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Delhi Wine Club
Verdicchio and other Wines of Le Marche

Posted: Wednesday, 12 June 2013 11:27

Verdicchio and other Wines of Le Marche

June 12: Whenever one talks of excellent cuisine made with freshly caught fish and other sea creatures in Italy, the name of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi as a perfect wine mate comes to mind instantly, claims Subhash Arora who had an opportunity to enjoy some of the delicious seafood with these wines and also to taste them with the experts at the well-known wineries - Umano Ronchi, Garofoli, Cantina Colognola, Moroder and Moncaro during his visit last month to Marche

Click For Large ViewLe Marche is in the central part of Italy, with Tuscany and Umbria to the West. It touches Emiglia Romana in the North and Abruzzi in the South. It is one of Italy’s less charted wine regions but an absolute must-visit for gourmets and wine aficionados. It is off the beaten track and less commercialized. Sandwiched between the Apennines and the Adriatic Sea on the east, it has a long string of pristine beaches and infinite excellent fresh seafood restaurants that serve wines that go deliciously well with cuisine of the region and yet are easy on the palate as well as the wallet.

Medieval towns like Loreto, Ancona, and Jesi that we visited, have still not been fully discovered. The region of late has been buzzing and is on the verge of making its presence felt in world of wine, sea-food and tourism in general. Several fishing villages like Portonovo and Porto Potenza Picena are sea-food paradise as we discovered eating with the fishermen of the area.

Wines of Marche

According to Alberto Mazzoni, Director of Istituto Marchigiano di Tutela Vini (IMT) - a professional organization of producers, who conducted a seminar for the 35 judges attending the Selezione Internazionale Vini de Pesce wine competition- Marche is a small grape growing region of Italy and has come into prominence during recent years only. It may not be big in quantity but quality has found the rightful acceptance in the world market.

Italy produced 39.3 million hL in 2012, Marche had less than 2% share with only 750,000 hL. However, in terms of quality wines it had a much bigger share of quality wines - DOP (formerly DOC and DOCG) and IGP Click For Large View(formerly IGT). While the national average was 47% table wines, Marche had only 16% share. Similarly, Italy had 30% of the share as IGP while Marche produced 44% as IGP wines. The difference in DOP wines was more marked with 23% DOP wines in the national average whereas 40% of wines in Marche were in the DOP category.

About 90% of Marche grows grapes, the rest 10% area is in the north-Urbino with a totally mountainous terrain. There are 52 registered grape varieties for cultivation but 30 of them are indigenous. There are 5 DOCG appellations and 15 DOC/DOP. (Under new EU laws the wines cannot be classified as DOC or DOCG but must be called DOP-(Denominazione Origine Protetta, for export). In 1996, the producers took a conscientious decision to expand the growth of Verdicchio and not to go for the international Chardonnay grapes. It seems it was the right decision.

Verdicchio white wines

In 1996, the producers took a conscientious decision to expand the growth of Verdicchio and not to go for the international Chardonnay grapes. It seems it was the right decision.

Although Pecorino and Passerina make good quality white wines, the king of white grapes is certainly Verdicchio in Marche. Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi dop is the ubiquitous grape varietal. The second biggest appellation of white wine in Italy, it is generally a medium to full body dry wine with a nutty flavour. Pale gold colour with shades of green has given it the Italian varietal name. It is important to note that there is a slight pleasant after-taste of bitter almonds in these wines.

It also goes very well with Indian food and more importantly, palate. When the big, local co-operative Moncaro entered India in collaboration with Riona Wines in Maharashtra, we served 6 bottles of Verdicchio  dei Castelli di Jesi. They simply evaporated in minutes. In another event, we took the number to 9 with the same result. In the next dinner we took the number to 12 and before they could pronounce the full word, they were gone too-and the members still cannot pronounce the grape or the appellation but surely love the wine.

Click For Large ViewSo why such a complicated name? Why not simply Verdicchio or Verdicchio di Jesi, I asked Dariano Marchetti, the President of Moncaro the biggest producing co-operative, the joint venture partner with the Sangli-based winery? He was driving me back from his winery near Montecarotto after hosting a dinner at the popular winery Restaurant Le Busche (boos-kay) where Chef Andre had prepared elegant, excellent seafood dishes (he had been to Hyatt Regency, Delhi as the guest Chef and was very popular). We were heading to the small town of Jesi with a habitation of only 30,000. 

Understandably, the protective Italians would never settle for a label naming simply a grape variety like Verdicchio lest other regions or countries start growing them and labeling their wines with Italian sounding names. But he clarified that the town of Jesi had nothing to do with the grape cultivation. But why Castelli, then? Most small villages around the town where Verdicchio grapes are grown, used to be on the small hills so that the town people could position watch guards to protect them against attacks (think old Indian states with Rajas and Maharajas where such battles were a common sight) and hence the name Castelli (castles). An interesting explanation, that. Once you understand the origin of the grape, you are not likely to be confused ever-until you come across another similar appellation-Verdicchio Matelica, a tenth of its size.

A minimum of 85% Verdicchio must be used in the above appellations to be known as a varietal. But it is also used in blended wines like Esino Bianco in which 50% of Verdicchio is used.

Popular Reds

Sangiovese and Montepulciano (not to be confused with the town of Montepulciano in Tuscany known for its Vino Nobile di Montepulciano made from Sangiovese grapes) are the main red grape varieties. Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno are the two popular red wines. Conero is made with a minimum of 85% Montepulciano and balance Sangiovese grapes only. There are other red varieties not as common and popular.

However, they are not a great match for seafood unless they are Rosé wines.

Wineries Visited

Click For Large ViewMarche is dotted with mostly small wineries some of which are Montecappone, Monte Schiavo, Moroder, Umani Ronchi, Fazi Battaglia, Casalfarneto, Luigi Giusti, Marchetti, Garofoli, Santa Barbara, Saladini Pilastri, Sartarelli, Bucci, Fattoria Le Terrazze. Crocio di Moro, Lunari, Accadia, Fattoria San Lorenzo, Bonci, Zaccagnini, Pievalta, Tavignano, Colognola, Vignamato and Marotti Campi as a few of the wineries specializing in the Verdicchio whites. Please visit another article based on an earlier visit: Wines and Fencers of Jesi in Italy

We visited a few of these wineries during my recent visit as an international judge for the competition held in a small and beautiful hilly town of Sirolo, a hilly hamlet on the Adriatic seaside.

Umani Ronchi
Contact: Giorgio Pasanisi, Export Manager

This is one of the most respected wineries of the region as well as the neighbouring Abruzzo, with a total of 230 hA of vines. Belonging to the Bianchi and Bernetti families for the last 50 years, it is being run by Massimo Bernetti whom I have met a couple of times at the annual dinner of Grandi Cru d’Italia of which Umani Ronchi is a member as it meets the strict quality criteria for membership. His son Michele though, is now playing more active role, especially in marketing and was overseas when we visited the winery.  The company has kept a leading position by being ahead in experimental research and works actively with the University of Ancona and several outside experts. Brindco has been importing a small range of their wines for several years.

Contact: Carlo Garofoli
Click For Large ViewCarlo Garofoli claims to be the oldest wine estate in Marche. Carlo is very humble as he takes us around the winery and later through the guided tasting. His brother Gianfranco Garofoli is the President of the Consortium, Istituto Marchigiano di Tutela Vini. When I ask him if the family owned the huge Garofoli furniture company in Marche-as one had heard during an earlier visit and seeing huge advertisement banners hanging at the airport in Ancona- he confirms, thus quashing the rumours, and confesses they have nothing to do with the furniture business. He admits that at best they are distant cousins.

Tenuta Musone-Cantina Colognola

The Colognola estate in a small town of Cingoli had 21 hectares when Walter Darini bought the property and broke it down to erect a 2000-square meters modern winery. He bought more surrounding land to increase it to 30ha. He has currently a capacity of 300,000 bottles and plans to double it to 600,000 bottles within 3 years. His current vintage of 2012 had only 20,000 bottles sold primarily in Italy with a small quantity exported to Germany. Besides the Rose Brut made using the Charmat method, he makes a Brut with Metodo Classico as well. Though he currently makes only one red wine from Montepulciano grapes, there are both the Classico and Riserva variants of Verdicchio dei Castello di Jesi since 2010. For details, read earlier article:
(Murdoch and Marche Wine Producer)

However, the winery is at very early stages to be able to deal with a tough market like India which would in any case, be much lower on their priority list.

Az. Agricola Moroder
Click For Large ViewOwned by the Moroder family since the 18th century, it was modernized in the 1980s when Alessandro Moroder and his wife Serenella took over the estate which is in the heart of the spectacular Mount Conero Nature Reserve, a natural park. Alessandro decided to overhaul the vineyards and the cellar completely, drastically decreasing the yield of grapes, modernizing the barrel storage and taking technical assistance from the well-known winemaker Franco Bernabei. The results have been impressive. Their fuller bodied wines are sold throughout Italy and overseas.

This winery is one of the top producers situated in the Conero and is known for its Conero Rosso. Dorico is their top level red wine. In fact, the credit for quality improvements goes to Moroder, the winery that received the first 'three glasses' (Tre Bicchieri) from the famous Gambero Rosso magazine and motivated the producers to seek better quality wines since the DOC appellation was recognised in 1968. They are not only a certified organic winery, they are also eco-friendly - they also produce their own electricity by using solar panels. This is an excellent winery for import of red wines from Marche.


A visit to the biggest, most opulent and yet a co-operative that produces high quality wines as well had been reserved for the end. Producing 11 million bottles (over 1.2 million cases) in 3 different wineries, this is by far the biggest, with the production being more than the combined estimated production of Umani Ronchi (3-3.5 million bottles), Garofoli and Fazi Battaglia, a close-by winery which I had visited a few years ago (about 3 million Click For Large Viewbottles), which is reportedly in talks with Campari group for the entire distribution.

Headed by an unassuming looking, soft spoken Dariano Marchetti since 2000 as the President, it is the epitome of Italian co-operatives that appear to be flush with funds and are always ready to keep up with the technology and the front office. It has a total membership of under a 1000 members with a total of 1800 hAs-including 200 hAs of prime vineyards owned by the winery. GiulianoD'Ignazi,  the winemaker for almost 2 decades, is the backbone of the co-operative and has helped the company make not only several award winning wines in Italy and international competitions, but is also working towards more maturability of its wines. In a vertical tasting of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riservas-2010, 2007, 2001 and 2000 and a first during all the wineries visited, it was a pleasant surprise to see that even the 2000 was quite vivacious with lots of fruits like apples, pineapples and a good balance with dark golden colour with a greenish hue but no orange. Moncaro wines are being imported by their Joint Venture partners Riona Wines in Sangli, who are also in the process of producing their own domestic wines with their collaborative efforts with Giuliano and another winemaker Enzo Mecella from Moncaro.

Subhash Arora

Gallery : Visual Delights        Vinuous Feasts        Culinary Pleasures

Tags: Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Le Marche, Italy, Istituto Marchigiano di Tutela Vini (IMT), Selezione Internazionale Vini de Pesce, DOP, Verdicchio, Moncaro, Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno, Grandi Cru d’Italia, Moroder, Umani Ronchi, Az. Agricola Moroder, Garofoli, Alberto Mazzoni



Puja Tuli Says:

Dear Mr. Arora, My husband Mario della valle wrote an email to you regarding importing Italian wines in delhi. We are based in NZ and Italy and bringing one of the best wines to north india to start with. Looking for the best way to approach and find distibuters in India. Could you pls help us in guiding the best way to do that? I look forward to hearing from you soon. Best Regards Puja & Mario della Valle

Posted @ January 22, 2014 17:52


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