One of the best ways to delve deeper into the countryside and culture of Lazio is to take a vineyard tour. Rome makes the ideal base to explore Lazio’s wine culture.
Rome itself offers untold architectural, historical and culinary delights, but a trip to the cooler wine country in the hills and closer to the coast will allow you to discover that there’s more to Lazio than just its capital, Rome, and more to its wine than Frascati.
Lazio is located in central Italy with Tuscany to the north, Calabria to the south, Abruzzo to the east and Umbria to the northeast. Breezes from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west temper the hot climate while the Central Apennines to the east protect the region from cold north-easterly winds as well as creating macroclimates in mountainous areas. The region’s volcanic soils are excellent for white grapes, helping to maintain balance of acidity. This means the reputation’s region is based on its crisp, dry white wines with high acidity, designed for drinking young, particularly those from the Castelli Romani.
However, Lazio also hides some intriguing reds for those who wish to vary the white wine regime or to find something to pair with heartier dishes. The region’s reds are starting to make a name for themselves, especially with Sangiovese, Cesanese, Montepulciano, Merlot and Nero Buono di Coro. Canaiolo and Ciliegiolo are also contributing towards some noteworthy wines. Indeed, many winemakers believe the region’s true talent is for reds.
Lazio is increasingly planted with red varieties associated with other regions, such as Tuscany’s Sangiovese, Abruzzo’s Montepulciano, Campania’s Aglianico and global Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, which are producing wines with international appeal. Nevertheless, some more local varieties, such as Cesanese and Aleatico, are worth seeking out in any Rome vineyard tours.
Lazio boasts one red DOCG – Cesanese del Pigilio, produced principally from Cesane di Affile or Cesanese Comune with other local varieties permitted up to 10% including a small percentage of white to boost acidity and enhances aromas. Cesanese del Piglio is yet another wine, along with Barolo and Tokaji Aszú, which has been dubbed ‘king of wines’, in this case by Medieval Popes Innocenzo III and Bonifacio VIII. Cesanese has very old origins in Lazio and may also have been used in Roman times. Traditionally produced as sweet frizzante or spumante wine, producers have now also begun producing increasingly interesting dry still wines. Cesanese is also found around the Affile DOC and Olevano Romano DOC. It yields spicy, aromatic, plump wines with flavours of forest fruits and herbs together with a velvety elegance.
Cesanese, a variety that had fallen out of favour, is now also increasingly contributing to well-made blends with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In the Genazzano DOC southeast of Rome, it pairs with Sangiovese to produce the DOC’s elegant Rosso. Incidentally, Genazzano sits on a ridge southeast of Rome, comprised of tufa like in Greco di Tufo and the Loire around Vouvray, so the perfect terroir to produce high-quality wines.
Velletri DOC, in the Castelli Romani, also includes Cesanese in its blend with Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Merlot and a touch of Ciliegiolo to produce its robust Rosso, which many consider the region’s leading red. Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo also meet in Vignanello DOC, with the cherry-flavoured Ciliegiolo adding freshness and a lively character to the heavier Sangiovese.
Rome vineyard tours should also take in the Aleatico di Gradoli DOC, made in the villages around Gradoli on the northwest side of Lake Bolsena in the north of Lazio. Montefiascone of Est! Est!! Est!!! fame is situated on the other side of the lake if you’d like a splash of white wine too. This large crater lake has a moderating effect on the otherwise hot mesoclimate. Here you can try the sweet red wine made from Aleatico, or the fortified ‘liquoroso’ version. This high alcohol, aromatic sweet wine with aromas of roses, berry fruit and lychees, balanced by the grape’s acidity, makes the perfect match for chocolate and red fruit desserts.
At Wine Paths, our team of local experts can arrange exclusive Rome vineyard tours to help you discover the reds of Lazio.
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