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Lazio Wine

Lazio Wine

Nestled at the heart of Italy, Lazio, the region surrounding Rome, is a tapestry of ancient history, diverse landscapes, and a viticulture deeply rooted in tradition. Though often overshadowed by its northern counterparts, Lazio’s wines offer an insightful journey into Italy’s enological diversity. With a wine history that dates back to the Etruscans and the Romans, Lazio has long been a fertile ground for winemaking.

Historical Context: The Ancient Roots of Lazio’s Vineyards

The story of Lazio’s wines is as old as Rome itself, with Roman authors like Pliny the Elder and Horace documenting the prominence of viticulture in the region. Ancient Romans favored the volcanic slopes of the Alban Hills for vineyards, convinced that this terroir produced wines of superior quality. Fast forward to the present, and the same areas continue to be wine-growing hotspots, albeit with modernized methods and an increased focus on quality.

The Grape Varieties of Lazio: A Diversity Uncovered

Lazio’s winemaking palette is rich with indigenous and international varieties, each contributing to the region's distinctive wine profile.

  • Malvasia di Candia and Malvasia del Lazio: These aromatic varieties are the backbone of the region’s white wines, particularly in blends like Frascati, offering floral and fruity notes.
  • Trebbiano Toscano: Known for its high yields, this grape is another key component in white blends, valued for its acidity and freshness.
  • Bellone: An ancient variety that’s witnessing a revival, known for its resilience and the pleasantly mineral wines it produces.
  • Cesanese: Perhaps the most important red grape in Lazio, Cesanese is behind the DOCG wines of Cesanese del Piglio and Cesanese di Olevano Romano, offering reds with depth and complexity.
  • Sangiovese: While more synonymous with Tuscany, Sangiovese also thrives in Lazio, contributing to its full-bodied and tannic reds.
  • Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon: International varieties that have found a new home in Lazio, often used in blends to introduce more structure and complexity.
Lazio’s Wine Appellations: The Sanctuaries of Quality

The Lazio region boasts several DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) areas that regulate and ensure the quality of its wines.

  • Frascati DOC/DOCG: Perhaps the most famous of Lazio’s appellations, Frascati produces aromatic whites that range from dry to sweet.
  • Castelli Romani DOC: Encompassing the area around the Roman castles, this DOC produces both white and red wines, characterized by their easy-drinking style.
  • Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone DOC: With a name stemming from a legendary tale of a bishop’s love for the local wine, this area is known for its Trebbiano-based whites.
  • Cesanese del Piglio DOCG: This appellation is dedicated to red wines made from the Cesanese variety, known for their cherry and spice flavors.
The Influence of Terroir: Lazio’s Geographical Gift

The terroir of Lazio is incredibly varied. The volcanic soils, particularly those around the ancient Lake Albano, provide a mineral-rich foundation that imbues the wines with a recognizable trace of salinity and minerality. The coastal areas benefit from the maritime climate, while the higher altitudes see a significant diurnal temperature variation, crucial for maintaining the grapes' balance of sugar and acidity.

Modern Winemaking: Innovation Fuels Quality

In recent decades, Lazio’s wine industry has undergone a renaissance. A new generation of winemakers has embraced both the ancient heritage and the possibilities brought forth by modern technology. They’re experimenting with organic and biodynamic viticulture, temperature-controlled fermentation, and sophisticated aging methods, all of which are elevating the quality and complexity of Lazio wines.

Wine Tourism in Lazio: A Cultural Experience

Lazio's proximity to Rome makes it an accessible destination for wine enthusiasts. Wine tourism is growing, with many vineyards offering tours and tastings that provide insight into both the winemaking process and the history of the region.

The Food Pairing Culture: Lazio’s Culinary Companions

Lazio’s wines are inseparable from the region’s cuisine, which is as varied as its wines. The white wines, with their acidity and floral notes, pair beautifully with local seafood, while the region’s reds, with their structure and fruitiness, complement heartier dishes like Abbacchio a Scottadito (grilled lamb chops) and pasta with Amatriciana sauce.

Challenges and Outlook: The Path Ahead for Lazio Wines

Despite its historical significance, Lazio has had to work hard to establish a reputation in the modern wine market. The challenge now lies in marketing and education, ensuring that Lazio’s wines are recognized for their quality and uniqueness.

Conclusion

Lazio’s wines are stories of evolution and resilience, of ancient vines and innovative methods. From the popes and emperors who favored these wines to today’s sommeliers and connoisseurs, Lazio’s wines have not ceased to captivate. As Lazio continues to invest in its winemaking, the region is poised to secure a place among Italy’s most celebrated wine territories.

With every sip of a crisp Frascati or a robust Cesanese, one is transported through the rich history and dynamic landscape of Italy’s heartland. Lazio’s wines are more than just a drink; they are an experience, a reflection of the region's soul, and an invitation to explore the less-traveled vineyards of Italy. As the world discovers the charms of Lazio’s wines, the region stands ready, with open cellars and raised glasses, to welcome the future with enthusiasm and pride.

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Notable Wines of Lazio

Lazio, with its capital in Rome, is known for its ancient winemaking traditions. The region is not as globally recognized as some of its neighbors, but it offers a variety of wines that showcase its rich history and unique terroir. Below is a comprehensive list of Lazio wines, categorized by their respective wine styles and notable appellations:

White Wines
  • Frascati DOC/DOCG: Perhaps the most famous of Lazio's wines, made primarily from Malvasia and Trebbiano. It includes Frascati Superiore DOCG and Frascati Cannellino DOCG (a sweet version).
  • Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone DOC: An historic white wine with a legendary name, predominantly from Trebbiano and Malvasia Bianca di Candia.
  • Marino DOC: Produced mainly from Malvasia and Trebbiano, offering a range of styles from still to sparkling (spumante) and dry to sweet.
  • Orvieto DOC: Though shared with Umbria, parts of the Orvieto region extend into Lazio. The wines are typically a blend of Grechetto and Trebbiano (Procanico), and can be dry or sweet.
  • Bianco Capena DOC: A lesser-known appellation producing white wines mainly from Trebbiano grapes.
  • Zagarolo DOC: Predominantly Trebbiano-based wines, which can also be found as spumante.v
  • Castelli Romani DOC: A large appellation producing mainly white wines from Malvasia and Trebbiano.
Red and Rosé Wines
  • Cesanese del Piglio DOCG/Cesanese di Olevano Romano DOC: Red wines from the Cesanese grape, ranging from lighter, everyday styles to more concentrated riserva wines.
  • Cesanese di Affile DOC: Another appellation dedicated to red wines from the Cesanese variety, which can also be found in rosé versions.
  • Cerveteri DOC: Producing both red and white wines, but the reds, often from Sangiovese and Montepulciano, are particularly noteworthy.
  • Cori DOC: Known for both white wines (from Bellone and Malvasia) and reds, including varietal wines from Nero Buono and a blend with Cesanese.
  • Tarquinia DOC: Red and white wines from various grape blends; the reds often feature Sangiovese and Montepulciano.
  • Aleatico di Gradoli DOC: A sweet red wine made from the Aleatico grape, sometimes produced as a passito (dried grape wine).
  • Atina DOC: Focused primarily on Cabernet Sauvignon, producing both varietal wines and blends with local varieties.
  • Velletri DOC: Both white (from Malvasia and Trebbiano) and red wines (from Montepulciano and Sangiovese), with the reds being particularly robust.
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Sweet Wines
  • Cannellino di Frascati DOCG: A sweet, often luscious wine made from the same grape varieties as Frascati, harvested late for natural sugar concentration.
  • Aleatico di Gradoli DOC: This can also be vinified as a liquoroso, a fortified version of the sweet Aleatico wine.
Other Wine Styles and Varietals
  • Lazio IGT: A catch-all indication for wines that don't fit into the strict DOC/DOCG categories. Allows for a wide variety of grapes and blends, including international varieties like Chardonnay, Merlot, and Syrah.
  • Colli Albani DOC: A DOC that produces a wide range of wine styles, from still to sparkling and dry to sweet, predominantly from Malvasia and Trebbiano.
  • Colli della Sabina DOC: Producing a range of wines including reds, whites, and rosés from local and international grape varieties.
  • Genazzano DOC: Notably producing whites from Malvasia and Bellone, as well as reds from Sangiovese and Cesanese.
Grappa and Spirits
  • Grappa di Lazio: Produced from the pomace of grapes used in the region’s wine production, showcasing a variety of flavor profiles based on the grape composition.

Lazio's wines are often enjoyed locally and can be somewhat harder to find outside of Italy compared to the more famous Italian wine regions. However, they offer a unique taste of the area's rich cultural and vinicultural history, especially within the context of its Etruscan and Roman roots. The whites are known for their crisp acidity and volcanic minerality, while the reds are appreciated for their versatility and range, from light and fresh to structured and age-worthy.

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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