I’ve never been to Le Marche. The only thing I knew about the region is that it has an amazing seafood scene, thanks to its primary location on the Adriatic coast. I’ve had Verdicchio few times and Pecorino wines, but even then, it would be rather coincidental – a glass at a friend’s party or a sommelier recommendation at a local wine bar.
I asked my friends, passionate wine lovers, if they ever had a wine from Le Marche, and what was their first-choice wine from Italy. “I like Friulano and the red that tastes like honey…Nero d’Avola, but I don’t know what regions they fall into,” said my friend Emily. My friend Marina didn’t know what Le Marche is. Had anyone ever tasted Verdicchio, Pecorino, or Lacrima di Moro? “I thought Pecorino is a cheese,” said my friend Julia. So, none of my friends could recall having ever tried any wine from Le Marche and none of them were familiar with the names of the grapes. However, all agreed that the names of the grapes sound beautiful, and were curious to taste the wines.
My survey wasn’t eye-opening, but rather confirmed my assumption that Le Marche is still considered off the beaten path for many wine consumers, and often gets overshadowed by its better-known neighbors, like Tuscany or even Abruzzo.
Marco Germani, who represented Velenosi winery at the Taste of Le Marche Pairing Lunch I attended, explained that lack of popularity by the fact that wine production of the Marche is tiny in comparison with giants like Veneto or Puglia. Le Marche accounts for 0,8 million hectoliters – three times less than Tuscany, and only 1/7 of Veneto wine production by volume (Statista 2019). I can see why the American consumer has limited access to these wines, but the other side of the coin is that the region could do a better job in educating the consumer about their wines and grapes.
Le Marche in a nutshell
Many different types of wines are produced in Le Marche because of its diverse terroir and climatic sub-zones. The region stretches along the eastern seaboard of central Italy with the regions of Emilia Romagna on the north and Abruzzo on the south and is separated from Umbria by the Apennines. Inland river valleys channel cool sea air over the coastal plains and up into Apennine foothills, moderating the summer heat.
High elevation (Le Marche is almost 90% hills), great sun exposure, and Adriatic influence create perfect grape growing conditions resulting in wines of great complexity, rich aromatics and flavor. Calcareous, clay and limestone-rich soils provide good water drainage forcing vines to develop long root system to reach the nutrients, resulting in more concentrated wines with mineral character.
Main grape varieties: Verdicchio, Pecorino, Montepulciano, Lacrima di Morro, Sangiovese.
Of many wines I tasted, I particularly loved Verdicchio from Velenosi winery, crisp and round straw-colored wine with pretty floral aromas that compliment its citrus, briny flavors. Crisp acidity and slightly bitter aftertaste of toasted almonds makes Verdicchio an ideal match for salads, seafood appetizers and semi-hard cheeses. I also liked the back label romantic description, promising “to surprise you, attract you, and intrigue you.”
In addition to Verdicchio, my other favorite white was Pecorino (again, not to be confused with Pecorino cheese). Unlike floral Passerina (Velenosi makes a sparkling version of it) or crisp, briny Verdicchio, Pecorino has more tropical fruit, fresh herbs flavor with natural sweetness of the grape, nicely balanced with zesty acidity. Having an amazing fullness on the palate, this wine would pair wonderfully with rich fatty fish, lobster, and Pecorino cheese, of course!
Another recognizable variety from Le Marche is Lacrima di Morro. It is a semi-aromatic red wine, which has a very distinct floral flavor. As our host Laura Donadoni (aka @theitalianwinegirl) said “It’s easy to love it, and it’s easy to hate it.” There were no haters at our table, but I can see why some people would opt for a different style of wine. I thought it was an incredible wine for the price ($16), but I preferred another red a bit more: Roggio del Filare, a blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese from the coastal area Rosso Piceno DOC Superiore. This wine is made from 50 years old vines and goes through extensive oak aging for 18 months. Roggio del Filare is a flagship wine of Velenosi winery that has won multiple prestigious wine awards and regularly receives high scores from important wine guides.
All of the wines that I tasted during that lunch were not only good, but were reasonably priced, no matter was it a light floral aperitif sparkling or a rich, serious red made from 50 years old vines with extensive oak ageing.
As our group of wine bloggers and writers tasted the wines and enjoyed Italy’s favorite comfort food, La Pecora Bianca, NYC is well known for its house-made pasta, I thought how approachable and easy on a palate those wines were and what an incredible value for the quality and pleasure they delivered. It’s just up to the rest of the world to notice.
Le Marche through Velenosi wines
Passerina Brut, NV
Extended Charmat Method (aged on lees for 90 days)
This light and floral Spumante made from Passerina grape is an excellent aperitif thanks to its bright acidity, silky mouthfeel and persistent bubbles.
2018 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC Classico ($16)
A fascinating white made with the most widely planted grape variety in Le Marche – Verdicchio.
Playful acidity, complex minerality, and slightly bitter aftertaste of toasted almonds make Verdicchio an ideal match for salads, seafood appetizers and semi-hard cheeses.
2018 Velenosi Pecorino Offida DOCG Villa Angela ($18)
Beautiful bouquet of yellow flowers, tropical fruit and fresh herbs like thyme and sage. Round on the palate, with refreshing acidity this wine would pair wonderfully with fatty fish, shellfish and white sauce pasta dishes.
2018 Velenosi Querciantica Lacrima di Morro DOC ($16)
Inky and intensely saturated red with distinctive flavor, made from the ancient Lacrima grape variety. This fruity medium-bodied wine with gently tannins pairs well with braised meats, stews, and pasta with tomato sauce.
2015 Velenosi Roggio del Filare Rosso Piceno DOC Superiore ($40)
Made from 50 years old vines grown at Rosso Piceno DOC, Le Marche, and aged for 18 months in oak, this red blend of Montepulciano (70%) and Sangiovese (30%) is a stunner! Intense, elegant nose of dark red fruit, followed by tobacco, leather, cinnamon and a touch of vanilla. Full-bodied with silky, well integrated tannins the wine is ready to drink now but can be easily put on hold for the next decade.
Visciole Querciantica (Vino Aromatico)
This blend of red wine and cherry liquor made into dessert wine is absolutely delicious. Pair it with chocolate tart or gelato.
Check out full wine portfolio and learn more about Velenosi family here.