La Marca di San Michele is an organic estate in the Jesi area of Ancona province of the Le Marche region, Italy. La Marca’s focus is on white wines: Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC, Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio DOC Classico Superiore, and Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio DOCG Riserva. The winery and vineyards are in Cupramontana which is the historical birthplace of Verdicchio production in Le Marche.
Background: In 2007 Alessandro Bonci, Beatrice Bonci, and Daniela Quaresima swopped their city-based lives (different professions) for organic farming and wine making. They took over the 6ha vineyard owned by Alessandro and Beatrice’s father, Pietro. The estate was initially purchased by their grandfather Fernando Bonci, and Fernando’s brother Mario (they called it Valle Rosa). Fernando’s mother bought what is now the estate, using her widow’s pension. She had 4 children, one of whom was Pietro. The estate has remained more or less as it was originally. The impulse to work with rather than against nature came from the new generation, who with Ampelio Bucci, was among the first producers in the Marche to join the independent winegrower group, FIVI. On 10 January 2019 Beatrice left the business.
The estate: 2019 6ha of vines, 2ha of olives, 2ha of field-sown crops (eg barley, durum wheat) which are sold to an organic co-operative.
Vineyards: 6ha of which 5ha of Verdicchio and 1ha of Montepulciano. The vines are in San Michele, around the house, with a view to Staffolo opposite. One can see the Adriatic sea from here (and from Cupramontana) on a clear day. The altitude is 300-400 metres above sea level. The soil is calcareous clay marl, a 12 million year old former seabed, on slopes climbing the foothills of the Apennine mountains facing east towards the Adriatic sea. San Michele is an early ripening area, upto 14-21 days earlier than other areas. The main plots are Vigneto Grande, Vigneto Piccolo (Verdicchio used for Capovolto, a Classico Superiore), and La Querce (Verdicchio used for Passolento Riserva wine).
Certification: 2007 Bio sans papiers. | 2009 Conversion to certified organic status begins. | 2012 First vintage with full organic certification.
Winemaking, wine style: Alessandro told me he looks for four things in a wine: saltiness from the terroir, ripeness from the climate, flavour from the grape variety, and mouthfeel from the pH (acid strength) and the acid(s) itself. He makes two different wild yeast starter cultures, one for sparkling wine and the other for still wine, and the press is cleaned between a load of grapes destined for sparkling wine and grapes destined for still wines, despite both being Verdicchio.
Labels: Each wine has a minimalist cadastral (‘catasto’) map on its label showing where the grapes came from.
Traditional method sparkling (‘spumante’) wine with a second fermentation in bottle but without either disgorging or dosage. | 2011 Numero Zero. First vintage. 800 bottles. Classic method sparkling wine with no dosage (‘Dosaggio Zero’). Made with Liana Peruzzi. | 2014 Numero Uno 100% Verdicchio. Wet vintage. 2,500 bottles. | 2016 Numero Due Col Fondo Picked early. Tried freezing some juice to provoke the second fermentation in bottle but in the end had to use purchased organic yeasts for the second fermentation in bottle. 12.5% alc. 0g/l residual sugar. 2,500 bottles. | 2017 Hot vintage. None made. | 2018 2,500 bottles. | 2019 Due to be picked early. Pressed. Juice fermented to dryness with around 11.5% alc. Kept on fine lees in tank until May (2020). Add unfermented juice and yeast to provoke second fermentation, using a closed circuit to pump and thus mix the existing wine, the yeast and the sugar – in the form of the unfermented juice, which will add an extra 1% alcohol to the wine (leaving it with 12.5% overall). On the same day as mixing the wine-juice mix is bottled (so both lees and fresh sugars are in suspension) with the bottles sealed with a cork and cage. The wine is left to age for three years.
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC, Saltatempo: 2018 8,000 bottles. 12.5%. Unlike the Capovolto and Passolento wines this is from a blend of vineyards, rather than from single sites. It is made from the later press fractions. Unoaked, it is bottled early for early drinking.
Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio DOC Classico Superiore, Capovolto: This is from ‘Vigneto Piccolo’, the small vineyard, which is east-facing (cooler). Ferments in stainless steel. Ambient yeast. 6-8 months on fine lees. Unoaked. No MLF. | 2013 Very nice width and depth (Real Wine Fair 2016). | 2016 Pied de cuve. Wild ferment. Stainless steel. Pressed juice, no skin contact. 6-8 months in stainless steel. | 2018 13% alc. Made two vats, abundant year. One was bottled early, one was a late release lees aged. Ripeness and weight, salty sapidity, lemony prickle (June 2019).
Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio DOCG Riserva, Passolento: This comes from the ‘La Querce’ or oak tree plot (it is forbidden to cut oak trees down in the Marche). Ferments and ages in 10hl Slavonian oak vats. MLF. Bottled within the year. | 2013 Spent time in oak, so had width, depth and was lightly exotic (Real Wine Fair, 2016). | 2016 9m on fine lees in wooden vats. Spontaneous MLF in oak, right after alcoholic fermentation. Minimal change in acidity: 3.1pH at picking, 3.2pH in the bottle. 1,000 litres = 2 tonneaux. 7,000 bottles. Unfiltered.
Marche Rosso DOC, Bastian Contrario: 2016 Marche Rosso. 100% Montepulcianco. 13.5%. Ambient yeasts. Ferments in stainless steel. 18m in steel before bottling. Unfiltered. Bright, balanced, really savoury in early July 2019.
Other crops: The olive trees (over 200 of them) are hand picked in November. Yield of between 100 and 300 litres of oil depending on the year. The trees are indigenous cultivars: pendola, carboncella, raggia, leccino, mignola, maurino, canino) are a blend of unique extra-virgin olive oil. The oil, cold extracted, is not filtered but left in natural decantation.
La Marca di San Michele Società Agricola
Via Torre, 13
I-60034 Cupramontana (AN = Ancona), Italy
Tel+39 0731 781183 | www.lamarcadisanmichele.com