This year makes 17 – the number of Tre Bicchieri awards on the Umani Ronchi roster. Spread between the slopes of Mount Conero and Roseto degli Abruzzi, the vineyards incorporate two important territories in Central Italy. The history of the winery.

Umami Ronchi: from Marche to Abruzzo

Once again, in Vini d’Italia 2018, the Marche winery won its laurels, this time with Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore Vecchie Vigne ’15, one of the territory’s great classics. Umani Ronchi has almost seventy years of history in the heart of the Marche region. Their 180 hectares of vineyard lie among the towns of Cupramontana, Montecarotto and Osimo, on the slopes of Mount Conero. But Umani Ronchi does not produce wine only in this zone. Almost two decades ago, Michele Bernetti expanded the firm across the Tronto River, the southern border of the region. “We bought an Abruzzese property in 2000,” Umani Ronchi’s owner explained, “in the Roseto degli Abruzzi municipality. The new estate, 35 hectares of vineyard, is behind the old town of Monti Pagano and near Morro d’Oro, a place that particularly struck us both for its position and for its terrain, well-suited for the production of fine Montepulciano wines.”

Differences and similarities between the regions

We asked why a winery profoundly rooted in its region felt the need for another location to produce wine. Bernetti said, “It was a gradual process. For at least a decade we had begun collaborating with Abruzzese producers in order to complete our offerings with a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo label, something many of our long-term partners had been asking for. Its success encouraged us to have a base of our own. We wanted to control all the production phases, from the vineyard to the bottle.” But his motivations were not exclusively commercial. “Integrating our production with Abruzzesi wines,” Bernetti continued, “makes sense when you look at the map of our two regions. Both face the Adriatic, both have a strip of hills that stretch southwest-northeast. Clearly there are differences, but extending into the Abruzzo is very natural for those of us from Marche.” The link between the two winery areas is also favored by the grape variety, montepulciano, which dominates the reds grown in the two Adriatic regions, although they produce very different wines. The Conero, with its clayey-calcareous soil strongly feels the influence of the sea and enjoys summer breezes. “It is a cooler zone compared to Monti Pagano, where the grapes ripen slightly earlier. Montepulciano in the Abruzzo, thanks to the slightly warmer climate, has greater structure, more color, and is slightly spicier. In the Conero, we have good ripening, but usually we get wines that are a little less structured, a little more elegant and fresh.

Montepulciano, Verdicchio, Pecorino

With the new Abruzzese vineyards, another variety also enters the picture, the increasingly popular Adriatic grape, pecorino. “The name we gave to this new Pecorino, Centovie, comes from the tiny hilltown that rises a few hundred meters from our property. We came to pecorino after a few years. It’s a variety that deserves all the success it is enjoying. It gives us very contemporary wines that are fresh, savory, and have great, rich personalities. It allows producers to interpret it differently, a little like Verdicchio.” We ask if it’s easier to sell Verdicchio or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo labels. Bernetti told us, “These are both very well-known varieties, and anyone familiar with Italian wine appreciates both. Perhaps Montepulciano is easier. It’s very common, made by many producers, and the name is easy to remember. But everyone considers Verdicchio a great classic of Italian whites, and so it’s always on important wine lists.” We ask about pecorino. “It’s still at the beginning of its career. It will take time to find a solid position on various markets, but I’m sure it too will become a classic among Italian wines around the world.

Centovie: a flavorful, elegant Pecorino

In the year 2000, Michele Bernetti and his father Massimo admired their future Monti Pagano property from the vineyard that would give birth to Centovie. “The view was spectacular, with the Gran Sasso mountains in one direction and the Adriatic in the other.” The wine is fermented in stainless steel vats and ages for 12 months, 50% in large oak barrels and the rest in cement vats. “It is a rich Pecorino, with a saline aspect that makes it truly pleasant and elegant. That pleasant savory trait won it Due Bicchieri Rossi.” Michele also announced, “We are also producing a red version of Centovie, a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo produced in Roseto. It will be an elegant, stylish red, equal, if not superior to our Pecorino.