A Gem of an Appellation

You might think it would be too great a challenge to assert your quality and character living next to a bigger and more prolific wine appellation – and one that produces wines from the same grapes – but when you meet the wines from Matelica in the Marche region of Italy, you will understand that’s simply not true. Matelica covers a small, elevated region flanked by the Apennine Mountains, right next door to the much larger, low-lying, costal Castelli di Jesi. Both regions are known for Verdicchio, an indigenous white grape varietal. Despite their proximity, however, these regions produce very different wines: Verdicchio wines from Castelli di Jesi tend to be lighter and fruitier while those from Matelica have more structure, elegance and remarkable longevity.

The difference in wine styles is in large part due to the microclimate of Matelica, just 300 hectares under vine (compared to 3000 in Castelli di Jesi) at high elevations and in clay-limestone soils. Significant swings from warm daytime temperatures to cold nights and a generally cooler climate in these vineyards means a long, even ripening for grapes and higher acid in the wines that delivers incredible structure for ageing. The soil composition adds a racy saline-mineral streak that offers a complexity of flavour and texture that makes these wines an unstated “cru” of the Marche region and some of the finest white wines in all of Italy.

In this small oasis, Brothers Giuseppe and Pierino Bisci purchased an estate in 1972, one that is now run by Giuseppe’s son Mauro. The majority of the estate’s 20 hectares are planted with Verdicchio and a small area with Sangiovese and Merlot. The vineyards, located mid-hill at an altitude between 320 to 370m and with a perfect southern exposure, are farmed organically. In the cellar, Verddichio is fermented and aged in glass-lined cement tanks, in order to retain the essence of the fruit and to allow the mineral-rich terroir to shine through. The same is true for the Rosso Fogliano, a blend of Merlot and Sangiovese, which undergoes a similar neutral vinification process to express the true character of these grapes in Matelica.

Bisci produces a range of Verddichio, the top-tier wines only made in the best vintages and meant for cellaring. All their wines reflect the qualities of this tiny gem of an appellation.

Bisci 2020 Verdicchio di Matelica, Marche
Retail: $25.95 / btl

Bisci 2018 ‘Rosso Fogliano’, Marche
Retail: $23.95 / btl

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The Wines

Bisci 2020 Verdicchio di Matelica, Marche
90 points – Eric Guido, Vinous, October 2021
“Crushed stone and smoky minerals set the stage, giving way to crisp green apple, sage and raw almonds as the 2020 Verdicchio di Matelica blossoms in the glass. This is silky in feel, contrasted by citrus-tinged orchard fruits and brilliant acidity. More savory than sweet, and packed full of zesty energy, it finishes long with an almost-umami sensation. As is usually the case, Bisci once again overdelivers with their entry-level Verdicchio di Matelica.”

Bisci 2018 ‘Rosso Fogliano’, Marche
91 points – Eric Guido, Vinous, October 2021
“The 2018 Marche Rosso blossoms in the glass with a pretty display of dusty rose, incense, strawberries and cedar spice box. It’s silky-smooth, almost creamy in feel, with depths of ripe red berries, licorice and sweet inner herbal tones, all energized by vibrant acidity. A coating of fine tannins punctuates the expression well, as this tapers off lightly structured and perfumed. There’s so much balanced pleasure to be found in this blend of 80% Merlot to 20% Sangiovese. However, I recommend another year of cellaring for it to fully blossom.”

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About Bisci

Brothers Giuseppe & Pierino Bisci purchased this 15 hectare estate in 1972, located in Matelica, between Macerata and Ancona in the Marchigiani hills. A new cellar was completed in 1980, and today the estate comprises 20 ha of certified organic vineyards, owned by Giuseppe’s son Mauro. At 300-350m elevation, the vineyards are south-facing – 17 ha of Verdicchio and 3 ha of Sangiovese & Merlot.

Mauro works hand-in-hand with agronomist-oenologist Arnoldo Bellelli, producing approximately 90,000 bottles annually, recognized as the foremost estate of Matelica and one of the best in the entire Marche region. Their single-vineyard Verdicchio di Matelica ‘Vigneto Fogliano’ is a consistent award-winner, including multiple for ‘Tre Bicchieri’ and Slow Food honours. Matelica is in a valley which is parallel to the coast and not influenced by the sea breezes, giving a climate that is continental with hot summers and cold winters and with a particularly broad diurnal temperature range. The soil is clayey-calcareous, rich in micro-elements as an ancient marine basin.

Fermentation and maturation for Bisci white wines take place in glazed concrete, including the Reserva ‘Senex’ (a selection from the Fogliano vineyard in the best vintages). Senex demonstrates the remarkable attention to detail that is a hallmark of Bisci. The selection of fruit is the result of three separate passes through the vineyard to ensure optimal ripeness, acidity and quality. Senex matures in the concrete vats for a remarkable 78 months, followed by 9 months refinement in bottle, prior to release.

One of the differentiating factors between Verdicchio di Matelica and Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi (apart from the tiny size of the 300 ha / 12 producers Matelica appellation compared to the large 2,000+ ha Castelli di Jesi), is the structure and ageability of the wines of Matelica. These are surely some of the finest white wines in all of Italy.

‘Bisci is a heavyweight in the small Verdicchio di Matelica denomination. Size and quality go hand in hand here, and Bisci’s Verdicchio wines are among the best of the Marche. I especially like the fact that they are very faithful to the Matelica terroir: steely and refined, with a dry Riesling-like quality to them.’ – Ian D’Agata

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