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Emilia-Romagna Wine

Emilia-Romagna Wine
Dessert Wines:

Emilia-Romagna, a region that stretches from the wetlands of the Po Delta to the sandy beaches of the Adriatic Sea, is not only Italy’s culinary heartland but also a hidden gem when it comes to viticulture. This is the land of slow food and fast cars, where every meal is a celebration and every bottle of wine is a story of tradition and passion. In this article, we will journey through the landscapes of Emilia-Romagna, exploring its rich wine culture, understanding the peculiarities of its native grapes, and unraveling the stories behind each vineyard.

Historical Context

The winemaking tradition in Emilia-Romagna dates back to the Etruscans and was later honed under the Romans, who recognized the fertility of its soils. Throughout the Middle Ages, monasteries played a significant role in preserving viticultural knowledge. In the Renaissance, local nobility, particularly the Este and the Farnese families, cultivated the art of winemaking, laying the foundation for the region's wine reputation.

The Wine Regions of Emilia-Romagna

Emilia-Romagna's wine country is divided into two distinct parts: Emilia in the west and Romagna in the east. The dividing line is the Sillaro River, which not only marks a territorial but also a cultural and enological boundary.

Emilia: The Land of Sparkling Reds

Emilia is renowned for its sparkling red wines, particularly Lambrusco. This frothy, vivacious wine comes in various styles - from dry (secco) to sweet (dolce) - and is made predominantly from Lambrusco grapes, which boast numerous sub-varieties such as Lambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco Salamino, and Lambrusco di Sorbara. Each of these brings a unique profile to the wines, from Grasparossa’s deeply colored and tannic nature to Sorbara’s delicate and floral character.

Romagna: The Elegance of Sangiovese

The eastern part of the region, Romagna, is Sangiovese territory. Here, the Sangiovese di Romagna DOC reigns supreme. It’s a wine that can range from light and fruity to deep, tannic, and complex, especially in the Sangiovese di Romagna Riserva designation. Albana di Romagna, a white grape variety, also finds its prominence here, offering everything from still to sparkling and even passito styles.

Key Wine Styles and Denominations

Emilia-Romagna is home to several DOC and DOCG denominations, signifying a hierarchy of quality and adherence to traditional winemaking practices.

Lambrusco DOC

TLambrusco has several DOCs to its name, each indicating a geographical origin and stylistic differences, such as Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC and Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC. These wines are emblematic of the region's capacity to produce sparkling reds that are as complex as they are drinkable.

Sangiovese di Romagna DOC

TThis DOC is a testament to the adaptability and the expressions of Sangiovese outside of Tuscany. Romagna's Sangiovese shows a brightness and a savory character that is distinctly its own.

Albana di Romagna DOCG

TThe first white wine to gain DOCG status in Italy, Albana di Romagna can range from dry (secco) to sweet (dolce). It is known for its rich texture and potential for aging, showcasing flavors from delicate floral to ripe stone fruits.


TThis native white grape variety is gaining recognition for its sparkling (spumante) and frizzante (lightly sparkling) versions. Pignoletto wines are crisp, with a refreshing acidity, making them ideal aperitif options.

Viticulture and Winemaking Practices

The viticultural landscape of Emilia-Romagna is diverse, with coastal breezes, rolling hills, and river valleys all contributing to the microclimates that define the terroir. The region’s winemaking practices reflect a balance between tradition and innovation, with historical methods harmonizing with modern technology to enhance quality.

Pairing Food and Wine in Emilia-Romagna

Emilia-Romagna's wines are crafted to complement its rich culinary heritage. Lambrusco pairs delightfully with charcuterie, especially with the region's famous Prosciutto di Parma and Culatello di Zibello. Sangiovese di Romagna, on the other hand, is a natural match for pasta dishes like lasagna and tagliatelle al ragù, as it cuts through the richness of the sauces.

Innovation and Sustainability

Recent decades have seen a surge in organic and biodynamic practices in Emilia-Romagna's vineyards. Winemakers are increasingly focused on sustainability, reducing chemical use, and protecting biodiversity. This approach not only benefits the environment but also helps in expressing the true character of the region's wines.

The Producers Shaping the Future

Pioneering winemakers are shaping the future of Emilia-Romagna's wines. These vintners are focusing on single-vineyard expressions, experimenting with aging processes, and even reviving ancient varieties. They are the storytellers, translating the language of the soil into the language of wine.


Emilia-Romagna is a region where the past and future of winemaking coexist harmoniously. Its wines reflect the richness of its history, the fertility of its land, and the soul of its people. From the joyous bubbles of Lambrusco to the elegant complexity of Sangiovese, Emilia-Romagna offers a canvas of flavors waiting to be discovered by wine enthusiasts around the world.

The pursuit of understanding Emilia-Romagna's wines is a never-ending journey, one that reveals as much about the drinker as it does about the drink. It's a testament to the region's ability to not just produce wines but to craft experiences that linger on the palate and in the heart long after the last glass is savored.

As the global wine community turns its gaze towards sustainability and authenticity, Emilia-Romagna stands poised, with a glass of its regional wine in hand, ready to offer a toast to the future. Whether you're a seasoned oenophile or a curious novice, the wines of Emilia-Romagna are a sip in the right direction. Here, every bottle uncorks a piece of Italian heritage, every glass a portrait of the land, and every taste a story waiting to be told. So, let’s raise a glass to Emilia-Romagna, where every vineyard has a voice and every wine a soul. Salute!

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Notable Wines of Emilia-Romagna

Emilia-Romagna boasts an impressive array of wines that range from sparkling to still, and red to white. This comprehensive list details some of the notable wines from this prolific region, categorized by type and including some of the more renowned DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) areas that guarantee the geographical origin and quality of the wine.

Sparkling Wines:
  • Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC: Often the lightest and most delicate of the Lambrusco varieties, with a pinkish hue and floral notes.
  • Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC: Characterized by a deeper color, more body, and higher tannin content.
  • Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce DOC: Known for its balance of acidity and sweetness, and a round, frothy body.
  • Reggiano Lambrusco DOC: A blend that can include various Lambrusco grapes, providing a wide range of flavors and styles.
  • Modena (Provincia di Modena) Spumante DOC: Sparkling wines made from Pignoletto, Lambrusco, and other varieties, both white and rosé.
  • Pignoletto DOCG: A sparkling wine made from the Pignoletto grape, with fresh acidity and floral aromas.
Red Wines:
  • Sangiovese di Romagna DOC: This wine ranges from medium-bodied with fruit-forward flavors to more complex, structured, and age-worthy versions.
  • Gutturnio DOC: A blend of Barbera and Bonarda grapes, producing wines that are robust and can be still or slightly fizzy.
  • Colli Piacentini DOC: This DOC encompasses a variety of styles, including red wines made from Barbera and other local grapes.
  • Colli di Parma DOC: Red wines primarily from Barbera and Bonarda, known for their harmonious flavor profiles.
  • Colli Bolognesi DOC: Producing a range of wines, but the reds are often made from Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
White Wines:
  • Albana di Romagna DOCG: Ranges from dry (secco) to sweet (dolce), including a passito style made from dried grapes.
  • Trebbiano di Romagna DOC: A versatile wine that can be light and crisp, made from the Trebbiano Romagnolo grape.
  • Pignoletto DOC: A still white wine made from Pignoletto grapes, distinct for its floral and fruity notes.
  • Colli di Parma DOC: White wines made from Malvasia, Chardonnay, and other local varieties, often with a fresh and aromatic profile.
  • Ortrugo dei Colli Piacentini DOC: A slightly sparkling or still white wine with a fresh and mildly acidic palate.
Rosé Wines:
  • Cagnina di Romagna DOC: Made from the Refosco grape, it’s a lightly sweet rosé with a pleasant, fruity bouquet.
  • Colli di Faenza DOC: This DOC produces rosé wines primarily from Sangiovese, offering a dry and pleasantly fruity taste.
Dessert and Fortified Wines:
  • Albana di Romagna Passito DOCG: A dessert wine made from the Albana grape that is rich and sweet, often with honeyed and nutty flavors.
  • Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto Passito DOC: A sweet wine made from dried Pignoletto grapes, concentrated and aromatic.

This list is far from exhaustive, as the region's varied terrain and climates give vintners the flexibility to grow a wide range of grape varieties and produce a broad spectrum of wine styles. Emilia-Romagna’s winemakers continue to innovate while respecting their rich heritage, crafting wines that reflect the character of their landscapes and the craftsmanship of their people. Whether you are seeking a vivacious Lambrusco, a robust Sangiovese, or a delicate Albana, Emilia-Romagna offers a wine to suit every palate and occasion.

Italian Wines
  • Italian Red Grapes
    • Sangiovese

      • The most well known of the Italian grapes and responsible for the famous Tuscan wines. Using tradional techniques, the wines are earthy, full of cherry fruit and cedar. The wines produced include such famous names as: Chianti, Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, Montefalco Rosso. The "Super-Tuscans", produced for the international market, blend the Sangiovese grape with Bordeaux varietals such as: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and often used French oak barrels to age.

    • Nebbiolo

      • Translated, the name means: "Little Fog", which refers to the autumn fog common in the region of Piedmont where it is grown. The grape seems to like these conditions but is difficult to cultivate otherwise. It is responsible for the famous wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, both produced in the Cuneo province of Piedmont. Barolo is often kept for more than 50 years, and is considered by many to be the greatest wine produced in Italy.

    • Montepulciano

      • This grape is planted in Abruzzo,and should not be confused with the town of the same name in Tuscany. It produces a wine with silky plum-like fruit, friendly acidity, and light tannin, recent bottles have improved greatly on those in the past.

    • Barbera

      • This grape is the most widely grown in Piedmont and southern Lombardy, particularly around the towns of Asti, Alba and Pavia. Previously, the Barbera wines were considered a poor alternative to Barolo, but recently they have improved dramatically. The wine has bright cherry fruit, a very dark color, and a food-friendly acidity. It is being produced increasingly for the international market.

    • Corvina

      • This is the grape that makes Valpolicella and Amarone, the best known wines of the Veneto. Valpolicella has dark cherry fruit and spice. If the grapes are dried, a process called "passito", they produce a wine called Amarone. Some are aged for more than 40 years and can command extremely high prices. Amarone di Valpolicella was awarded DOCG status in 2009.

    • Nero dAvola

      • A native varietal of Sicily, this grape was virtually unheard of a few years ago. Now, the quality of the wine is improving steadily and it is becoming increasingly popular on the international market for its plummy fruit and sweet tannins.

    • Dolcetto

      • This grape is called "Little Sweet One", because it is easy to grow and produces great wines for everyday drinking. It is grown alongside the Barbera and Nebbiola grapes in Piedmont and produces wine with flavors of concord grape, wild blackberries and herbs.

    • Negroamaro

      • Translated, the name means "Black and Bitter". It is grown extensively in the region of Puglia where it is used to produce the Salento wines: spicy, toasty, and full of dark red fruits.

    • Aglianico

      • Considered by many to be the "Noble Varietal of the south" Aglianico grapes are primarily grown in the regions of Campania and Basilicata. The name is derived from Hellenic, so the grape is considered to be a Greek transplant. Thick skinned and spicy, the wines are often both rustic and powerful.

    • Sagrantino

      • This grape is native to Umbria. It is only planted on 250 hectares, but the wines produced from it are world-renowned. Inky purple, with rustic brooding fruit and heavy tannins, these wines can age for many years.

    • Malvasia Nera

      • Red Malvasia varietal from Piedmont. A sweet and perfumed wine, sometimes elaborated in the passito style.

Other major red varieties are Ciliegolo, Gaglioppo, Lagrein, Lambrusco, Monica, Nerello Mascalese, Pignolo, Primitivo (Zinfandel in California), Refosco, Schiava, Schiopettino, Teroldego, and Uva di Troia. "International" varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc are also widely grown.

  • Italian White Grapes
    • Catarratto

      • This is the most widely planted white varietal in Salaparuta, south western Sicily.

    • Trebbiano

      • This is the most widely planted white varietal in Italy. It is grown throughout the country, with a special focus on the wines from Abruzzo and from Lazio, including Frascati. Mostly, they are pale, easy drinking wines, but trebbiano from producers such as Valentini have been known to age for 15+ years. It is known as Ugni Blanc in France.

    • Moscato

      • Grown mainly in Piedmont, it is mainly used in the slightly-sparkling (frizzante), semi-sweet Moscato d"Asti. Not to be confused with moscato giallo and moscato rosa, two Germanic varietals that are grown in Trentino- Alto-Adige.

    • Nuragus

      • An ancient Phoenician varietal found in southern Sardegna. Light and tart wines that are drunk as an apertif in their homeland.

    • Pinot Grigio

      • A hugely successful commercial grape (known as Pinot Gris in France), its wines are characterized by crispness and cleanness. As a hugely mass-produced wine, it is usually delicate and mild, but in a good producers" hands, the wine can grow more full-bodied and complex. The main problem with the grape is that to satisfy the commercial demand, the grapes are harvested too early every year, leading to wines without character.

    • Tocai Friulano

      • A varietal distantly related to Sauvignon Blanc, it yields the top wine of Friuli, full of peachiness and minerality. Currently, there is a bit of controversy regarding the name, as the EC has demanded it changed to avoid confusion with the Tokay dessert wine from Hungary.

    • Ribolla Gialla

      • A Slovenian grape that now makes its home in Friuli, these wines are decidedly old-world, with aromas of pineapple and mustiness.

    • Arneis

      • A crisp and floral varietal from Piedmont, which has been grown there since the 15th century.

    • Malvasia Bianca

      • Another white varietal that peeks up in all corners of Italy with a wide variety of clones and mutations. Can range from easy quaffers to funky, musty whites.

    • Pigato

      • A heavily acidic varietal from Liguria, the wines are vinified to pair with a cuisine rich in seafood.

    • Fiano
      • Grown on the southwest coast of Italy, the wines from this grape can be described as dewy and herbal, often with notes of pinenut and pesto.
    • Garganega

      • The main grape varietal for wines labeled Soave, this is a crisp, dry white wine from the Veneto wine region of Italy. It"s a very popular wine that hails from northeast Italy around the city of Verona. Currently, there are over 3,500 distinct producers of Soave.

    • Vermentino

      • This is widely planted in northern Sardinia and also found in Tuscan and Ligurian coastal districts. Wines are particularly popular to accompany fish and seafood.

    • Verdicchio

      • This is grown in the areas of Castelli di Jesi and Matelica in the Marche region and gives its name to the varietal white wine made from it. The name comes from "verde" (green). The white wines are noted for their high acidity and a characteristic nutty flavour with a hint of honey.

Other important whites include Carricante, Catarratto, Coda de Volpe, Cortese, Falanghina, Grechetto, Grillo, Inzolia, Picolit, Traminer, Verduzzo, and Vernaccia. As far as non-native varietals, the Italians plant Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer (sometimes called traminer aromatico), Riesling, Petite Arvine, and many others.

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