Guest Post by Madeline Jones from Hotel Leone – Le Marche Wines
Last year, when we could travel freely, I was lucky enough to visit Hotel Leone in Le Marche and to meet Madeline and her husband Tim. I LOVED the place and was hoping to return this year. Sadly that looks unlikely – but the team at Hotel Leone are currently running a crowd funder to pay it forward – so future guests will get a discount. And, I was so impressed with Madeline’s approach to wine education at the hotel that I asked her to write a guest post for me about the wines of Le Marche.
I’d personally recommend that your best route to finding out more for yourself is to visit Hotel Leone and book one of Madeline’s wine events. With chef husband Tim cooking up fantastic food to pair with Madeline’s wine recommendations, the evenings are a dream – and you’ll spend your days visiting the kind of local vineyards that you usually only find when you live somewhere! In the meanwhile, here’s Madeline’s guide to the Wines of Le Marche.
Le Marche Wines.
Where’s Le Marche (pronounced Markay) you might ask yourself? It’s one of Italy’s few remaining undiscovered and genuinely authentic regions. It sits in the centre and to the east on the calf of the boot with the Adriatic Sea on one side and the Apennine Mountains on the other offering diverse climates and conditions, ideal for wine growing.
Le Marche wines are still relatively unknown outside of Italy, however, in recent years, the wines of Le Marche have not only improved but are now beginning to make their mark in the world of wine. There has been a noticeable shift from quantity to quality and the younger generations are taking an active involvement, and, in some cases, taking over the running of the vineyards to produce some really interesting wines.
As is typical in Italy, Le Marche has a number of grapes indigenous of the region. I’m going to talk a bit about the more widely grown ones below.
Verdicchio: probably the most well-known grape of the region and ranks amongst one of Italy’s finest whites. The name Verdicchio translates as little green one and refers to the green/yellow hue of the wine. Verdicchio wine must have a minimum of 85% of the Verdicchio grape. The other 15% can be Trebbiano and /or Malvasia.
Verdicchio wines come in many styles from light, easy-drinking to more complex with most having a characteristic nutty, almond flavour with green fruits and citrus notes.
Pecorino: A centuries-old grape variety which was nearly extinct until its revival in the 1980s. Pecorino is more well known as a cheese made from sheep’s milk, and translates as “little sheep”. Local legend has it that as the sheep wander through pastures it was this grape that they would stop to eat.
Pecorino wines are typically dry and minerally with elegant, aromatic and floral notes and with a high alcoholic content. Even the younger versions have complex characteristics.
Passerina: another traditional Le Marche grape which, in the past, was used as one of the grapes in local sparkling wines to enhance acidity and aromas. More recently it is also being produced as a wine in its own right. It’s said that sparrows (Passero in Italian) favour the Passerina grape, hence its name, and the ‘ina’ is added to reflect the small size of the grapes themselves
Passerina is a drink-young, simple wine with citrus notes.
Other white grapes produced in the region, but to a much lesser extent, are Bianchello del Metauro and Falerio (a blend of Trebbiano, Pecorino and Passerina).
By far the two most widely grown red grapes in Le Marche are Sangiovese and Montepulciano and most wines in the region are produced with one or other of these grapes, if not both.
Sangiovese is actually the most widely-grown grape in Italy and also in Le Marche. It derives its name from sanguis Jovis, “the blood of Jupiter”.
Montepulciano (the grape, not the place!)
Firstly, Montepulciano is a town in Tuscany, which has no relation to the Montepulciano grape. Montepulciano is the second most widely grown red grape in Italy and is most noted in the regions of Le Marche and Abruzzo and Le Marche
The Sangiovese and Montepulciano grapes are used to produce two red wines of Le Marche:
Rosso Piceno: the oldest and largest DOC of the region. Rosso Piceno is typically produced using a blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano. The percentages can vary widely. There’s also the possibility to blend a small amount of the local white varieties of Trebbiano and Passerina in a Rosso Piceno wine.
Rosso Conero: The other red wine widely produced using the Sangiovese and Montepulciano grapes is the powerful and full-bodied Rosso Conero which must be made with a minimum of 85% Montepulciano grape and the other 15% Sangiovese although typically it’s made from 100% Montepulciano grapes.
Lacrima di Moro d’Alba: This grape and wine is produced by only a handful of estates in a small area in the province of Ancona. Lacrima means tear in English and it’s said that, as well as the grapes being teardrop-shaped, they also tend to split in the heat of the sun and leave a small puddle of teardrops at the around the base of the vine.
Lacrima wine not only has strong floral notes of roses, petals and red berries but also has a unique and surprising taste which can be very similar to the confectionary Parma Violets when drunk young.
Vernaccia di Serrapetrona: is produced in a very restricted area in the province of Macerata and can be a sweet or a dry sparkling wine from the Vernaccia Nera grape (minimum 85%).
There are hundreds of wine producers in Le Marche from the larger to small, family-run concerns. If you did want to visit a vineyard, instead of choosing a more polished, one-size-fits-all tour given to you by an employee at one of the larger vineyards, I would highly recommend choosing one of the many smaller vineyards where you are likely to get a personalised tour given to you by the owner themselves so you’ll get a truly authentic, rustic Italian experience no longer to be found in many regions of Italy.
The team at Hotel Leone are tackling the challenges to the tourism industry with typical positive thinking. They have a fabulous pay it forward crowdfunding campaign so that you can help them out AND save money when we are all able to travel again. Check out the Hotel Leone CrowdFunding page – and help a small business with a great attitude and a superb product.
Meanwhile, here’s a delicious recipe that pairs well with Marche wines and is definitely worth trying. If you don’t fancy making it for yourself you could always book a stay at Hotel Leone
Linguine with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto.
This great recipe for spring shows a different take on the traditional green pesto recipes that can be found. Here in Italy, you can buy good quality pre-roasted red peppers at the deli counter of every supermarket. Always use good quality linguine and a large pan of well-salted water at a rolling boil to cook the linguine
- 150 g roasted red peppers
- 75 g fresh red peppers
- 25 g grated Parmesan cheese
- 25 g flaked almonds
- 25 g tomato puree
- 5 g fresh basil leaves
- 50 g olive oil preferably from the roasted red peppers
- salt and pepper
- Spring of on the vine cherry tomatoes and some small basil leaves to garnish
To make the paste add all the ingredients except the oil into the large bowl of your food processor and blend together using the blade attachment.
Add the oil a little at a time to gain a thick consistency but don’t over blend - try to get the pesto thick and but still a little textured
Add 100g linguine per person to a large pan of salted water at a rolling boil and cook as per instructions on the packet to ‘al-dente’. Stir or toss to combine and serve directly adding some of the cherry tomatoes still attached to the vine beside and garnish on top with the small basil leaves.
While the pasta is cooking gently heat the pesto in a large pan and then add the freshly drained linguine to the pesto once it’s cooked.
Stir or toss to combine and serve directly adding some of the cherry tomatoes still attached to the vine beside and garnish on top with the small basil leaves.
serve with warmed crusty bread
Wine to serve with Linguine: Marche IGT Rose - Floriger - from Lei Corti dei Farfensi, Moresco (FM)