Visiting Le Marche – Part I

I spent the last week in Offida, Italy where I was inivited to attend Piceno Open, a wine tasting for selected wine writers, importers and wine bloggers. The event was organized by Vinea Marche, a cooperative with over 850 members in the Ascoli Piceno region. The tight program of Piceno Open consisted of three blind tastings and wineries visits of our choice. Participants also had the opportunity to taste many of the wines together with a representative of the winery.

The hills of Ascoli Piceno

Grape growing has a long tradition in Ascoli Piceno but only in the last two decades wine making has become more serious but even today the majority of the grape growers in the region sell their grapes to a third party instead of making wine out of them. This applies not only to Ascoli Piceno but to all of Le Marche. Too little was invested and without proper marketing the wines of Ascoli Piceno were destined to be overlooked by its neighboring competitors – especially Abruzzo managed to bring  the grape varieties from Le Marche to a big success. Montepulciano, one of the most important red grape varieties of Le Marche, is today mostly associated with Abruzzo (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC) and intact the Abruzzesi managed to trademark the name Montepulciano. Outside of Abruzzo it is not permitted to label a wine Montepulciano even if it’s produced with 100% Montepulciano. This is quite silly in my opinion.

Anyways, recently more and more grape growers built brand new and highly modern wineries in order to switch from grape growing to wine making. They have great potential of making outstanding wines. Some of these new wineries also started to experiment with international grape varieties and the region now offers a great diversity of red and white wines.

DOC & DOCG appellations in Ascoli Piceno

There are two DOC and one DOCG appellation in the Ascoli Piceno region as well as one IGT wine. Below you find a some information about them

Rosso Piceno DOC was created in 1968 making it the first DOC wine to be produced in the area. However, the tradition of wine making in Asocli Piceno dates back to the ancient Roman Empire. The wine is a blend of 35% and 85% Montepulciano and 15% and 50% Sangiovese. Non-aromatic red grapes are used up to a maximum of 15%. Rosso Piceno is the basic red wine of the region.

Rosso Piceno Superiore DOC is the “big brother” of Rosso Piceno. The main difference between them is that Rosso Piceno Superiore has to age at least one year in barrels, which results in more intense and vairegated aromas. Furthermore. Rosso Piceno Superiore is made in a much smaller area, in fact in just 13 communes it is permitted to produce it.

Falerio dei Colli Ascolani DOC is a white wine produced on the hills surrounding the Medieval town of Ascoli Piceno. It’s a blend of local grape varieties (20%-50% Trebbiano, 10%-30% Passerina, 10%-30% Pecorino, up to 20% non aromatic white grapes). Sometimes the wine is simply called Falerio DOC. The appellation was created in 1975 because back then there was no DOC appellation for white wines in Piceno. The traditional blend consists of equal parts of Trebbiano, Passerina and Pecorino. Much of Falero is exported abroad.

Offida DOCG consists in three variants: Offida Rosso, Offida Pecorino and Offida Passerina. Offida Rosso used to be a only a DOC wine but because of its huge success on the national and international market it was awarded DOCG status in 2011. Offida Rosso a blend of at least 85% Montepulciano and the wine has to age for at least 24 months. Offida Pecorino is made with at least 85% Pecorino and Offida Passerina with at least 85% Passerina. Many wineries tend to produce varietal wines.

Marche IGT is an appellation for the entire Marche region. It’s less regulated and gives the wineries more freedom. International blends from Ascoli Piceno are always classified as Marche IGT.

Blind Tasting Highlights

The blind tasting was split into three parts. First we tasted 12 2013 Offida DOCG Passerina, followed by 20 2012/13 Offida DOCG Pecorino, and by 4 2011 Offida DOCG Rosso. Giving you my tasting notes on all 36 wines would be too much (and probably quite boring) so I’ll just share my personal highlights. Prior to attending the blind tasting I was not very familiar with Passerina. This ancient autochthonous  grape variety is mostly grown in Le Marche and Lazio. Italy is home to an abundance of grape varieties and I love discovering more and more of them.

Blind Tasting Marche II

AIS Sommeliers poured us the wines

2013 Tenuta La Riserva Offida DOCG Passerina. Nose: Oranges, tropical fruit, very intense. Palate: dry, crisp, mineralic, notes of passion fruit, citrus and bit of herbs, harmonic, lingering finish.

2013 Velenosi Villa Angela Offida DOCG Pecorino. Nose: Salvia, apricot, lime. Palate: dry, fresh, juicy, tasty, slightly mineralic, nice acidity, lingering finish.

2013 San Filippo Offida DOCG Pecorino. Nose: ripe fruit and flowers. Palate: dry, well-balanced, good minerality, complex, long-lasting finale.

2011 Aurora Barricadiero Offida DOCG Rosso. Nose: intense, vanilla, blackberries, black cherries, spices. Palate: dry, tannic, a little salty, good body, nice structure, lingering finish.

2011 Villa Grifoni Offida DOCG Rosso: Nose: intense, spicy. Palate: dry, great structure, nice acidity, well-bodied, harmonic, long-lasting finale.

Blind Tasting Marche III

Some of the wines that were served during the bind tastings


This concludes part I. In part II I will write about some of the wineries I visited during my stay including La Valle Del Sole, PS Winery and Poderi San Lazzaro.

I was a guest of Vinea at Piceno Open. All views are my own.


22 comments on “Visiting Le Marche – Part I”

  1. Andy Andy Reply

    Great post, Julian! I’m not familiar at all with any of the wines you tried in this blind tasting. There seems to be always a new wine to discover. Looks like you had lots of fun 🙂 Cheers!

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Thanks! Like I said, I didn’t know much about Passerina either before I attended this tasting. Italy is home to so many unique grape varieties. It’s hard to know them all. Passerina is interesting and worth trying at least once.

  2. hannah-theis hannah-theis Reply

    Wow so many wines! I remember having a lots of Pecorino in Rome but that was six yers ago. I will see if I can buy one of the two Pecorino you recommend.
    The view looks so beautiful but it looks like you had bad weather over there? Looking forward your post about PS Winery. Haven’t found their wines in Canada yet but I liked your review of that Montepulciano. I totally agree that it makes no sense that a winery can’t call its wine Montepulciano if the wine is produced outside of Abruzzo. Are you sure about this?

  3. Sean P. Reply

    Did you taste by any chance the wines from De Angelis? I tried their 2012 Falerio recently and was quite impressed.

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  5. talkavino Reply

    Marche makes very interesting wines. Curios if you tried any of the Verdicchio di Matelica and how would you compare them with Verdicchio di Jesi

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      I did not visit Matelica and Jesi this time but I’ve been there before. On average I would say that Verdicchio di Matelica has a higher mineralty, a finer acidity tastes more fresh but maybe I’m a bit biased here because most of the Verdicchio I prefer comes from Matelica..
      In Jesi many wineries are proud of their Verdicchio Riserva, which has to age in oak. In my opinion Verdicchio tastes much better unoaked..

  6. winetalks winetalks Reply

    Very nice report. Marche is an under-appreciated wine region. They make some excellent white and red wines and I hope that some US importers will bring some of these wines to the American market. I tried lots of Pecorino, Verdicchio and Rosso Piceno when I last visited Italy – even though I didn’t visit any towns in Marche I still had the opportunity to try lots of Marche wines.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Matelica and Jesi already have a good reputation for its wines and hopefully in the near future consumers will also appreciate the beauty of the wines from Offida.

  7. Marco van Puff Reply

    I like unoaked Pecorino. Most have a great freshness and are high in minerals. Did you visit any wineries outside of Ascoli Piceno, too?

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to visit any wineries in the northern Marche or in Abruzzo. Abruzzo is actually only a few kilometers from Offida but there were just so many wineries in Offida that I wanted to visit. But there is always a next time 🙂

  8. wineking3 wineking3 Reply

    I visited Offida last year for a day trip during my stay in Ancona. I didn’t get to try many wines but I will always remember vino coto! Did you try any vino coto?

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      How did you like Offida? I think it’s such a pretty small town.
      I tried two vino cotto from small local wineries but I have to say that I don’t particularly enjoyed vino cotto. It reminded me a little of Madeira and to some extent to Marsala.

  9. Oliver Reply

    Ascoli Piceno is the sister city of Trier, believe it or not, but I never made it there. We will be spending a few days in Le Marche in summer, visiting a winery in San Marcello (outside of Ancona), and probably looking at least at another one or two. I so cannot wait, and your post increases my desire to be there now…

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      I didn’t know that Trier is the twin town of Trier! That’s pretty awesome that two towns that have a long history and tradition in wine making are twin towns.
      Offida is around an hour drive from Ancona so you should be able to drive there if you want to visit any of the wineries I visited. I’ll publish the posts over the next few weeks. Which winery are you visiting in San Marcello?

      Le Marche are a wonderful region with very friendly and hospitable people, delicious food & wine and a beautiful landscape. Enjoy your trip 🙂

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