If you are looking for information on Roman wines, you will be quite disappointed. In fact, although Lazio is a region that produces a lot of wine, most of it is consumed at home. I don’t think that, out of 100 people, there is even one that requestsor offers a Lazio wine outside the region itself. And even when presented withexamples of very good wine, a certain enological racism prevails, so that many, especially Romans themselves, feel they can liquidate an entire wine production as “cheap”. And while it is true that some so-called “two-cent” white wines have ruined the oenological image of these ancient lands, where wine was produced way before the arrival of the Romans, it is not possible that there is not a single interesting thing to try. Let’s take a closer look.
Trebbiano and Malvasia are the two reference grape varieties from which most of Lazio’s white wines originate. The first grape is one of the most cultivated vines in Italy for its enormous productivity and its aromatic neutrality that allows for the production of relatively harmless wines. In the seventies and eighties tens of millions of hectoliters of terrible white wines were produced, and this had an impact on the memory of consumers. Malvasia, which unlike the latter is an aromatic and very fragrant grape, is cultivated from Sicily to the Alps, theoretically making it a perfect assembly component. Two wines that are representative of this meeting are Frascati and Est! Est!! Est!!!
In the first case one is generally faced with a white which, at best, manages to weave a garland of scents of fresh lemons, almond, yellow peach with some slightly herbaceous and mineral notes. Similarly, the presence of two other native vines such as Bombino, which adds freshness and hints of ripe fruit, and Bellone, with its typical notes of honey and grapefruit, is also noteworthy. The Frascati can also boast the Superiore type which guarantees higher quality standards. And, if you happen to find it, seize the opportunity of tasting its sweet version: the Cannellino, produced from the withering of grapes as a result of the noble rot that evaporates from the water, concentrating the sugars and making the wine more kaleidoscopic.
The Est! Est!! Est!!! of Montefiascone, similarly based on Trebbiano and Malvasia di Candia, is produced on the shores of Lake Bolsena. Generally it is a fairly smooth and simple white wine. In the best cases, however, it brings out a pleasant cross of yellow gorse and cedar, with peat scents and a slight smoky touch.
And then there is the Orvieto based on Grechetto, a vine that gives pleasant hints of lemon peel, white peach and wild strawberries from Nemi, combined with Trebbiano and Malvasia. Orvieto is produced between Umbria and Lazio and is one of the most long-lived and seductive white wines of Italy.
And the reds? Well, there are not so many red wines in Lazio, if not some Super Tuscan style, or rather Super Lazio; that is, wines based on so-called international vines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, generally vinified in small French oak barrels (barriques) . But my advice is to look for some native wines, such as the ancient Cesanese del Piglio, cultivated mainly in the Frosinone area, which produces fairly concentrated wines, full of ripe plums, tobacco, leather and blackberries. Among some rare grape varieties, I happened to taste a couple of examples of Lecinaro with extraordinary flavour profiles that ranged from wild blackberry to black pepper.
Knowing the vines that make up a wine offers us only one of the keys to understanding its character. To have complete information it is necessary to know at least the physical structure of the soil and the climate of the given region in which the wine is produced. And the thing here is interesting because Lazio is practically a valley of extinct volcanoes. This means that the vines are rooted on very ancient soils, rich in minerals that can contribute to increasing considerably the aromatic complexity and the palatable pleasure of wines.
Do not conform to what most people drink, try to broaden your horizons and during your next Roman holidays, challenge your sommelier to choose some local wine that best suits your temperament. Prosit!