Marche (pronounced Mar-kay) is a region on the eastern side of central Italy. It occupies a roughly triangular area whose 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.
Marches’s winemaking heritage spans thousands of years and has been influenced, among others, by the Etruscans, Romans and Lombards. The presence of these various cultures goes a long way to explaining the breadth of vinicultural tradition and wine styles in the region. Marches has a number of terroirs which are extremely well suited to the cultivation of vines, particularly among the rolling coastal hills such as those around Ancona. Due to the influences of the Apennines, the Adriatic and the region's rivers (the Metauro, Potenza, Tronto and Nera), there are various climates at work in Marche, giving wine producers both warm and cool viticultural zones to utilise. Calcareous, clay and limestone-rich soils contribute to the distinctive terroir, and vary according to the region's distinctive topography.
Marches's vineyards cover around 60,000 acres (25,000ha), and produce almost two million hL of wine annually. The majority of this is sold as Vino di Tavola or under the Indicazione Geografica Tipica title IGT Marche. Only 20% is sold under the region's 15 DOC and four DOCG titles: far from the 40% achieved by the wines of the nation's top-quality region Piedmont, but significantly higher than is found in Sicily and Calabria, where the DOC wine make up just 5% of total production.
Marches is best known as a white-wine region, although it is home to some reds of very high quality too. In terms of volume, the leading white varieties here are the ubiquitous Trebbiano (in various forms) and Verdicchio, the grape to which Marches has been a spiritual home for more than 600 years. 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 Brodetto di Pesce, a rich seafood stew made locally. Another notable white wine from Marche is Bianchello di Metauro, made from Bianchello (also known as Biancame) grapes grown around the Matauro river valley. Other widely planted white grapes include Pinot Bianco, Malvasia Toscana, Pecorino and Bianchello, the latter most famously used in Bianchello del Metauro.
Among the red wines of Marches, the finest are generally made from Montepulciano and/or Sangiovese, the dark-skinned varieties which dominate central Italian red and here make the intensely fragrant Rosso Conero Riserva. This duo is backed up by Ciliegiolo, Pinot Nero, Lacrima di Morro and notably Vernaccia Nera, the variety behind the sparkling DOCG wine Vernaccia di Serrapetrona.
Supporting these fine reds are DOCs Rosso Conero (only the riserva can carry the DOCG status) and Rosso Piceno. These firm, tannic wines are unusual in the sea of Marche's white and lighter-hearted reds, and fly the flag for diversity in the region's wine production. Another pair of promising DOCs are Terreni di Sanseverino and Lacrima di Morro d'Alba, the latter a sweet red wine based on Lacrima di Morro, a variety peculiar to the commune of Morro d'Alba.
The DOCs listed above specialize in wines of just one color, but the majority of Marches DOCs cover both red and white. Of note among these are Offida (where Pecorino is making its mark), those from the Colli Maceratesi hills, especially Maceratino, and Esino with its top Verdicchio and Sangiovese-Montepulciano blends.