Sand and Snow on New Year’s Day

From the beach to the mountains in an afternoon – Only in Le Marche!

Here is a brain teaser: is it possible to stroll on the beach in the afternoon and, an hour or so later, be up in the mountains walking in the snow, tasting delicious regional salami and cheese?

The answer is yes and, more precisely, the answer is Le Marche.

In Italy, we have a saying that you are likely to experience during the year what you experience on the first day. So on New Year’s Day 2012, we decided we wanted a good mix of emotions. (Although we were also determined to walk off the guilt created by the considerable consumption of calories over Christmas…and we ended up eating cheese and salami!)

So straight after a good lie in (necessary after the NYE revelries) we looked out and saw a fantastic day outside (overlooking the chill factor temperature, which reminded us that it was January). A clear sky and the sun shining on the city, what a great way to start the year!

After saying good bye to Ancona we headed South, making time for a quick stop in Portonovo. It was strange, but fascinating, to visit the lively summer hangout, on a cool, clear day in January.

If you are local and you are a regular visitor in the Summer, you would have spotted something strange, as the sun only hit the tower (Torre De Bosis) and the cliff, but missed the beach, which is usually full of sun worshippers in the Summer months.

It was time to head for the mountains, towards the National Park of “Monti Sibillini”. While driving and sharing our new year’s resolutions (such as not eating too much salami!), the countryside with its wonderful Winter colours came into view; hills, fields and a few wispy white clouds were following one another, as we moved away from Ancona and the coast, gaining height.

It only took around one hour driving to Frontignano; by the time we got there the sun was setting, shedding a mix of pink and orange reflections on the rocks surrounding Ussita.

We decided to try to make it to the top, to enjoy the sunset and the view of the valley. While we were climbing up, just for a moment, the reflection of the snow and the openness of the landscape gave us the impression that it was sunrise.

We got to the peak in time to view an astonishing sunset and greet a snowman we met on our way down. With hungry bellies, it was time to grab some cheese and local products at the Christmas market in Ussita!

Now our good intentions for 2012 started creaking seriously, as we saw and smelt the local home-made cheeses. Soft or hard, young or mature flavoured with walnut, pepper, or saffron. “Let’s just buy some, but promise that we will not eat them until after a few days!”…

Time for a stroll around the centre of Visso, another village nearby, a pretty old town perched in between the mountains, with narrow streets and perfectly refurbished houses and palaces.

Suddenly it was dinner time and walking around and chatting had made our new year propositions weaker and weaker, someone said ‘let’s just have a snack!’

It was a great conclusion to a brilliant day and a perfect start to the New Year. Tasting authentic Marche products washed down with a nice glass of Rosso Conero, one of the most popular red wines from Marche, of which we will soon tell you more about!

Happy New Year From Made In Marche! Here’s to 2012!!

Verdicchio Wine – A Light Red Wine Wearing A White Wine Disguise?

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi’ D.O.C (Denomination of Controlled Origin) is one of the most popular white wines in the world and has won numerous awards. The unusual nature of the soil in the Marche area, together with favourable climatic conditions and including the regular breeze (which prevents moisture and mould forming) provides a perfect environment for the development of the grapes. The wines produced in the most sunlit and ventilated areas tend to be more robust and can easily keep for 2 or 3 years, including a short period in oak.

Straw yellow in colour, with greenish hints, from which it derives its name (‘Verdicchio’ is the Italian word for greenish). With a nose of wild flowers, citrus, peach and apple and almond on a full, rich palate.

Verdicchio is a dry wine, fresh but savoury, thanks not only to the salty breeze, but also to the numerous saltpetre banks which characterise the area.

For Verdicchio the minimum required alcohol vol. is 11.5%, for Classico Superiore (superior) 12% and 12.5% for the Riserva, (reserve), although it is not uncommon to find varieties which have over 13% alcohol.  To be awarded the Riserva denomination, the Verdicchio must be aged for a minimum of 24 months, of which at least 6 months are in bottle.

Verdicchio is versatile wine which accompanies many different meals, thanks to its full-body nature, which make some people refer to Verdicchio as a red wine in a white wine disguise. It is especially suitable for accompanying seafood dishes, such as brodetto soup, mussel pasta, fish risotto and grilled fish, but also white meats, particularly the Riserva.

History says that the Visigoth King Alarico used to collect massive quantities of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi on his way to Rome, to increase the vigour of his soldiers. Ancient propitiatory rites with sacred wine are said to have taken place back in 200 A.C. in Cupramontana, a village built around a temple dedicated to Cupra, the goddess of opulence. A likely drinker of the popular Verdicchio!

Making My Own Wine In Marche

I have always had mixed feelings about port towns, they don’t always have a great reputation so I was interested to go and have a look for myself when an Italian friend, Marco, kept insisting that Ancona (which is in the region called Marche) is a beautiful old harbour and deserves more visitors.

I took a budget flight and on arrival at the airport I was greeted with a cold beer and a Parma ham sandwich and things were off to a good start,

it got even better when we stopped at a beautiful local restaurant on the way to our accommodation. We were advised by our host to try pasta made with local mussels, washed down with a carafe of fresh local Verdicchio wine. The recommendation didn’t disappoint, the Adriatic’s shallow waters produce famous seafood and the pasta was perfectly complimented by the well-balanced wine which had hints of lemon and almond, Verdicchio is a Marche speciality.

We were staying at a picturesque vineyard and our host was a friendly chap called Matteo – he was happy to show us around his vineyard explaining which grapes he was growing (as well as wheat and honey), his plans for the future, some of the problems he encounters and what makes a great vintage.

Next it was our chance to make our own wine. A group of Marco’s friends joined us and accompanied by a wine expert we started by trying various combinations of vintages to see what we wanted to make. We agreed on a combination that we all liked and then got to know each other as well as how wine is made while blending the wine, inserting corks, adding foil, designing and adding labels, we called the wine my Oinos (Oinos being the ancient Greek work for wine, which reminds of the Greek roots of the town). This amazing day ended with us drinking our own wine and having a B-B-Q together, it was a great bonding experience.

Over the next few days I visited some local wineries where we were warmly greeted and encouraged to try the produce. The local red is called ‘Rosso Conero’, like many Italian wines it is based on the Montepulciano grape (it must be at least 85% Montepulciano), I hadn’t tried it before but soon realised that it is excellent, complex, full bodied wine – it doesn’t have the name of a wine like Chianti but because it’s not mass produced the quality is high. This was a good chance to buy some more wine to ship back (I was already taking home a case of the wine that I had made).

I also had the chance to visit the town which is full of glorious historic buildings as well as gelateria’s selling the best ice-cream in the world and small trattorias (traditional restaurants)
serving mainly delicious pizza, pasta and seafood. We also visited some beautiful beaches and I had the opportunity to see the stunning countryside full of vineyards and olive groves, we had a walk up Mount Conero and on the last night we ate fresh fried fish at a festival of the sea hosted by local fishermen.

Marco was right! Ancona has a lot to offer and I will be back there soon to make some more wine, lay on the beach and eat great food!

I hope you enjoy the short video below that captured the experience of making my own wine in Marche.

Making ‘My Oinos’ in Marche

We recently hosted a group of friends in Ancona, a historic port city in the Marche region.

As well as taking in the sights and sounds of the old town, soaking up the sun on the beach, enjoying fabulous seafood and delicious Italian ice-cream; we made a special limited edition wine which we blended, designed the lable, bottled, corked and called ‘My Oinos’ (Oinos being the old Greek term for wine).

We hope that you enjoy the short video we have produced to capture our experience.