Food and wine of the Marche region
Food of the Marche region
The Marche region offers an abundance of interesting food and wine. The most evident example is that of the truffle, which is found at the fairs of Sant’Agata Feltria, Sant’Angelo in Vado and Acqualagna.
Acqualagna, together with Alba, is recognised by law as the centre of collection and commercialisation for Italy. It is actually Acqualagna that has been bestowed the honour of being the truffle capital throughout the year. October to December sees the refined superior quality: whitish flesh of the precious white truffle, from January to March the precious black truffle is found, April to June and July to September are respectively the periods of the black summer truffle or “scorzone” and the white truffle or “marzuolo”.
In fact, the truffle is one of the items used in the kitchen by Gioacchino Rossini, a grand gourmet in addition to being a great composer, and to whom, some restaurants along the coast have dedicated an imaginative menu in a tuneful blending of two contrasting and intriguing products: fish and the truffle.
Alongside the truffle, mushrooms are also present in abundance with numerous varieties to be found throughout the Apennine region.
S. Sisto, located on the slopes of Monte Carpegna, has for ten years or so been the host of the regional mycology show, and each autumn, together with other centres, present its products from the wood to the world. Rebaptised the Diamante della terra, formaggio di fossa is instead found at Talamello, in Valmarecchia, on the border with Romagna: this is where formaggio di fossa ambra di Talamello is produced. The cheese is left to mature underground in pits inherited from the palaces of the Malatesta family, where for centuries, the owners kept and preserved their food.
This rather intriguing cheese is still produced here even today, intriguing for its persistent odour and gentle impetuous taste and in much demand throughout the world. Another similarly matured cheese, also of high quality, is the “pecorini in fossa”, more delicate than that of Talamello but just as tasty, produced at Cartoceto and Acqualagna. Another cheese that has conquered noble palates is the “casciotta” of Urbino, one of Michelangelo’s other passions.
Montefeltro, instead, offers a variety of prime-quality meats from the Marchigiana breed, while farm-produced extra-virgin olive oil has been produced in the area from Cartoceto to Piagge for centuries. Fish, instead, has a daily presence in the cuisine of Pesaro and Fano, while further inland pork-butchers offer a variety of choice salami and cooked meats.
Wine of the Marche region
The Marche region produces alarge variety of wines including 13 varieties of wine carrying the D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) label. Many of these wines are little known outside of Italy but visitors to the region have a pleasant surprise when they try the local wine produced by many small aziendas and cantinas. The following varieties of vines are the most common, growing well on the gentle slopes of the hilly region: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo, Pinot nero and bianco, Verdicchio, Trebbiano, Malvasia of Tuscany, Vernaccia Nera and Maceratino.
The Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi without a shadow of doubt is the jewel of the region. Better known than most, it’s well earned fame has resulted in the export of large quantities of the wine, especially to Great Britain and the USA. Clear and intense, the colour is a pale straw with a very slight greenish tint. Full bodied, it has a dry harmonious taste with a pleasing, slightly tannic aftertaste and a delicate, characteristic nose. It comes with a minimum alcoholic content of 12% by volume and is produced mainly from the Verdicchio grape to which may be added a quantity of Malvasia and Trebbiano together forming a maximum of 20% of the total.
Verdicchio should be served chilled and is an inseparable companion of all fish based dishes such as brodetto (fish soup), antipasti ai frutti di mare (hors d’oeuvres of mixed fish), risotto alla marinara (a delicious fish based rice), grilled and fried fish and all white meats. The ‘classico’ Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is restricted to a zone with the town of Jesi at it’s center.
Verdicchio di Matelica: its production area is more elevated above sea level and further west than it’s cousin dei castelli di Jesi, a fertile territory situated on the lower slopes of the Apennines. It has very similar characteristics to Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi but with a more impulsive character, simpler and fuller bodied, derived from its mountainous origins.
Sangiovese dei Colli Pesaresi
Sangiovese dei Colli Pesaresi is a rich garnet red wine with reflections tending toward violet. With a strong predominance of the Sangiovese grape growing on the hills in the Pesaro province in the north of the region. The addition of a small quantity of Montepulciano and Ciliegiolo grapes (not more than 15%) determine it’s preparation. A refreshing dry taste with a pleasant, slightly stringent aftertaste. Alcohol content of not less than 11.5%, it preferably accompanies roast and grilled meats and the tasty first courses of the Le Marche region:vincisgrassi (a slight variation to lasagna), cannelloni and ravioli.
Bianchello del Metauro
Bianchello del Metauro is a wine with a history going back to 500 B.C. that has certainly stood the test of time. Coloured a light strawish yellow and with a fresh dry taste with pleasing overtones, it has a minimum alcoholic content of 11.5%. The wine is produced from grapes of the same name to which may be added Malvasia of Tuscany up to a maximum of 5%. A typical wine forfish dishes and marries perfectly with exquisite marinade specialties of the Marchegiana coast.
Lacrima di Morro d’Alba
Lacrima di Morro d’Alba is a high quality wine produced in a small area north of the River Esino in the province of Ancona with Morro d’Alba at it’s center. It is produced from the lacrima grape, native of the area. A rich ruby red with violet reflections in young wines. A pleasant, dry but smooth taste and a rich fruity nose reminiscent of bilberries and violets. Almost a varietal, a maximum of 15% of other grapes of approved varieties may be added for correction purposes, normally Montepulciano and Verdicchio. After the first racking in late December a 2nd fermentation is induced by the addition of a must produced from partially dried grapes (a method known as the ‘governo Toscano’).
Normally consumed as a young wine during the year of bottling but sometimes aged for up to 3 years. Best served at below room temperature (around 15°C) Goes well with vincisgrassi, lasagna, pasta dishes with a tomato and meat sauce, all roast and grilled red meat and game.
Esino Bianco has a very slight straw colour with greenish reflections. The production area is most of the province of Ancona and a large area of Macerata. A characteristic intense nose and a fresh dry taste very similar to verdicchio given that a minimum of 50% verdicchio grape is used in it’s production. The rest is made up of white grapes of the production zone authorised by the D.O.C. authorities – normally Trebbiano and/or Malvasia. Minimum alcohol content 10.5%. A sparkling (frizzante) version is also produced, minimum alcohol content 9.5%.
Served at a temperature between 9° and 12°, accompanies most first courses, white meats and due to it’s lower alcohol grading does not overpower the most delicate fish dishes, molluscs and crustaceans.
Rosso Conero is produced from grapes which ripen in a restricted sunny area in the foothills of the mountain which goes by the same name just south of Ancona. The prevailing protagonist of it’s composition is the fruit of the Montepulciano vine to which may be added Sangiovese in quantity not exceeding 15% of the total. It is an exceptional wine with a remarkable Mediterranean temperament, a ruby red colour, clear and brilliant, dry flavour pleasing to the taste, rich fruity nose, full bodied and velvety. Alcohol content not less than 11.5%.
It was particularly appreciated by the ancient Romans and is an ideal companion of roast meats, game and in general all rich and spicy food, a strong personality.
Vernaccia di Serrapetrona
Vernaccia di Serrapetrona is a typical wine of the small district from which it takes it’s name. It is a spumante (sparkling wine) obtained by natural fermentation. Red, a true jewel of variant colour ranging from garnet to ruby with a fine and lively intoxicating sparkle, sweet or semi-sweet (amabile) with a pleasing slightly bitter background. With its 11.5% alcohol it is an excellent red dessert wine but drunk on it’s own reveals an exceptional, sweet and delicate fragrance. Fundamental to its production is the Vernaccia grape, in part, slightly over-ripened to which is added modest quantities of Montepulciano, Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo.
Bianco dei Colli Maceratesi
Bianco dei Colli Maceratesi: a pale straw yellow colour, refreshing dry taste and 11% alcohol minimum. It is produced from the Maceratino grape (min. 80%) The rest being made up with small quantities of the Tuscan Trebbiano grape, Malvasia and Verdicchio grown in the production area. It is first-rate with hors d’oeuvres and pasta dishes in general.
Rosso Piceno: amongst the thirteen, the one that covers the largest zone of production covering the entire lowlands and medium hills of the centre and south of the region. In the most part, the territory inhabited by the ancient Piceni. Sangiovese and Montepulciano are used in it’s production with added small measures of Trebbiano and Passerina. A beautiful ruby red colour and a pleasant dry and fruity flavour graded at 11.5% increasing to 12-13% which qualifies the wine as ‘superiore’. Typical of the hills above Ascoli Piceno which degrade towards the sea. Accompanies dishes of roast meats ( best with lamb), fries and grills and seems made to measure with the choice fried olive ascolane (large green olives stuffed with minced meat and fried in bread crumbs).
Falerio dei Colli Ascolani
Falerio dei Colli Ascolani: a beautiful clear strawy yellow colour, delicately perfumed with a pleasant, not too dry taste, moderately acid. Alcohol content 11.5%. Those who say they don’t like white wines usually change their minds at first taste. An impeccable companion to fish and hors d’oeuvres. The grapes used in it’s production are the Tuscan Trebbiano, Tuscan Malvasia, Pinot bianco, Verdicchio, Passerina and Pecorino cultivated on the gentle slopes around Ascoli and Fermo.
Offida received the DOC label in 2001. The production area is the hills north of Ascoli Piceno and south of the River Aso. Unlike other DOCs of Le Marche, Offida comes in both red wine and white wines in different varieties.
Offida Rosso is a ruby red tending towards garnet. A well structured wine with a complex fruity nose slightly ethereal and a pleasing dry harmonious taste. It is produced from a minimum of 50% Montepulciano, a minimum of 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and a maximum of 20% of authorized, non-aromatic red grapes of the production zone. Aging is carried out for 24 month, 6 months of which is spent in oak barrels of no more than 500 litre capacity. On top of this it is obligatory that the wine stands a further 6 months in bottles before release for public consumption. Minimum alcohol content is 13%. Is also produced as ‘superiore’ and ‘novello’. Served at 16° to 18°C accompanies food with rich flavoured sauces such as ragu, red meats and game meats in general as well as seasoned cheeses.
Offida Pecorino: pale straw coloured with a slight greenish hue. Made from a minimum 85% pecorino grape. Up to a maximum of 15% of other authorised, non aromatic white grapes of the production area may be used. Pleasant nose and flavour typical and characteristic of the grape variety. Minimum alcoholic content is 12% by volume. Drunk young, the pleasing slightly acidic taste goes well with delicate sea foods, especially crustaceans and fish soups. When matured for 12 months may accompany all sea food dishes and white meats.
Offida Passerina is a very pale yellow with a golden hue. Produced from the passerina grape – minimum 85% and the rest made up of authorised, non-aromatic white grapes of the production area. The pleasing scent and slightly acidic flavour are characteristic of the passerina grape. Minimum alcohol content is 11.5%. Drunk young is an ideal accompaniment of specialist fish dishes, especially molluscs and crustaceans.
Offida Passerina spumante produced from grapes as above. Secondary fermentation by the classical ‘champagne’ method, the process requires a minimum of 6 months. Pale straw yellow, slightly fruity nose typical of the grape variety. Minimum alcohol content is 11.5%.
Offida Passerina passito. The word passito refers to the method of producing a wine from dried or partially dried grapes in order to raise the relative sugar content which gives a characteristic flavour to the resulting wine. Grapes as per Offida passerina above are normally dried on the vines but maybe continued indoors under controlled conditions. Drying is carried out until the sugar level reaches at least 260 grams per litre of must. The pressing is carried out not before the 1st of December of the year of harvest and not later than 31st of March of the following year. Because of the high sugar content, fermentation is rather slow and is stopped naturally with a residual sweetness by the increasing alcohol content. Minimum alcohol content is 15.5% of which 13% must be produced naturally. The colour is a clear yellow/amber.
The wine is aged for at least 18 months, 12 months of which is in wood. Nice with Italian pastries and well seasoned cheeses.
Offida Passerina Vino Santo. Production is similar to passito except that the grape drying procedure is carried out entirely on racks in an ambient where temperature and humidity are controlled. No forcing is permitted. The wine is produced in a much smaller area, namely within the territory covered by the communes of Offida and Ripatransone. Strict controls on soil types and terrain, only well drained slopes in full sun.
Alcohol content by volume is 15.5% minimum of which at least 13% is produced naturally. Colour is rich amber. Bouquet typical of wines produced from grapes ‘passito’, slightly ethereal and intense. Taste velvety and has the characteristic ‘passito’ flavour. Aging is 36 months of which at least 24 months in wood barrels of not more than 500 litres capacity. An excellent desert wine, also suitable as an after dinner drink.
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