verdicchio made in tiny quantities. Recommended by Michaela Morris.

Contact here.

Belisario

At the other end of the spectrum, Belisario is a 100-member cooperative with a dizzying array of labels, including other native whites grapes such as Passerina and Pecorino. Verdicchio, however, is still very much the focus. Cambrugiano is its top wine and was one of the very first Verdicchio to be aged in barrique. Recommended by Michaela Morris.

Contact here.


Marche food to look out for

I was never in much doubt that at table in Italy the food is the star of the show, local wines having been crafted across the centuries to help show it off – a dynamic reversal of the way wine is treated, say, in France where the wine is on a pedestal and French regional cuisine has anciently been created to provide an ideal context for it. Be that as it may, my recent visit to Italy’s Marche region certainly helped reinforce my view.

No prizes for guessing that with its Aegean seaboard the key cuisine of the Le Marche shoreline – and extending way inland- is based on fish and seafood in multitudinous variety and where from ancient times the very culture of cooking ‘Alla Marchigiana’ absorbed recipes introduced from sea-borne visitors from North Africa and especially from Greece.

Elsewhere, further down Italy’s ‘foot’ in the mezzogiorno witness even further evidence of beneficial Greek introductions: wine-grape varieties with Greek names: Greco, Grechetto, Aglianico (‘Hellenico’) etc. In Le Marche itself one finds a rich, distinctive and hugely varied culinary heritage, one deriving as much from the diverse cultures of the ancient tribes once living in the region as the divisions created by natural geography. Wide river valleys between the mountains divide the landmass into four distinct sectors providing thereby a degree of separateness from the rest of Italy. No wonder perhaps that as a province Le Marche isn’t so well known by outsiders.

Blessed as an agricultural region with an abundance both of farmland and grassland Le Marche is well able to provide a wealth of varied foodstuffs, meat, poultry, plentiful fruits, wild boar, hares, game birds in the mountains, not to mention those buried prizes of the region’s extensive woodland – truffles, widely incorporated into local dishes as if by right.

Few Italian cookbooks in general do more than nod briefly in the direction of Marche gastronomic culture, but to get the real flavour of the region out of your own kitchen may I suggest a single book – ‘Cucina of Le Marche’ – a debut publication from professional Marche-born chef Fabio Trabocchi, published by Harper Collins. It’s the business – and then some.

John Ducker