Emilia-Romagna, located in the north of Italy, is so named for the road called the Aemelia which was built by the Romans to cross from the capital on the Western Coast over to the Adriatic Sea. It is famed for being the food capital of Italy, producing such international favorites as Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano and, of course, Lasagna Bolognese. It also boasts a superior Viticultural sector and is 4th among Italy’s 20 regions for wine production. 33% of its wines are DOC/DOCG recognized and 60% are reds. Of all the wines produced in Emilia-Romagna, the best known is Lambrusco. A native vine with a 2,000 year old history in the land, it is a true staple in the Italian diet and has been for centuries. Indeed, when the Seven Country Study was conducted in the early 20th century, scientists were intrigued by how the Emiliani could remain so fit, despite their high-fat diet. This was attributed, in part, to certain properties of the Lambrusco grape that appear to help counter-act the fattiness of those foods.
Emilia-Romagna is a triangular-shaped region in north central Italy that stretches diagonally from one side of the peninsula to the other. Her boundaries are natural — the Adriatic in the east, the Tuscan Apennines to the south, the Ligurian Apennines to the west and the Po River to the north.
This agricultural region which lies between the industrial north and the culturally rich south, did not become a political entity until modern Italy was unified in 1861.
Emilia, the western inland section, takes its name from Via Aemilia, the 1,140-mile-long Emilian way built by Marcus “Aemilus” Ledpidus in 187 BC as a link to outside markets within the vast Roman empire. It runs southeast from Piacenza, the northwestern border, to the beach resort city of Rimini on the Adriatic.
Romagna, the portion which extends eastward to the sea, was so named because of its close association with ancient Rome. Romagna eventually became part of the eighth region of Emperor Augustus’ empire.
The vine, first planted in the region around 1700 BC, enjoys ideal growing conditions, making Emilia-Romagna one of Italy’s largest wine-producing areas. Varietals such as Lambrusco, Albana, Sangiovese and Sauvignon, among others, are responsible for wines that are fragrant and straightforward, with just the right amount of acidity to do justice to the richness of the region’s cuisine.
These wines also enjoy worldwide recognition. Perhaps the most famous Italian wine after Chianti is Emilia’s delightful, naturally frizzante Lambrusco. This wine, made with red Lambrusco grapes, has been in existence for thousands of years. Lambrusco is a popular beverage not only in Emilia-Romagna but also in the United States, Japan and throughout Europe. The dry, tangy “secco” style has the popular edge on the “amabile” or semi-dry style in Italy, while abroad the opposite is true.
Lambrusco’s fruitiness and slight effervescence is refreshing and easy to drink. Its vein of acidity and high mineral content make it a natural and perfect accompaniment to the rich cuisine of the region.
Also available are delightful whites and roses` that are made in the same light and fruity style as Lambrusco.
Whiles the roses` may or may not be made with Lambrusco grape varieties (spending very little time on the skins thus taking on a “pinkish” tint), the whites are normally produced with local white grapes such as Trebbiano, Malvasia, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon.
Other notable wines from the region are those designated from the Colli Bolognesi-Monte San Pietro-Colli Medioevali, Colli di Parma and the Colli Piacentini.
A favorite after-dinner drink which crowns the unforgettable meals of Emilia-Romagna is a liqueur called “Nocino.” Nocino is made with carefully selected green walnuts picked at the correct moment of ripeness, usually around Midsummer Day. The green walnuts are steeped in alcohol and sugar until all the flavor is extracted. The liquid is then strained, bottled and left to mature for a few years. It is usually made at the artisan level although some commercial brands are available.
THE DOCGs OF EMILIA-ROMAGNA
ALBANA DI ROMAGNA
One wine of the region has made history as Italy’s first white wine to be accorded the DOCG. The origins of Albana di Romagna are so ancient that it is no longer easy to distinguish between history and legend.
It is reported that in 435 Galla Placida, the beautiful blond-haired daughter of the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosious II, arrived early one morning in a small village in the Romagna. The inhabitants of the area soon offered her a large terra-cotta jug of the area’s sweet and excellent wine, the Albana.
Galla Placida was so taken by the wine that she remarked “you should not drink this wine in such a humble container. Rather it should be drunk in gold (berti in oro) to render homage to its smoothness”. Since that time, the village has been called Bertinoro and is the center of this celebrated wine production.
Legend aside, Albana di Romagna has been well-known since the 13th century and is still produced with native Albana grapes. It is available in dry, amabile, sweet, passito (including Riserva), still or sparkling styles (although DOCG status is not given to the sparkling type). All of the wines must be produced with 100% Albana. The passito versions require that the grapes dry until March 30th of the year following the harvest.
The semi-dry is an excellent accompaniment to desserts, while the dry is perfect with seafood and white meats.
COLLI BOLOGNESI PIGNOLETTO CLASSICO
Is a straw colored white wine with a harmonious taste. The wine is produced with a minimum of 95% Pignoletto and a maximum of 5% of other local white varietals grown within the delimited classico zone. The wine may not be released until April 1st of the year following the harvest.