Land of the Verdicchio: the History of Castelli di Jesi

10
Sep

Staffolo, our town, has a name that is evocative as it is important, plunging its roots deep into history. With the rediscovery of the classical world during humanism, scholars attributed to Staffolo’s toponymy a noble and unique origin: they believed that Staffolo came from the Greek “Staphyle”, which means grapes.

Mythology and legends recount the tale of Staphylus, son of Dionysus and Ariadne, who discovered grapes and created wine in the process. After landing in Italy at the mouth of the Esino river and reaching the summit of a hill, he stopped there to cultivate and originated the town of Staffolo.

Even though we find these strong connections between our territory’s history and legends, the etymology of Staffolo is actually different and dates back to the Lombardic period (VI - VII century). “Stab” in Germanic meant “cane” or “border post”; the village was therefore named “Staffil” as it was situated on the historical frontier between Northern and Southern territories.

Marche’s winemaking tradition is pre-Roman and already practiced by the Greeks, who founded the Region’s capoluogo Ancona in 387 b.C.; Benedictine monks consolidated the tradition throughout the Esino valley. The Lombardic housing units gave rise to the constructions of walls and bastions of the 25 villages that constitute Castelli di Jesi - the one and only production area of one of the most important Italian white wines thanks to the centuries-old bond with the most renowned vine variety of the Marche region: Verdicchio. Here and on the neighboring hills, century after century, it found a favourable environment. Only a green noble fruit like Verdicchio could grow under a yellow and propitious sun, not far away from a deep blue sea.

When Rome took the territory that we know today as Marche from the Gauls, after the battle of Sentinum in 295 b.C., many villages and settlements, among which are Ostra, Suasa and Cupramontana, began to expand in Vallesina. The Romans made Jesi a reference point a few decades earlier (it became a municipium in 247 b.C.), the Via Salaria Gallica route connected together the Via Salaria route and the Flaminia route, which passed through the city of Jesi, thus increasing the demographic and commercial development of the city and its neighboring area.

Villages and settlements of this area were destructed with the fall of the Roman Empire and the resulting barbaric invasions in 476 A.D. Peoples migrated from the plains towards the hilltops, which were more protected from the barbarian raids but less ideal for cultivation. In order to prevent new invasions, these settlements built defensive walls, giving rise to the Castelli. A number of new fortified abbeys were built, the terrains reclaimed and expanded through deforestation. A climate of rebirth brought the Castelli di Jesi to expand their commerce as well as production, culture and richness.

In 1352, Egidio Albornoz was entrusted by Pope Innocent VI of Avignon with the task of restoring the papal authority over the territories of the Church in Italy. In the subsequent decade, cardinal Albornoz kickstarted a military fortification project of the State known as the “policy of Strongholds”. He had a series of fortifications built that constituted a longitudinal axis between the Emilia, Marche, Umbria and Lazio regions, with the aim of controlling the conquered territories and oversee the most strategic cities with his military power. That’s how important castles, many of which are still well preserved, like the ones in Narni, Spoleto, Piediluco, Sassoferrato, Forlimpopoli and Viterbo were born. Not only that, many of the already existing constructions were fortified, like the onews in ASsisi, Todi, Acquaviva Picena and Urbino.

Cardinal Albornoz is also considered the one who rebuilt the walls of the castles and of the still extant circular tower in Staffolo: the Albornoz Bastion which, thanks to Fulvia Tombolini, is today property of our family; by the union of its name with Fioretta’s, wife of Giovanni Tombolini, the name of our family wine was born: Castelfiora. A great wine that was born from a great story, aged in oak and ready to evolve for decades.

The 25 municipalities residing on the gentle Vallesina hillsides form the Castelli Di Jesi, renowned today for the Verdicchio production. Staffolo, Cupramontana, Montecarotto are just few of the wonderful villages that made the name of the vineyard great in the world, which from the beginning of the 19th century found a prominent place among those of central Marche and later on throughout Italy.

In 1968 the Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi obtained the D.O.C. (Controlled Designation of Origin); furthermore, the winemakers in Staffolo could add the “Classico” adjective since the area was included in the territories where the vine variety had been historically cultivated and reached peak quality. Doroverde is our other Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi DOC Classico Superiore. “From each Castle a Verdicchio” is born, with different elevations ranging between 80 and 600mt a.s.l. and slopes that influence different micro-climates on each side. A territory crossed by rivers and valleys perpendicular to the coast, natural corridors that connect the hills of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and the sea;.

Our vineyards’ 30 hectares are located in Staffolo, 300 meters above sea level, at the heart of the highest quality sub-zone of the Classico area, a natural amphitheatre around our winery - immersed in a microclimate that combines continentality with the influence of winds from the Adriatic coast. Compared to more recently formed areas in the DOC, they have a higher rate of calcareous-clayish veins with a prevalence of sand and sandstone (FAA2), alternating with azure clays (FAA), which are very rich in calcium carbonate, as all lands of marine origins. A nutrient-poor soil which pushes the roots deep into the ground and which dissipates heat, allowing the grapes to ripen more slowly, maintaining a perfect balance between acidity and sugar.

An unparalleled territory that extolls the versatility of Verdicchio – a grape variety that only here manages to produce wines expressing both power and elegance, great longevity while maintaining a surprising freshness.

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