Marche sits humbly on the east coast of Italy, without the fanfare that seems to be hitched to the surrounding regions; yet, it is another storied locale that puts it own mark on olive oil and the vines. In my class last week we had some ambassadors of the region—winemakers and sommeliers—share their insight on the variances of terrain in a unique area sandwiched between Emilia-Romagna and Abruzzo along the east coast of Italy. This class would be a precursor to the Viva Vino Italian tasting the following night that I would be attending and an interesting avenue on my way to Five Hundred wines.

We began our download of information on the eastern-most region by learning about the temperate climate and the proximity of the Adriatic Sea that bears a heavy influence on the outcome of the grapes that are grown there—Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Verdicchio and Trebbiano. We also learned about the calcerous-rich soils and their contributing differences to the coastal vineyards and those further inland.

Most of us were not really familiar with the region and there was a good explanation for that: It was one of the last few regions in Italy to realize its potential in making quality vino. While it is true that winemaking has existed well beyond its nascent epiphany, Marche was an outlier of the major trade circuit carved through Milan to Naples and thus the grapes of Marche stayed local. Marche harbors many port cities, the most important being Ancona—the capital of Marche.

We tried a smattering of wines from IGT’s to DOC’s from Marche, being tutored through the details of the process of picking, crushing and fermenting the grapes, and their passage through oak, if there were any. We tasted:

09 St. Joseph Rosso Piceno

08 Syta –Syrah and Sangiovese mix

10 Curtes Offida Pecorino

10 Offida Passerina “Ampor” Marche IGT

10 Colli Pesaresi Bianco

09 Clos le Corti dei Farfensei

NV Gruet Brut Rosé

Their (our resident winemaker and posse’s) take on Sangiovese was surprisingly light but focused. Found in the Rosso Piceno—a blend of mostly Sangiovese and a smaller percentage of Montepulciano had really rich fruit notes (Bing cherry), tar and a little cinnamon spice that wasn’t from oak but inherent in the Sangiovese of Marche. The wine noticeably lacked in astringency, as I was accustomed to in Chianti—the Sangiovese rich blend of Tuscany that comes with a bouquet of toasted fennel, cherry and wood spices and heavy tannins that wick the moisture from your mouth; Marche’s rebuttal was markedly softer in mouthfeel.

The Syrah blend gave way to stewed tomatoes and pepper on the nose that transformed dramatically on the palate, it exposed vanilla from barrel aging, cocoa, blackberries and some darker fruits. It was full-bodied and sapid; I instantly began craving simple and understated Italian cuisine. A testament to the wine.

After the presentation that had me reminiscing of my times spent in Italy, the group of men from Marche departed, wishing us well. After the class we popped open a New Mexico Wineries Brut Rosé from Gruet to recapitulate the wines we had tasted in class and our thoughts on Marche. The presentation had disrupted our sweep of the-other-46-states-that-produce-wine-lecture (regarding the USA) but it did leave me closer to my goal—257 wines left to taste before next year.