When I was little and came walking back from school, the 1,200 meters (4,000 feet) that separated me from my home were full of aromas. It was noon and almost all the women of the 70s cooked at that time, awaiting the arrival of their children, or they were left with scraps of food that were just served to kids that went to school for afternoon classes. The truth is that I have an almost pathological obsession with aromas. From an early age, everything I would ingest I would first bring to my nose, as if my ingestion depended on it. In those days of my childhood, it was very easy for me to recognize what there was to eat at home before stepping through the doorway. Those aromas were, many times, what determined my mood prior to lunch.
I'm bringing this up to explain what aromas mean in my life. They can make me feel comfortable and at ease, or the opposite if they aren't to my liking. This has been the case in several cities and places that I have visited. There are cities that smell strange, where I don't feel right. Consequently, I cannot feel comfortable in a place that has a smell I don't like. On my last trip to Italy, something surprising happened to me: the majority of the time I felt at home, and a lot of it had to do with the aromas of cooking and wine.
Both in Florence and Rome, as well as in the whole region of Le Marche, I recognized aromas that made me feel like I was in my own land, many of them from the present day, others from my childhood; not so in Venice, Bologna, or Siena.
In order to avoid a lengthy recounting, I want to write about my stay in Porto San Giorgio and every city in the region of Le Marche that I was able to visit. The food and the wine were fundamental factors of my well-being. In addition to having quality pastas, meats, fish, and vegetables in the markets, I was fortunate in also having great cooks. Another motif of the trip was the aromas, the likes of rosemary, sage, fresh oregano, mint, laurel, etc. These were the scents that would take me close to home, in every lunch or dinner in my journey throughout the area.
Something similar happened to me with the wine, even though I tasted wines that I wasn't accustomed to: Rosso Piceno, Rosso Piceno Superiore DOC, Falerio dei Colli Ascolani DOC, Offida Pecorino DOC, Offida Passerina DOC, Colli Maceratesi DOC, Marche Rosso IGT, Serrapetrona DOC, Vernaccia di Serrapetrona DOCG, Rosso Conero DOC, Lacrima di Morro D'Alba DOC, Verdicchio di Matelica DOC, and Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC. In almost all of these wines I sensed a familiar, almost Argentinian touch.
The wines of Le Marche generally aren't competition wines. On the contrary, they are very far from it. To give you an idea, there are few winemakers who know of Antonini or Pagli, the winemakers. In this area, they make wine for the people of Le Marche (Marchigiani) because, among other reasons, they are locals. There are some wines that I liked more than others, of course. I can't forget the Rosso Piceno de Velenosi, the Montepulciano, the Pecorino de Dianetti, the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi de Villa Bucci, the Rosso Cónero de Le Terrazze, or the Falerio de Cherri, to name a few.
For these wines, there is a pride and a need to belong that I found strange and touching. For example, the barolos, brunellos, supertoscanos, and the rest of the wines seem strange to the inhabitants of this area, as if these great Italian wines were foreigners.
I had an experience that illustrates this in a somewhat funny way.
One Sunday, a cousin took me to eat at his brother-in-law's restaurant in Santa Vittoria. Among the exhibition wines there was a Sassicaia. I asked the owner how much it cost to drink it at the table, and he told me that wine was 200 euros, to which my cousin cried out, "200 euros for wine!" His brother-in-law responded without taking his eyes off the news, "It's not wine, it's Sassicaia. Americans love it." I had previously selected a Tignanello 98 in the cellar of the restaurant for lunch, but after that statement, I didn't dare suggest it.
That day I ate as if it were my last day on Earth, eating whatever they brought me without question. The aromas and flavors brought me to a submissive state, where I was only able to swallow and say "grazie" (thank you). We had a Rosso Piceno with our lunch, of course, one of those austere and mineral red wines, where freshness and fluidity take precedence. I don't remember the label, even though I saw it, but it wasn't important. That day wine wasn't the main focus, like it almost always is for me; that day it was part of a chorus of aromas and flavors, which mixed with the jokes and laughter.
I don't know if I understood something about what wine means to Le Marche and its inhabitants, but I do know that it's part of its landscape and culture. I don't know if it was the aromas and flavors, but I assure you, I enjoyed it.