Italy’s wine region Marche (pronounced “mark-eh”) is neither the largest nor the smallest of Italian wine regions, and lies midway down on Italy’s eastern shore, on the beautiful Adriatic. When choosing which grapes to highlight for this region, I might have gone for the ubiquitous Verdicchio on the white front and Sangiovese or Montepulciano on the red front — all famous in the Marche region — but those are, well, ubiquitous; my focus here is on boutique wines.
Marche White Wine: Pecorino
Pecorino, a thin-skinned light white grape, shares the same name as the famous Pecorino (sheep’s milk) cheese. Some say that the name comes from the sheep that liked to eat the grapes — can you blame them? Some bottles even feature lambs on the label. But the really exciting story of Pecorino is that it was rescued from extinction. This is a recurring theme when it comes to Italian wines. I guess when one area is as blessedly rich in grapes as is Italy (by one count there are over 800 distinct varieties), a few are bound to fall through the cracks.
As legend would have it, Pecorino was literally found in a large crack — a gorge to be exact. As with many of the almost extinct grapes, it got that way due to low yields. Farmers naturally preferred to work with more prolific vines.
In Controguerra, a Marche commune, Pecorino can comprise up to 30% of a Trebbiano-based sparkling wine. You can expect a straw- or lemon-colored wine, with hints of spices, nuts and flowers. Other descriptors I came across were as diverse as “broom,” “bananas” and “ginger.” Pair with typical Mediterranean coastal fare: seafood, paella or risotto, and, of course, Pecorino cheese!
Marche Red Wine: Lacrima
Our red Marche wine of choice is Lacrima, or more accurately, Lacrima di Morro, for the very small area where it is produced. The varietal name Lacrima, or tear, is said to derive from juices that trickle from the ripened, thin-skinned grapes.
Lacrima has an overpowering flavor of roses, which causes people to either love it or hate it. There’s no in between. I would suggest pairing this wine with an earthy food, like mushrooms or chicken livers, so that the soil tones of the food will counterbalance the spicy roses.
I haven’t gotten to try Pecorino or Lacrima so would love to hear about your experiences with these boutique Marque wines.