Le Marche is a bucolic, scenic area along the Adriatic with wonderful wines and cuisine
Le Marche is where my maternal grandparents were born, so you can pardon me if I seem overly chauvinistic.
It’s located due east of Tuscany, between Romagna and Abruzzi. In other words, off the tourists’ beaten path. In fact all you hear on the streets is Italian being spoken, with an occasional French or German accent.
It’s a super scenic area where farmlands roll gently to the Adriatic without any smokestacks or industry marring the coastline.
There is also some great local cuisine and wines waiting to be discovered. I refer here to the northern part of Le Marche because the southern part is justly famous for its Verdicchio. But have you ever heard of Bianchello or Famoso? In fact we were told that this area of Italy has the highest amount of local grapes, many still waiting to be rediscovered.
Our wine visits in the Marche centered on the northern portion where the DOC is Metauro which is a river that flows into the Adriatic near Pesaro. This area has a great white wine called Bianchello which has a deep golden hue, subdued fruit aroma and a balanced acidity. In other words, a very nice quaffable wine. Unfortunately you will rarely find it in the States.
We started our beautiful sunny day at Azienda Bartolacci where the husband and wife team are dedicated to biological farming. Their focus is fruits and vegetables. However they do grow enough grapes to produce 30,000 bottles of a very pleasant spumante from the Charmat process, a delightful Bianchello and a respectable sangiovese.
We then stopped in the hamlet of Stacciola (72 inhabitants) to visit my relative, Lea Roberti, who welcomed us into her house for drinks and freshly made crostata, a local dessert.
We then strolled by the chapel where two sisters married two brothers and emigrated to the States: one was my maternal grandfather and grandmother. A very nostalgic visit.
Then we visited one of the upcoming wineries in this area, Azienda Bruscia, which produces 70,000 bottles annually with about 27 different labels. The Bruscia family is proud of their biological winery and dedicate themselves to finding and resuscitating neglected, almost lost local grape varieties as well as honoring local historical personalities.
We had the opportunity to try several:
- First we started with the Conte Giulio, named in honor of one of the people who did a lot back in the late 1700s and early 1800s to promote this area. It’s a creamy Brut Metodo Classico 2012 made from the local white grape, Bianchello, and aged 24 months in barrels. It was beautifully packaged and a delight to drink.
- We also tried their Il Famoso Grottino, made from the long lost Famoso grape and named in honor of a local watering hole that closed down a few years ago;
- IB Cinquantaquattro Incrocio Bruni 54 IGT, a cross between the sauvignon blanc and the bianchello;
- Mo Leone 2016 from the Bianchello del Metauro;
- Stacciola 2015 DOC Colli Pesaresi with 70% sangiovese and 30% other local varieties, it’s a red wine with structure and lots of fruit;
- Pikler Selezione Colli Pesaresi Sangiovese 2015 which is bumped up in quality from the previous wine with more flavor and aroma structure;
- C’Rasa Vino e Visciole, a typical Marche concoction made from wild cherries picked in June and fermented until September when wine is added to create a slightly sweet dessert wine.
Our meal of homemade specialties, prepared by the owner’s wife, included gnocchi made from potatoes, an assortment of local cheeses and salami, minestrone featuring their locally grown produce and beef presented with two dressings.
Our last day in Le Marche started with a guided walking tour of one of the most picturesque small villages in Italy: Corinaldo. Known for its polenta festival which we missed by just one week, it is a walled town dating from the 1400’s. The sky was a deep bright blue, the cool breeze was blowing and we covered almost the entire village without a sweat.
Our farewell dinner was held at the Michelin-rated Da Rolando, one of my favorites when visiting this area. Rolando has owned the restaurant for 30 years and it has become a local institution.
Our menu was so good that one of our faithful tour alumni called it the best farewell dinner ever.
We were almost exhausted from all the courses and sensations which included:
- assorted salami all locally made
- salad with summer truffles and wild mushrooms
- crostini with a truffle tapenade,
- traditional polenta (with a Bolognese-style meat ragu)
- ravioli stuffed with Summer truffles
- braised 2 year-old veal
- dessert comprised of locally made sweets
Our wine accompaniments:
- Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2016 by Ottavio Piersanti which would compete well with a chablis;
- JaJu, a Lagrima di Morro d’Alba 2016, made from the local Lagrima grape which produces a fruity, fresh quaffable red;
- Il Rubjo Conero Rosso Riserva 2013 a blend of 70% montepulciano and 30% sangiovese produced by Pontemagno- this was a wine with structure and complexity;
- il Rubino del Duca vino visciole, a dessert wine which I described earlier;
- plus a local grappa and limoncello
This was indeed a memorable meal because every course was made from authentic local recipes with locally sourced products and the wines were perfectly paired.
A great way to end a trip to an area which evidently still has not been discovered by enough North Americans.