Among Italy’s 20 wine-producing regions, Lazio ranks 8th for output. 45% of wines from Lazio have DOC recognition and 80% of total wine production is white. Rome is considered the world’s leading wine city; that is, the most wine production of any metropolitan area. Noted DOCGs from the region immediately surrounding Rome include Frascati Superiore and Cannellino di Frascati. Frascati, so named for the town just outside of Rome, is a dry white wine that is considered one of the oldest in Italy.
Verdant Lazio or Latium (its “Latin” name) is Italy’s fifth largest region. Latium’s geography is varied — its wide coastline and sandy beaches extend from Tuscany in the north to Campania in the south. Its hinterland borders Umbria, known as Italy’s green heart, as well as the Marches, Abruzzi and Molise.
The establishment of the Roman Empire played a major role in the history of the vine and the civilization of wine in Latium. Wine was very important in the life of ancient Rome as a religious offering to the gods, as well as a daily staple on patrician and plebian tables alike.
The volcanic soil of the region and the use of local grape varieties give Latium’s wines their own unique character — a soft and almond-like aftertaste. They are much appreciated when drunk young as aperitifs or with white meats, poultry and seafood dishes, even those with cream sauces.
The wines of Latium are almost exclusively white. They range from dry to fruity with a slight hint of sweetness to outright sweet. They are made with Trebbiano, Malvasia di Candia, Malvasia del Lazio, Bonvino and Bellone. The very few reds, available in limited quantities, are most often made with Sangiovese, Merlot and Aleatico — grape varieties introduced in the 1930s.
There are five wine-producing provinces in Latium. Rome is the largest and most renowned, accounting for one-third of the region’s total vine acreage.
Frascati is the best-known white wine of this province, taking its name from the town of the same name. Its pale straw color, clean, fruity, soft taste and faint almond aftertaste have earned it a reputation as the “wine of Rome.” Frascati is frequently served with spicy pizza or salted appetizers, or with dessert in its semi-dry version, Cannellino.
This important province, the seat of Italy’s government, is the home of the “Castelli Romani,” a name derived from the many Roman and feudal castles which dot the area.
Besides Frascati, the Castelli Romani growing area encompasses five other DOC zones: Colli Albani, Colli Lanuvini, Marino, Montecompatri, Colonna and Velletri. It is here the Romans come to spend evenings and weekends dining at hillside inns and enjoying the area’s fresh wines.
Viterbo, northwest of Rome in the communities surrounding Lake Bolsena, is home to the white wine of Montefiascone known as EST!EST!!EST!!!
According to legend, the name was born around the year 1111, when a German bishop on his way to Rome for Henry V’s coronation dispatched his servant ahead to scout out inns serving superior wine. The servant was instructed to write “EST! (this is it) on the walls of such an inn. When the servant sampled the white wines of Montefiascone, his enthusiasm knew no bounds and he chalked EST!EST!!EST!!!! on the wall.
The wine-loving bishop obviously shared his servant’s endorsement, so much so that he never reached his destination and spent the rest of his days in that small village.
THE DOCGs of LAZIO
CESANESE del PIGLIO
Cesanese del Piglio was born with the indigenous grape variety Cesanese grown in Lazio. Other local grapes may be added up to 10%. The regulations provide for two types of wine: Cesanese del Piglio and Cesanese del Piglio Superiore, with the additional designation “Riserva” for wines that have been matured for more than 18 months.
Only wines that consist of a minimum of 90% of the grape varieties Cesanese d’affile and/or Cesanese Commune, with the remaining maximum of 10% consisting of other red grape varieties authorized for use in the Lazio region, may be called Cesanese del Piglio DOCG.
The wine is ruby red in color with garnet reflections, with a delicate nose and round taste.
Frascati Superiore is produced with a minimum of 70% Malvasia Bianca di Candia and/or Malvasia del Lazioand. Bellone, Bombino Bianco, Greco and Trebbiano may be included to a maximum of 30% (other white grapes of the area may be used up to 15% in this 30%). A riserva may be produced with the same grapes. The riserva must age a minimum of 12 months beginning November 1st of the year of the harvest (three of those months must be in the bottle.)
CANNELLINO di FRASCATI
Cannellino di Frascati is a late harvest Frascati made with partially dried grapes, a minimum of 70% Malvasia Bianca di Candia and/or Malvasia del Lazioand. Bellone, Bombino Bianco, Greco and Trebbiano may be be included to a maximum of 30% (other white grapes of the area may be used up to 15% in this 30%).