Verdicchio di Matelica DOC is a white wine DOC dating from 1967 based on Verdicchio grapes grown in and around the town of Matelica in the Camertina valley in Le Marche in Italy. The production zone covers seven communes (listed below) in the provinces of Macerata and Ancona. The wine is made from 85-100% Verdicchio grapes and an optional 0-15% any other white grapes permitted in Le Marche. Verdicchio di Matelica’s Riserva version was created in 2009 as Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva DOCG and comes from the same production area.
Pre-history: Matelica has an ancient wine-growing tradition, as evinced by two hundred Vitis vinifera grape vine seeds, along with ceramic wine vases, dating from 2,650 years ago (7th-century BC) which were found in a hemispherical basin inside the tomb of a Piceni warrior prince. Notarial declarations from 1579 describe the suitability of the Camertina valley to the cultivation of the Verdicchio grape and to the “Brungentile” which is Sangiovese).
Fall: The fall of the Roman Empire and the subsequent Barbarian invasions saw viticulture decline in Matelica (see Le Marche).
Revival: The revival began in the early Middle Ages. In the late Middle Ages, beginning in the 16th century, in the Archivio Catastale Matelicese, mention was made of these grapes’ need to not be picked too early; and in the opinion of the doctor Francesco Scacchi (De salubri potu dissertatio, Rome, 1622), they could also make a fizzy wine in the bottle, a forerunner of modern sparkling wines, well before the well-known experiments of the French Benedictine monk, Dom Pérignon of Champagne.
In 1879 the first ampelographic description of the Verdicchio grape was made, as Le Marche’s finest white wine grape. It gained DOC status in 1967, the first in Le Marche and 14th in Italy. DOCG status was given to its Riserva in 2010.
Vineyard area & wine production: ‘By the late 1970s, production of…Matelica [was] only about 600,000 liters,’ (Burton Anderson: 1982, p.315). Today, Verdicchio di Matelica is about one tenth the size of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, with around 300ha of vines. | 2017 220ha. 25,000 quintals. 18,000 hl. 28 active estates. Ten times smaller than Jesi. | 2010 19,177hl. 300-ha. | 2009 16,244hl. | 2008 17,707hl. | 2007 16,333hl. | 2006 17,382hl.
Production zone: The Matelica production zone lies 50-60 km from the Adriatic sea. Although the Verdicchio di Matelica zone is partly in Ancona province, where it extends as far as Fabriano, its centre is in the province of Macerata (Burton Anderson: 1990, p.175). The production zone is landlocked in the Alta Valle dell’Esino, or the upper valley of the Esino, a transversal valley of the Esino river, 12.4 miles (20km) south-west of and further inland and more isolated than Le Marche’s other, much larger Verdicchio zone, namely Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC.
Matelica is the only valley of any considerable in size Le Marche to run north-south, lying parallel to the Adriatic, along an axis delimited by the communes of Castelraimondo (Macerata province) in the south and Cerreto D’esi (Ancona province) in the north. The region is cut off from the Adriatic sea influences by a range of hills. All of the other large valleys in the Marche run west-east. Buried in the Apennine mountains, and in particular in the Macerata area’s pre-Apennine Monti Sibillini, they end abruptly at the Adriatic, rising high above the waters, whose breezes in turn temper their climate. Scienza & Imazio (2019, p.198-9) describe the Matelica valley as being at between 400-700 metres above sea level and between the Umbro Marchigiano Apennines, the Marchigiano pre-Apennines, and the Sibillini mountains to the south.
Burton Anderson (1990, p.173) describes the production zone as a ‘pocket of the Apennines, 50-60km (31-37 miles) from the Adriatic, a broad valley between two ridges in what was once a closed saltwater sea [which left] sandy clay rich in mineral salts, active limestone, iron and magnesium.’ Burton Anderson (1990, p.177) says the best vineyards lie near the towns of Matelica and Cerreto d’Esi on gradual south-west facing slopes on the east bank of the Esino river [at 300-450 metres (984-1,476 feet)].
Geology: Geologically in the hilly part, calcarenitic-pelitic rocks (32%) and marly and calcareous rocks (26%) prevail; however, there are conglomerate and arenitic substrates and also deposits belonging to the Pleistocene terraces. Still in geology, the valley belongs to the Sinclinale Camerte (the Camerte Incline), a fault or marine depression dating back 7 million years to the Miocene period which begins in Fabriano and ends in Camerino as a pre-Apennine valley. The valley (fault) part has collected ‘terrigeni’ or flysch and turbidity (alternation of sand and limestone marl) deposits which were subsequently covered by floods and groundwater debris, alluvial deposits with a prevalence of terraces of variable grain size, gravelly and often affected by fine and alluvial roofs. This contrasts to the sandy clay soils found in Jesi.
Climate: The region is notable for its cool, dry microclimate with high temperature differentials. The absence in Matelica of any marine influence in the climate due to its location causes winter periods with intense cold and summer months with high temperatures. The climate belongs to the “Alto collinare” phytoclimatic plan and is characterized by average rainfall exceeding 700-800 mm per year and average temperatures below 14°C. Scienza & Imazio (2019) say the Valley has a north-south course and due to the latitude the climate is continental, with little wind, strong temperature ranges and good annual rainfall. Burton Anderson (1990, p.173) says that despite the altitude summers can be hot, but are tempered by air currents channelled up from the high Potenza (‘La Valle del Potenza’) and Chienti (‘La Valle del Chienti’) valleys to the south. Average rainfall is 1,250mm-1,500mm, slightly more than Castelli di Jesi, whose nearest point is less than 20 kilometres to the northeast,’ (Burton Anderson: 1990, p173).
Mesoclimate: The Matelica zone is inland and not subject to marine influence. In fact, it is an Internal Alluvial Plain that includes all the river valley and torrential valley sections, of recognized cartographic dimensions, within the Marche region. Day-night temperature differentials are greater here than for Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. ‘Jesi and Matelica really are different. Cool mountain breezes in Matelica, compared to sea breezes in Jesi,’ says Ian d’Agata at Collisioni Sunday 17th July 2016.
Topography: The area is crossed by the Esino river in the initial phase of its journey that runs parallel to the Apennine mountainous area and the Adriatic coast. The valley, where the defined DOCG area develops, is the product of the erosive effect of the many streams on the foothills and mountains characterized by limestone rocks. The average slope class is enclosed by 80% within 2-35%. These slope classes clearly identify this area of hill with moderate relief energy.
Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive (MGAs): Cambrugiano (Matelica). | Ceretto d’Esi (commune). | Colferraio (Matelica). | Collamato (Fabriano). | Del Cerro (Cereto d’Esi). | Fabriano (commune). | Fogliano (Cereto d’Esi). | La Monacesca (Matelica). | La Valle (Matelica). | Matelica (commune). | Mistriano (Matelica). | Sainale (Matelica). | San Leopardo (Cereto d’Esi). | Santa Teresola (Matelica). | Valbona (Matelica). | Vinano (Matelica).
Land use: 12% of the land area comprises built-up areas, 7% of tree strips along streams and 22% of thermophilous woods (downy oak) complete the landscape of the area destined for agricultural use (59%) divided between intensive crops, herbaceous and arboreal (vineyards).
Altitude: The average altitude is around 350 mt .s.l.m. The delimited and flat area is altimetrically between 250 mt. s.l.m. up to 700 mt .s.l.m. with a percentage of presence of 80% between 280 meters and 480 meters mt. A vineyard was also found at 720 mt s.l.m.
Exposure: Equally divided between east and west for 75% of the areas.
Viticulture: The minimum vine density is 2,200 vines per hectare (890 vines per acre). Irrigation is permitted. Maximum yields are 13 tonnes per hectare.
Winemaking: Compared to Jesi there is longer hang time, with cooler nights. The wines are steelier compared to Jesi. They can be like dry Riesling in some vintages. Picking takes place usually from early October into November (when it may even be snowing in the higher, cooler vineyards).
Wine styles (3): There are three styles of Verdicchio di Matelica: the still dry white Verdicchio di Matelica DOC, the sparkling Verdicchio di Matelica DOC Spumante, and the sweet Verdicchio di Matelica DOC Passito made from dried grapes with a minimum alcohol level of 15% and a minimum potential alcohol of 23%. It is rare to find wines which undergo malolactic fermentation. Verdicchio has little malic acid, thus retaining it adds ‘appley brightness,’ Ian d’Agata said at Collisioni Sunday 17th July 2016.
Wine style: Dr Ian D’Agata (2019, p.315) says Le Marche’s two Verdicchio regions, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and Matelica, are ‘especially well characterised’, each having wines which clearly show diverse ‘somewhereness’. He adds that as a general rule Verdicchio from Matelica shows higher acidity (mountain microclimate) but also more body and alcohol (thanks to copious solar radiation and the reflection of heat from the mountain cliffs onto the grapes) than its Jesi counterpart, whose wines are lighter and more floral. D’Agata concludes that both Jesi and Matelica Verdicchio share the same tell-tale varietal note of almond, sometimes with a pleasant bitter twist.
Tasting note: Scienza & Imazio (Positive Press, 2019, p204) describe the wine as straw-yellow in colour with green-gold highlights, full, structured, long-lived and with flavours of toasted almond, candied fruit, cedar and honey.
Production: 2018 23,375 hl. 1,39 million bottles.108 producers overall: 89 grape growers, 19 wine producers, 24 bottlers. | 2017 10,727hl. 1.76 million bottles. | 2016 18,600hl. 2.1 million bottles.
With food: Vincigrassi is the local dish (see Le Marche gastronomy).
No certification: Fattoria La Monacesca.
Attilio Scienza & Serena Imazio, Native Grape Odyssey Vol. 1, p200 (Positive Press, 2019), pp. 198, 204.
Burton Anderson, The Wine Atlas of Italy, Mitchell Beazley, 1990 p.171-179.
Dr Ian d’Agata, Italy’s Native Wine Grape Terroirs (University of California Press, 2019).
Nicolas Belfrage MW, From Brunello to Zibibbo–The Wines of Tuscany, Central and Southern Italy (2nd edition, London, 2003).
Van Leeuwen, C., and G Seguin. 2006. ‘The concept of terroir in viticulture’, Journal of Wine Research 17 (1): p.1-10
Dr Ian d’Agata, Native Wine Grape Terroirs (University of California Press, 2019).
Production data: 2006-2010 Federdoc as reported by I Numeri del Vino. 2016-2018 Valoritalia.