Posted by: tomciocco | August 15, 2012


Like most of Italy’s eastern/Adriatic regions, Marche is largely unknown outside of Italy, and let’s hope that it stays that way. It’s got everything that its neighbor Tuscany has  – hills, mountains, beautiful seacoast, stone Medieval towns, art, and arguably a superior cuisine – and you and a few others in the know can have it all to yourselves. The town of Urbino is Marche’s Siena, and the port city of Ancona outsizes and out-charms Viareggio any day, and (almost) nobody goes to either one…

So not surprisingly, Marche’s relative obscurity with respect to the outside world in general, extends inward as well, into its vineyards. Yes, signature marchigiano grapes like the white Verdicchio, and red ones like Montepulciano are known and sought after from Yakima east to Yakutsk, but then there are also lots of other minor vine varieties cultivated in Le Marche –  ones like Passerina, Pecorino, Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, and this post’s subject, the nearly arcane Maceratino. In many ways these minor cultivars are just as important to Marche’s overall viticultural landscape as Verdicchio or Montepulciano (which is actually a transplant  from neighboring Abruzzo).

As with all minor grape varieties, before any conclusive, truly scientific facts are reached about a given variety’s lineage, there is lots of semi-scientific speculation, so why should ol’ Maceratino be any different? In what seems to be both too easy an answer, and just a bit wrong to both the nose and the palate, it’s been postulated that Maceratino is a relative of its paisano, the great Verdicchio. Who knows how it will all turn out in the end, but for me, this grape is not part of the Verdicchio family. Another, and to my taste, a much more plausible theory is that this nobly seductive grape is related to Campania’s Greco. And indeed, the marchigiano city of Ancona was founded by ancient Greek traders and fisherman, and Montepulciano has been shown to have some Greek parentage, so my EUROS (Drachmas?) are on Maceratino having Hellenic ancestors as well…

I served this VERY elegant and shapely wine with a classic appetizer of prosciutto e melone, and then a traditional marchigiano stew of squid, tomatoes, onions, and potatoes, flavored with anchovies, garlic, bay leaves, etc. with some bread for sauce-sopping…

Fontezoppa Colline Maceratesi Maceratino “Ribona” 2009

Straw gold color with greenish tinges. Very elegant nose of apple, pear, fresh ginger, nuts, bitter herbs, sushi rice, minerals, and Chanterelle mushrooms. In the mouth the wine shows a very fine and well structured medium-weight frame, with a very sophisticated, super crisp mouthfeel, and a lacy, filigreed texture that beautifully wraps flavors of yellow plums, gooseberries, lemon zest, and delicate honey notes. The wine finishes with really good length, and a bitterish quinine finish.



  1. The notion of a bitterish quinine finish sound rather appealing…

  2. Yeah, it’s a flavor note that I find in a fair amount of Italian whites, and that I also like quite a bit…

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