Verdicchio is the plenipotentiary of the wines of this pleasant Adriatic region, whose long-time devotion to whites no longer obscures the increasing merits of its reds.
The Castle di Jessie DOC zone, covering a vast tract of hills west of the port of Ancona, is the home of the Verdicchio that made an early impression abroad in its green amphora bottles. But recently producers have created a new image of Verdicchio as a white wine of special character that comes across even more convincingly in standard bottles.
Quality has risen so steadily that even wine still sold in the hourglass-shaped amphora seems a cut above the general level of popular whites. Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, produced at the rate of more than 25 million bottles a year, has been described as Italy's premier wine to serve with fish. Some producers make wines that develop such impressive depth and complexity with age that Verdicchio is increasingly ranked among the noblest native white wine varieties of Italy.
Verdicchio di Matelica, grown in limited quantities in a mountainous zone, can have more body and strength than wines from Jesi. Verdicchio from both DOC zones and elsewhere makes convincing sparkling wine as well, usually by the sealed tank method of fermentation, but also occasionally by the classical method in bottle.
The recent Esino DOC, which coincides with parts of the two Verdicchio zones, provides for red and white wines, usually fresh and fruity. The region's other white wines, notably Bianchello del Metauro and Falerio dei Colli Ascolani, are usually light and zesty, also go nicely with seafood.
The red wines of the Marches are based chiefly on Sangiovese and Montepulciano, sometimes blended, sometimes not. The most important, in terms of volume is Rosso Piceno, dominated by Sangiovese. It comes from a DOC zone covering much of the eastern flank of the region, stretching from the superior area between Ascoli Piceno and the sea north through the coastal hills to Senigallia.
Rosso Conero, dominated by Montepulciano, has gained even more praise, thanks to the devotion to quality shown by its leading producers. It originates in a zone on the slopes of the Conero massif south of Ancona. Both Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno were habitually made to drink within two to four years, when they are persuasively round and fresh in flavour, though certain producers have made wines that age remarkably well from good vintages, sometimes for a decade or more.