Chapter 12 – Marche region and Cupramontana
Marche (or Le Marche) is a small region on the eastern side of central Italy. It is most associated with white wines from the Trebbiano and Verdicchio grape varieties.
Its longer sides are formed by the Apennine Mountains in the west and the Adriatic Sea in the east. Emilia Romagna and Abruzzo are its neighboring regions to the north and south respectively, and it is separated from Umbria only by the Apennines.
Marche has a number of terroirs very well suited to the cultivation of vines. The rolling coastal hills such as those around Ancona are a notable example. Due to the influences of the Apennines, the Adriatic and the region’s rivers, there are various climates at work in Marche. Therefore wine producers in the region work in both warm and cool viticultural zones. Calcareous, clay and limestone-rich soils contribute to the distinctive terroir, and vary according to the region’s distinctive topography.
The vineyards cover around 25,000 hectares (60,000 acres), and produce almost two million hectoliters of wine annually. The majority of this is sold as Vino di Tavola or under the Indicazione Geografica Tipica title IGT Marche.
Marche is best known as a white wine region, although it is also home to some reds of very high quality. In terms of volume, the leading white varieties here are the ubiquitous Trebbiano (in various forms) and Verdicchio. The finest expressions of Verdicchio are found in the DOCGs Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and Verdicchio di Matelica. These green-hued, refreshingly crisp, green-tinged white wines are characterized by lively acidity and subtle herbaceous undertones, and are an excellent food match for our today’s Carlotta recipe.
Verdicchio is a versatile variety, used both for light, easy-drinking table wines, and for more complex, ageworthy examples. It is commonly lauded by critics as being one of Italy’s best white wine grape varieties, and is found in vineyards across the country.
High acidity is one of Verdicchio’s most useful viticultural characteristics. As well as making fresh, well-structured still wines with citrus flavors like lemon and grapefruit, Verdicchio is often used as the base for sparkling wines. Some producers have experimented with sweet wines, but as the variety is not particularly aromatic, these are usually overlooked.
The binding characteristic across these styles is the telltale almond flavor, which can be accompanied by bitter notes when young or a rich, sweet suggestion of marzipan and honey as the wine ages.
The wine of today, which I choose for our food and wine pairing, is a wine that I have been talking about for weeks now in my page, Gli Eremi, Verdicchio from La Distesa winery. La Distesa is one of the most representative and symbolic realities in the world of artisanal wines. It was founded in 2000 by Corrado Dottori who, after a degree in economics from La Bocconi in Milan, decided, together with his partner Valeria, to move to his native land, in Cupramontana, and re-start family production through a genuine and respectful approach. Among olive trees, arable land and woods, he decided to raise the grapes of the Marche tradition, such as Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Trebbiano and Verdicchio of course.
The vines, grown according to organic principles, are rooted on clayey and limestone soils rich in life, cultivated in the total absence of chemicals and fertilizers (only with low doses of copper and sulfur). Such a sensitive vision in the vineyard also materializes in the cellar, where the trick, paradoxically, is not to intervene in the different stages of production, letting the processes occur spontaneously. Thus alcoholic fermentations are carried out by native yeasts and invasive processes, such as clarifications and filtrations, are abolished.
La Distesa wines are characterized by a rustic and decidedly expressive aspect, with an artisanal face. Straightforward, pure and rich, they condense all the moods and characteristics of the territory. Fresh and savory, decisive and substantial, but still true and faithful portraits of the Verdicchio from le Marche.
The wine in this case was deep and golden colour with notes of hazelnuts, hay and toasted coffee, stone fruits like peaches and apricots, with some spiced notes and a lot of mineral scents like of wet stones. In the mouth the acidity and the minerality are like dancing in your mouth and the finish is quite long.
I found the paiging with the Cozze alla Marinara that Carlotta cooked absolutely a perfect marriage.
Carlotta’s food story
Situated in the centre of Italy, between Emilia Romagna and Abruzzo, Le Marche is a region made of coastline, bordering with the Adriatic sea, and hills inland, towards the border with Umbria. As most Italian regions, it has a rich and significant history, inhabited first by the Picens, then by Ancient Romans all the way through to the Goths and Byzantines.
During the Renaissance parts of the region were fought over by various rival aristocratic families, and the town of Urbino – now one of the region’s major cities – was the birthplace of Raffaello as well as a major centre in the history of the rinascimento.
Due to Le Marche’s geography, from hills and mountains to sea, most of the traditional cuisine is either based on mountain and meat based food or sea and fish based dishes. Cheese and salumi are also produced inland, some of the most famous ones being salame di Fabriano (another beautiful town, which was awarded the UNESCO World Heritage recognition as a Creative City) and formaggio di Fossa, a sheep milk cheese aged for three months in deep holes underground, which are covered with hay then sealed with mud.
Moving towards the coast, dried cod is one of the most popular regional specialties, which is prepared in a vast variety of manners. Brodetto di pesce, a fish and crustacean soup, is one the most traditional ways of eating fish, similarly to Abruzzo.
Perhaps the most famous dish Le Marche has to offer, which everyone in Italy and further away can recognize are Olive all’Ascolana. The antipasto consists of Olive Ascolane, an olive variety from Ascoli Piceno, pitted, filled with a mixed meat filling similar to polpette, coated in flour and breadcrumbs and then fried.
The recipe I chose to share with you today is based on fresh crustaceans, mussels, which pair wonderfully with the Verdicchio chosen by Manu, a crisp white wine perfect when combined with delicate fish, as it leaves a fresh finish without being too fruity or overpowering over the mussels.
Cozze alla Marinara are one of the “basic” staple dishes of Italian cuisine, they are light, easy to make and very, very delicious—as long as the fish is fresh! The alla marinara is a type of condiment used all over Italy for many different dishes, for example Pizza alla Marinara, the simplest (and in my opinion most delicious) pizza, with a bit of tomato sauce, olive oil and garlic.
Follow the link here if you would like to discover the full recipe at @lapanzapiena blog.