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  • Italia : Le Marche

  • a region recognised for its superb-quality wines

    Located in the heart of Italy, the Le Marche region enjoys distinctive soil and climate conditions that wonderfully suit it to viticulture. Set in the embrace of mountains and sea, the Apennines and the Adriatic Sea, much like other great viticultural regions (Chile, California), Le Marche covers some 10,000 square kilometres (3,800 sq.mi), predominantly hilly terrain divided by river valleys descending to the coast.

    Hillslope soils, largely clay, are loose and gravely, with good mineral content, and vineyards there are well-aspected and receive generous solar radiation. The climate is characterised by well-distributed rainfall and by the differing exposures that hillsides and valleys provide to the sea-breezes that ascend into the interior, thus creating distinctive individual climates for different kinds of wine production.

    Some 20,000 hectares (ca. 50,000 acres) are under vine in the region. Viticulture has been practiced since ancient times, in fact, and even into the 1950s vineyards were quite widespread, with well-known wines produced in exceptional growing areas. Vines were often mixed in with other crops, a practice known as "promiscuous viticulture", and most of the production went to satisfy the needs of the farming families. Although grape-growing thus had ancient roots in the area, the planting of modern-style, specialised vineyards is relatively recent, beginning in the 1960s. This was stimulated by legal protection afforded by the "Denominazione di Origine Controllata" system and subsequent creation of the first DOCs in Le Marche, such as Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Rosso Conero, and Rosso Piceno Superiore.

      Verdicchio is a variety of ancient cultivation in the Marche and is considered to be native to the region; it is widely regarded as the finest among all of the Marche's white grapes. Its cultivation is concentrated in the Castelli di Jesi and Matelica growing areas, which produce the most highly-regarded DOC Verdicchios, although verdicchio is used in other local wines. Verdicchio flourishes in cool hillside environments that have clayey soils, plenty of ventilation, and significant diurnal temperature ranges. Its clonal variation is significant, which makes possible a wide spectrum of distinctive aromas; it is thus very well suited for a range of wine types. The variety is characterised by its high content of extractive components, yielding full-bodied wines. Verdicchio wines are delightful when consumed young, but they can be aged as well, making possible Passito and Riserva versions of great finesse and richness.

      Lacrima Nera
      Lacrima nera is an ancient, unique, variety that has survived amidst other varieties that are more productive and easier to grow. Its growing area, some 120 hectares, is limited to the commune of Morro d'Alba and nearby towns. It shows very high vigour, average basal bud fruitfulness, and good, consistent yield, and can be pruned long or short. Its growth characteristics and yield best suit it to the temperate climate of the coastal areas. Modern winegrowing practices have managed to bring out its best qualities, such as its aromas--complex, and at the same time quite distinctive and appealing. Lacrima nera produces a dense-coloured, full-bodied wine that is not without smoothness. Winemakers value it as well for its versatility, utilising it for carbonic maceration wines in addition to the traditional versions.

      Montepulciano was confused in the past with other varieties, such as sangiovese grosso, or with some of its biotypes, such as brunello, and it has been known by several synonyms, which has generated much confusion. But it seems to have originated in the areas between Le Marche and Abruzzo and then spread along the Adriatic coast. The grape prefers dry, warm climates and good exposure to the sun to achieve good, consistent ripeness. As a monovarietal, Montepulciano is a superb, beautifully-structured wine suitable for lengthy cellaring, but it is used as well to improve blends of other varieties. Since the variety has amply demonstrated its fine potential, it has spread even more widely within the Marche's DOC zones.

      The home of sangiovese is the part of the Apennine chain that runs through Tuscany, Romagna, and Le Marche, but it has spread through so much of central Italy that it lays claim to being the most widely planted of Italy's varieties. Its origin is certain, but its appearance and characteristics vary. Sangiovese grosso exhibits a larger berry, while other biotypes show a looser cluster. Sangiovese is quite adaptable, at home in a range of climates, soils, and vineyard practices. It yields a wine of deep ruby hue, tannic, full-bodied, and well balanced. In its youth, it exhibits full-fruited aromas, while some years' ageing will develop a generous bouquet and notable elegance. When it is joined in blends by other "improving" varieties, it can gain in colour, harmony, and fragrance.

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