Rosso Cònero DOC is a red wine based on 85-100% Montepulciano and 0-15% other authorised grapes grown south-west of Ancona, between the Adriatic Sea and the Apennines on the Adriatic coast of Le Marche, a region in Italy. Rosso Cònero became the first DOC in Le Marche in 1967. In 2004 Rosso Cònero’s DOC Riserva category became a DOCG with the new name of Cònero DOCGRosso Cònero producers often also make white wines under the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and vice versa, although the production areas do not overlap (Nicolas Belfrage, 2003, p215).

Monte Conero: Cònero, one of Italy’s most beautiful wine regions, is named after Monte Cònero (572-metres), a massif (& nature reserve) on the Adriatic coast on the southern outskirts of the large port of Ancona. The Cònero is described a secondary fold of the Apennines inserted into and thus interrupting the secondary continuity of the Adriatic coastline. Cònero is the only promontory (the Greeks called it an elbow) on the straight, flat Adriatic coast between Trieste in the north and the Gargano in Puglia to the south, a distance of some 107 miles (173 kms). The Adriatic is renowned for its shallow, sandy beaches. Here there is no sand, the coast is rocky and the soils (of which more below) suit red wine, as noted by Pliny the Elder (again, see below). Despite being so reliant on the Montepulciano grape, bottles of Cònero DOCG wine may not name the variety on the back label–so as not to penalise producers of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo in the Abruzzo region to the south.

History: The Ancona area was influenced by the Dorians and the Doric civilization, who founded the city of Ancona. Greek colonists (from 1,000 BC) left traces of viticulture and winemaking. The same can be said for the Etruscans to whom the first technical notions of vine cultivation and oenological elaboration can be attributed, which also spread in the Le Marche region where the Picenes were installed. That the Piceno or Picenes knew about grapes and wine is demonstrated by the archaeological discovery of about 200 grape seeds of Vitis Vinifera in a tomb in Matelica from the 7th century. AD. The influence of Rome allowed Pliny the Elder (in his Naturalis Historia)  to describe a hundred varieties of vines cultivated in the Picena area in his time and to say ‘on the Adriatic sea we can mention, among others, the “Pretorian” wine produced in the area of Ancona.’ Also, Apicio Marco Gavio, a Roman character of culinary art, recalls an “anconetanum” wine, red and rather full bodied. The presence in the territory of numerous farms with a long winemaking tradition and the historical residences built in the past centuries, earmarking the ground floor for wine transformation, have allowed the production of red wines that have faced the market with notable success.

Hannibal (247-183 BC), the Carthaginian leader, supposedly revived the tired horses of his army by giving them large quantities of Conero wine during his campaign against Rome, according to medical doctor and natural scientist Andrea Bacci (1524-1600).

Production zoneThe production zone is only 2km wide, and lies mainly to the south-east of the Cònero itself. It covers the entire territory of the port city of Ancona, plus Offagna, Camerano, Sirolo, and Numana, vineyards in part of Castelfidardo and OsimoMuch of the potential production zone is now a suburb of Ancona. The vineyards are found in the hills which fall back south-east from the Cònero, descending towards the hinterland. (See also the picturesque town of Portonovo.) These wine-growing areas are protected from cold winds coming from the north-east by the Cònero massif, to produce healthy, ripe grapes with a high sugar content. The soils consist of Pleistocene conglomerates, rich in limestone, similar to the marl of Champagne. They are among the most calcareous in Italy. 

Burton Anderson (1982, p.322) says ‘the DOC zone covers the Cònero massif and adjacent slopes, to Castelfidaro near Loreto and inland as far as Osimo and Offagna, whose slopes are protected from Adriatic winds.’ In a later book, Burton Anderson (1990, p.173) says the production zone covers most of the 572-metre (1,876 feet) Cònero massif and the adjacent hills, on slopes providing protection from Adriatic winds (cold winds coming from the north-east). The territory comprises a strip of land running from east (on the Adriatic coast) to west (inland), following the hills behind the mountain relief of the Cònero. 

Geology : Geologically there are two territories, made up of calcareous and cretaceous rocks as specific geological structures of the eastern part of the Marche Apennines. The geological peculiarity of the Cònero territory is represented by the fact that these lands resurface along the coast line after an intermediate belt of clay and sandy soils determines the soil and agricultural landscape of the Marche. The orography of the territory presents a hilly landscape, with gentle reliefs shaped by the action of surface waters with pelitic-arenaceous and marly outcrops of the mid-Pliocene age (mineral-rich chalky and clay soils). Average altitude is around 200 metres above sea level. The soils have been likened to the marl of Champagne. 

Soils: Burton Anderson (1990, p.173) says the chalky clay soil here is rich in lime, which combined with the sunny, dry climate suits the Montepulciano grape. 

Topography: The altimetry of the area planted with vineyards gives a percentage of 70% between 20 and 140 meters s.l.m. with a 1% presence at 550 metres above sea level. The slope of the land gives an average percentage between 2 and 25% for about 80% of the vineyard area. The dominant exposure of the land is 80% southwest. Exposure to the east for obvious geographical reasons is negligible.

Climate: The climate is Mediterranean with limited summer humidity. Average monthly temperatures have minimums in January and maximums in July-August with respective values ​​of 1-2°C and 26-28°C . The rainiest months for the hilly part of the territory are September – October. The average annual rainfall is 775 mm. 

The Montepulciano grape: The Montepulciano grape prefers warm dry environments and sunny exposures. It adapts to short pruning and buds late, and can escape spring frosts. It is also not overly subject to grey rot. 

Viticulture: Emergency irrigation is permitted. Minimum vine density: 3,300 vines per hectare. Maximum yield must average no more than 9 tons per hectare.

The wine: The wine is described as ‘dark with lots of berry fruit and a distinctive hint of spice,’ (Richard Baudains, Apr 1997). Rosso Cònero is ‘the most robust of the Marches’ red wines…[but it is] not noted for longevity,’ (Burton Anderson: 1982, p322). ‘Montepulciano’s supremacy over Sangiovese along the Adriatic comes to the fore in this red…deep ruby colour and full, round flavour laced by tannins that allowed it to keep for years,’ (Burton Anderson, 1990, p176). Some tasters find a ‘bramble jelly’ character in the wines.

Vineyard area & wine production2018 12,179hl. 1.15 million bottles. 91 producers overall: 50 grape growers, 30 wine producers, 43 bottlers. | 2017 5,770hl. 977,000 bottles. | 2016 11,370hl. 1.4 million bottles. In Sept 2016 in Jesi we were told by Umani Ronchi’s representative that Rosso Cònero (meaning perhaps Conero DOCG and Rosso Conero DOC combined) came from around 300ha of vines. | | 2010 6,733hl. | 2009 6,070hl. | 2008 6,905hl. | 2007 6,446hl. | 2006 4,576hl.

Vintages: Burton Anderson (1982, p330) describes the vintages from 1970-1981 inclusive as follows: 1970 fair, 1971 excellent, 1972 fair, 1973 very good, 1974 excellent, 1975 excellent, 1976 poor, 1977 excellent, 1978 fair to good, 1979 exceptional, 1980 good, and 1981 uneven, some good, scarce. | 1998 Rosso Cònero. Said to be a very good vintage (along with 2000). | 1999 Some problems in lack of complexity and structure, if not ripening, 1999 was easier to drink, more immediate, than either 1998 or 2000. | 2000 Said to be very good, along with 1998.

Wineries

Certified orgainic: Fattoria San Lorenzo. | Malacari. | Moroder.

No certification: Strologo.

Bibliography

Attilio Scienza & Serena Imazio, Native Grape Odyssey Vol. 1, p200 (Positive Press, 2019), p199-200.

Burton Anderson, The Wine Atlas of Italy, Mitchell Beazley, 1990 p171-179. 

Nicolas Belfrage MW, From Brunello to Zibibbo–The Wines of Tuscany, Central and Southern Italy (2nd edition, London, 2003).

The Italian Wine Guide (Touring Club of Italy, 1999), p363.

Production data | 2006-2010 Federdoc as reported by I Numeri del Vino. 2016-2018 Valoritalia.