Cupramontana | Commune in Ancona province in Le Marche, a region on the Adriatic coast of Italy. It is considered the capital and historical birthplace of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (see further below). Wines can be made under the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico DOC and Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico DOC SuperioreCupramontana lies about 21 miles (35km) southwest of the city of Ancona, on the right or south bank of the Esino riverNeighbouring townships are Apiro, Maiolati Spontini, Mergo, Monte Roberto, Rosora, San Paolo di Jesi, Serra San Quirico, and Staffolo.

The name | Cupramontana means Cupra Mountain and was so-named by the Piceni, or Picenes, a pre-Romanic people whose fertility goddess was Cupra. The town centres on the Piazza del Plazzo Comunale. This leads to the upper part of the town where the collegiate church stands. The Museo dell’Etichetta or wine label museum also has information about the local winemaking terroir.

Sustainability | In 2019 the municipality was no longer using the Glyphosate herbicide brand when dealing with weeds (on roadsides, streets etc).

Contrade | Named areas in Cupramontana of wine-growing significance (Ian d’Agata, 2019, p316): Barchio. | Brecciole. | Carpaneto. | Manciano. | Morella. | San Bartolomeo. | San Marco. | Palazzo. | San Michele.

Terroir mapping initiative | The vineyards extend all around the town, perched atop the highest hill in the area, at 505 metres. The variability of exposures and slopes, combined with the alternation of different soils, has encouraged local winemakers to make site-specific (or cru) wines using the names of local “contrade”. With impetus from Corrado Dottori of La Distesa, Cupramontana has begun collecting data on key aspects of the local terroir, such as soil type, rainfall, altitude, exposure, temperature units and so on. Dottori says that ‘with more knowledge growers give themselves more options and thus more power over eventual wine quality. There can be a 20-day difference between ripeness in plots just a thousand metres apart. The aim of terroir-mapping is to make better decisions improve quality. It is not about classifying one micro-terroir better than any other.’

Cupramontana TerroirAll of the Cupramontana territory is part of the Umbria-Marche Apennines, which is essentially made up of a 4-km-thick succession of sedimentary rocks that were deposited in a subsiding marine basin during the Triassic Period, some 250 million years ago. Starting in the Miocene Epoch, about 23 million years ago, this sedimentary succession responded to a regime of tectonic compression with folding, faulting, and uplifting to form the mountain ranges and hills of our Apennine region, eventually emerging from the ancient proto-Mediterranean basin that geologists call Tethys Ocean.

The hills of the Cupramontana terroir were formed in the later phase of this process of tectonic uplifting and structural deformation, more or less during the early Pliocene Epoch, some 4-5 million years ago.

The predominant geological formation is therefore that of Argille Azzurre (FAA), found throughout the ancient Po-Adriatic marine basin. It is important to remember how this formation presents a series of diversified lithofacies (sedimentary rock types), which indicate different modes of sedimentation. Moreover, as can be readily seen in geological maps, a vast part of the Cupramontana terroir, in particular the slopes of San Michele and Manciano that slant toward Staffolo, present a completely diverse geological succession dating back to the Miocene Epoch and dominated by the Schlier Formation (SCH, deposited between 16 and 7 million years ago) and by the Gessoso-Solfifera Formation (GES, deposited between 7 and 5 million years ago). There are six main zones in Cupramontana described below.

Prevalence of sand and sandstone

FAA2 Arenaceous clays (sandstone dominated). A soil very common in Cupramontana, especially in the districts of San Michele (the upper part), Follonica, San Bartolomeo, Posserra, Salerna/Esinante, Morella. One sees an alternation of clay and sandstone but with a ratio higher in sandstone and with layers of stratification always very distinct. The sandstone layers are generally compact, have a thickness ranging from a few decimeters to some meters, an average medium-fine grain size with a gray-yellowish color; the thickness of the pelitic intervals is usually less than that of the sandstone, it is grayish in color and it appears like thin shavings. It is noted also, the widespread presence of “cogoli” and the true banks of sandstones (blocks).

FAAb Conglomeratic sandstonesSoil that emerges extensively in Poggio San Marcello and Montecarotto. Cupramontana covers mainly the districts of San Marco, Colmorino, Eremiti, the high ridges of Scheggia, Pietrone, Alvareto and in general all the ridges higher in elevation. It consists of compound components passing laterally across sandstone-conglomerates and sand, in a lenticular shape lying down. The individual pebbly components appear, most of the time, with an erosive base and develop with variable thicknesses from a few decimeters to some meters with variable lateral extensions. Locally present are sandstone / sand and pelitic intercalations having thicknesses of a few decimeters.

Prevalence of clay

FAe1 FAA2e Clays with a portion of standstone | They are found only in the areas of San Michele, Badia Colli – Bottignone and Follonica, and are primarily clay of bluish color when freshly broken, and light gray alternations, with intercalated sandstone (see sandstone) turbidites (see turbidites) gray-yellowish in color, in very thin layers, rarely medium or thick.

LAG1e Turbidite ClaysIn the zone of Colonara of Cupramontana (and in part Follonica) there is a turbidite succession of measurable thickness around 20-30 meters. It is sterile pelitic soil, at times malodorous, rich in micaceous material, interspersed with layers of fine sandstone which are sometimes graded and laminated. The sandstones are present in lesser quantities in respect to the pelitic soil and, on occasion, reach a thickness of one meter. The presence of the Laga Formation is important and indicates the activation of a foredeep phase, fueled by the rising of the Apennines Mountains. On the sheet Jesi the deposits of this formation represent the northwestern border of the broader Laga Basin that extends toward the south.

Prevalence of marlGES Marly Clay and Chalk. This formation emerges extensively in the anticlinal structure of Cupramontana-Staffolo, therefore in the districts of San Michele (lower part), Spescia, Follonica (lower part), Colonara, and Manciano (upper part). The formation essentially consists of an alternation of clays and tobacco-colored clay marl, tripolacee marl, bituminous dark clays, levels of evaporitic limestone and rare chalk. The lithofacies of the Gessoso-Solfifera Formation, although incomplete and lacking in depth, are linked to the well-known Salinity Crisis recognized throughout the Mediterranean region.

SCH Marl and Marly ClayThis formation is characterized by whitish calcareous marl, in thin layers, alternating typically with marl and gray marly clay with stratification barely evident. It is found in the districts of Colonara, Valle, Manciano, Carpaneto, Brecciole. It is a soil-type geologically more ancient (from 13 to 7 million years ago). The marly and marly-clay lithofacies are prevalent in all the sequences and, to themselves, associate calcareous marl and marly limestone (more frequent in external zones) and the interbedded calcareous turbidites that are exclusive to the southern sectors of the basin. The marly lithofacies are characterized by a prevailing pelagic component, consisting of well preserved planktonic foraminifera and clay minerals.

Climate | Cupramontana has been known historically for a lack of humidity, excellent ventilation and is high enough above sea level to guarantee marked day-night temperature differences. This is an early ripening area. See the comments made by Corrado Dottori of La Distesa re the effect of climate change on the prized San Michele terroir (the link to which is below).

Altitude | The vines are at 400-550 metres. Steely wines well suited to sparkling wine styles.

Soils | The soils are poor and calcareous with a predominance of clays, marls and chalks. The presence of sandstone is smaller, concentrated mainly in the upper part of the ridge.

Wine style | Verdicchio wines from Cupramonta are rich, structured, long-lived and complex. They are said to show notes of aromatic herbs and orange peel. In cooler years look for marine-like iodine scents. The town is noted for its sparkling wines made from Verdicchio. Corrado Dottori told me (2019) that Verdicchio from the central zone give saline wines.

Wineries

Certified organic, Biodynamic practices | La Distesa. | La Marca di San Michele.

Bibliography

Dr Ian d’Agata, Italy’s Native Wine Grape Terroirs (University of California Press, 2019), p316.

Italian Wine Guide (Touring Club of Italy, 1999).

Kermit Lynch fact sheet on La Marca di San Michele

The Cupramontana terroir lies on Sheet 117 of the Geological Map of Italy 1:100,000, and Sheet 292 of the map 1:50,000 (CARG project).