La Marca di San Michele
Why La Marca di San Michele is Essential
Marche is Italy’s sleeper region for fine wine. Snug between Tuscany, Umbria and the Adriatic (with Emilia-Romagna to the north and Abruzzo to the south), the region is home to underrated Sangiovese and Montepulciano, but more notably, one of Italy’s greatest white grapes — the great Verdicchio. While it is unrelated to Chardonnay, it can — in the right hands — yield a wine that strums the same chords as Chablis. Dig into the soil in and around Jesi, where the best versions emerge, and you find a common denominator: an ancient seabed that likely accounts for the precise finish of these wines.
From my encounters, La Marca di San Michele leads the pack. At the helm are three siblings who following organic and biodynamic principles. The estate’s two Verdicchio white wines — “Capovolto” and “Passolento” — have a purity on the nose and an elegance on the palate that place them in the upper echelon of Italian fine wine, particularly Passolento. Great wines play tricks on your brain. Both Capovolto and Passolento do this: Are you light or serious? Playful or soulful? you might ask. Why not be all of them? they respond.
A rich, textural col fondo sparkling wine from Verdicchio shows that they’re not afraid to mix things up, too. This is a relatively young estate, as it was only founded in 2007. All the more reason to watch them closely.
Wines to Seek Out
This organic winery produces five wines: in addition to the three mentioned below, there is a third single-vineyard Verdicchio and a 100% Montepulciano, neither of which are imported to the United States. Production for the entire estate is tiny (approximately 2,500 cases annually).
La Marca di San Michele “Capovolto” Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore
From my experience, Castelli di Jesi wineries tend to put all their eggs in the riserva basket, leaving their DOC-level wines simple and straightforward. The Capovolto (La Marca di San Michele’s entry-level wine) defies this trend with its zesty, herbaceous finish that lingers. The length of this finish alone makes it the best wine in its class.
La Marca di San Michele “Passolento” Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Riserva
La Marca di San Michele’s riserva, Passolento, is a show-stopper. Rather than compare it to other wines of Castelli di Jesi, it forced me to compare it to Campagna’s Fiano, as well as some of the great whites I’ve tasted from Burgundy. Passolento is fermented in large 10hl Slavonian oak botti, and it recalls crisp pears, white flowers, key lime, sassafras and a distinct thread of roasted almonds. As complex as the tones are, Passolento’s creamy texture gives the wine a luxurious feel. If a warm, spring evening could be bottled, it would resemble Passolento.
La Marca di San Michele “numero___” Vino Spumante Col Fondo
If you don’t like cloudy wines, then there is no sense reading further. But I love this traditional method, non-disgorged sparkling wine made from Verdicchio because I am an unapologetic “breadhead.” This wine’s heady aromas of baguette crust and hazelnuts (the golden apple tones emerging from underneath it all) come directly from the lees contact. I didn’t mind the hazy look, or the fact that bubbles were unpolished and huddled together through the center of the wine. Because it is delicious. Plain and simple. I recently tasted the numeroDue, which is the third vintage from 2016 since numeroZero was the first year. You can follow the pattern in subsequent vintages.
Originally listed: October 2019. / Updated: February 2021
Visiting La Marca di San Michele
La Marca di San Michele accepts visitors Monday through Friday, 9am–noon and 3-6pm, and Saturday by appointment. As with all small, family wineries, contact them in advance to set an appointment.