All about Lazio wine, the main production areas and the perfect food and wine pairing!
The first evidence of viticulture in Lazio dates back to the Etruscan people, but those who gave a decisive boost to Lazio wine were the ancient Romans.
Wine was consumed by emperors as well as by legionaries. It was part of the daily nourishment, with a place intended for consumption (the taverns) and with a dedicated divinity (Bacchus).
A curiosity: the name Bacchus comes from the name that was given to the Greek god Dionysus because of its noise attitude. The Italian word “baccano” (in english, din) derives from this attitude.
The Roman deity comes from Greece as it is the origin of viticulture in the Italian peninsula. Winemaking was then exalted by the ancient Romans who spread it throughout the world.
The ancient Romans also taught other peoples the winemaking techniques, which they handed down in the colonies conquered over the years. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, many winemaking techniques were preserved and transformed to what we find today.
The papacy favoured the development of the cult of viticulture in Lazio wine region.
Lazio Wine: Discover Wines of great history & tradition
From the 1800s to the second half of the 1900s Lazio wine experienced its golden age, both in terms of domestic consumption and exports.
In the last 50 years, however, wine from Lazio has lost its fame, becoming less appreciated from a qualitative point of view.
Many wineries in Lazio today promote a radical change of direction.
The region has always been dedicated to wine production thanks to the variety of its territory and to the climatic conditions, which have also encouraged small-scale production for in-home consumption and family wineries. Some wineries have consolidated over time to become real businesses.
Winemaking cooperatives have helped the union of several wineries and carried out a modernisation process that would otherwise not have been possible.
The vine area in Lazio is almost 25,000 hectares, which obtain an average production of about 2 million hectoliters of wine. Most of Lazio wine is white (76%), in a minor part we can find red and rosé wines (24%). Several local wines have got geographical indications: there are 3 DOCG, 27 DOC and 6 IGT wines. We will see the most important ones in the article.
The grapes of Lazio
Half of Lazio wine region is hilly and it is here that most of the viticulture takes place. The soil is largely volcanic and this aspect characterises Lazio wine. Furthermore, the lakes favours the optimal climate for viticulture.
The reclaimed area of Agro Pontino, together with the Apennine belt, are also important areas.
The main grapevines cultivated in Lazio are Cesanese del Piglio, Cesanese di Affile, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah as regards black grapes and Trebbiano (Trebbiano bianco, Trebbiano Toscano and Trebbiano del Lazio), Malvasia (white Malvasia di Candia, Malvasia del Lazio and Malvasia Bianca Lunga) and Grechetto for white grapes.
There are three grape clones of Malvasia del Lazio in the area: Bellone, Cacchione and Bombino bianco (also called Bonvino).
Native and international grape varieties are cultivated in the Lazio wine region mainly with an espalier training system, according to recent trends that favour quality over quantity. A small part of winemakers still remains anchored to the classic Tendone training system.
The wines of Lazio DOCG
As previously mentioned, the DOCG (“denominazione di origine controllata e garantita”, a label guaranteeing the quality and origin of wine from Lazio are three:
1. Cesanese del Piglio DOCG (or Piglio)
The DOC was already recognised in 1973 and the highest DOCG label arrived in 2008.
The close link with the territory and the population, who inhabitated the area, has built and modified over time the winemaking tradition, makes the Cesanese del Piglio an absolutely deserving example of the DOCG and an example for Lazio wine.
This Lazio wine can be produced in the province of Frosinone (municipality of Piglio and Serrone, as well as in a part of the territory of Acuto, Anagni and Paliano). 90% of the grapes must be made of Cesanese di Affile or Cesanese varieties.
The wine appellation refers to three types of product:
- CESANESE DEL PIGLIO or PIGLIO
- CESANESE DEL PIGLIO SUPERIORE or PIGLIO SUPERIORE
- CESANESE DEL PIGLIO SUPERIORE RISERVA, obtained from the “Superiore” version with an ageing not less than 20 months, of which 6 months in bottle.
Cesanese del Piglio DOCG is a ruby red wine with violet reflections in the young version and tending to garnet when aged. It has got the typical smell of that grape variety and is slightly bitter at the end.
2. Cannellino di Frascati DOCG
Its wine production area is the province of Rome, including the municipality of Frascati, Grottaferrata, Monte Porzio Catone, a part of Rome and Montecompatri.
This Lazio wine must be composed of at least 70% Malvasia Bianca di Candia or Malvasia del Lazio (better known as “Malvasia Puntinata”) and the remaining can be Trebbiano Toscano, Trebbiano Giallo, Greco Bianco, Bellone or Bombino Bianco.
Most of the grapes must be native grapevines: other varieties can be introduced only in a small percentage.
We are obviously talking about a Lazio white wine with an intense straw yellow colour, a characteristic and fruity aroma on the palate. It is balanced among the slight acidity, the barely perceptible astringency and the structure.
3. Frascati Superiore DOCG
The same wine production area, “Tusculum” in Ancient Rome, and the same grapevines of Cannellino di Frascati DOCG characterise the production of Frascati Superiore DOCG.
This Lazio wine is straw yellow and has got an intense smell to the nose. It can be more or less dry, with good flavour, mellow and soft on the palate.
It can also be found in the “Riserva” version thanks to a maturation period of no less than 12 months, 3 of which are in bottle.
The wines of Lazio DOC
There are 27 wines from Lazio with DOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) wine appellation. Below you will find the complete list in alphabetical order:
- Aleatico di Gradoli DOC
- Aprilia DOC
- Atina DOC
- Bianco Capena DOC
- Castelli Romani DOC
- Cerveteri DOC
- Cesanese DOC
- Cesanese di Affile DOC
- Cesanese di Olevano Romano DOC
- Circeo DOC
- Colli Albani DOC
- Colli Etruschi Viterbesi DOC
- Colli Lanuvini DOC
- Cori DOC
- Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone DOC
- Frascati DOC
- Genazzano DOC
- Marino DOC
- Montecompatri Colonna DOC
- Nettuno DOC
- Orvieto DOC
- Roma DOC
- Tarquinia DOC
- Terracina DOC
- Velletri DOC
- Vignanello DOC
- Zagarolo DOC
Below I will tell you about a wine from Lazio that was highly appreciated in the past and today a little unjustly neglected:
EST! EST!! EST!!! di Montefiascone DOC
The name has always aroused curiosity and a fascinating legend explains its origins.
Legend has it that a character called Johannes Defuk, probably a nobleman, was travelling with Emperor Henry V when he sent his servant to precede him on the way to be able to point out the taverns where he would find the best wine.
The mark that the servant had to leave on the tavern doors was the inscription “EST” (in Latin “there is”, referring to wine).
As you can well imagine, one day the nobleman stopped and found the writing left by his servant which read “EST! EST!! EST!!! “. He entered the tavern and tasted a wine that he liked so much that he decided to separate from the procession that would reach Rome and stay in Montefiascone in order to continue drinking it.
There are three versions of this Lazio wine:
- Est!Est!!Est!!! di Montefiascone DOC
- Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone Classico DOC
- Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone Spumante DOC
For over half of the total percentage, Trebbiano Toscano is used to make Est!Est!!Est!!! di Montefiascone wine. To a lesser extent Trebbiano Giallo, Malvasia Bianca Lunga and Malvasia del Lazio are used together with other white grapes from Lazio.
Together these grape varieties make a fresh Lazio white wine, well-balanced, with good acidity and with different facets according to the type.
The Wines of Lazio IGT
In Lazio, the IGT (Typical Geographical Indication) wine appellations are 6:
- Anagni IGT
- Civitella D’Agliano IGT
- Colli Cimini IGT
- Costa Etrusco Romana IGT
- Frusinate o del Frusinate IGT
- Lazio IGT
It can be found in many versions:
- Lazio Bianco
- Lazio Bianco Spumante
- Lazio Bianco Vendemmia Tardiva
- Lazio Bianco Passito
- Lazio Rosso
- Lazio Spumante
- Lazio Rosso Vendemmia Tardiva
- Lazio Rosso Passito
- Lazio Rosato
- Lazio Rosato Spumante
This wine appellation wanted to group the three main areas in the Lazio wine region: the coastal strip, the internal hilly area of volcanic origin and the Apennines, thus including the whole region in its entirety.
Food pairings with Lazio wine
In general the first thing to do for a good food and wine pairing is to see what the territory has to offer, but unexpected pairings are always interesting.
So starting from a regional overview, I can recommend that you pair traditional Roman pasta such as Carbonara, Cacio e pepe, Gricia or Amatriciana with Castelli Romani DOC, Frascati DOC or, why not, EST! EST!! EST!!! wine.
The latter can also pair well with white meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products such as mozzarella and burrata.
With rigatoni con la pajata, Cesanese del Piglio DOCG finds the right boost. You can also opt for Frascati Superiore DOC: with ageing, this Lazio wine acquires the right to fight on equal terms with Cesanese del Piglio DOCG.
A dish that, instead of being on a menu, is usually eaten at two in the morning to flush out night hunger, is spaghetti with garlic and oil (or “spaghetti ajo e ojo” as they say in Rome). In reality it is not an easy dish to make, but it easily finds the ideal pairing with Frascati DOC, Velletri DOC or Colli Albani DOC wine.
Even if you are interested in a quick lunch or an aperitif with suppli and a glass of wine, it may be a good choice to uncork a Colli Albani DOC bottle.
A “fritto misto” (mixed fry food) with courgette flowers, sweetbreads, cod and artichokes recalls Frascati Spumante DOC. It is usually produced with the Charmat method, but there are also some versions produced with the Classic Method.
Coda alla vaccinara, roast, game and aged cheeses prefer Cesanese del Piglio DOCG thanks to its structure.
Blue or lake fish, omelettes or vegetables pair well with Bianco Capena DOC, a dry Lazio white wine. In the Superior version, Bianco Capena DOC is perfect with shellfish recipes.
Aleatico di Gradoli DOC is excellent with fruit tarts or dry pastries, while in the liqueur version it is also paired with chocolate creams.
A slice of “ciambellone” (bundt cake), some “ubriachelle” (traditional Roman wine donuts) or some “brutti ma buoni” biscuits perfectly end a good meal paired with Cannellino di Frascati DOCG.
Tasting the finest wines from Lazio on Lake Bracciano is a unique experience and with Italia Delight, before the wine tasting, you can visit the wine cellar and have a walk in the vines to discover how Lazio wine is made and learn how to taste wine.
You can also find winery tours with the winemaker in Frascati to taste the famous Frascati and Cannellino di Frascati DOCG:
In Piglio, on the other hand, it is possible to take part in a mini-tasting course of Cesanese del Piglio in order to appreciate all its facets or to experience the vineyard in spring or during the grape harvest.
A day in the Sabina countryside awaits you to taste local cheeses and visit the most beautiful medieval abbeys in the area.
A few simple clicks with Italia Delight and you can spend a different Sunday or add a wonderful experience to your trip to Italy.
If you are curious to discover the Lazio wine region with its wineries and food specialities, a food trip is definitively the right choice! On Italia Delight, you can customise it according to your interests and needs by contacting the Local Expert directly.
Did you like the article on Lazio wine by Nur Migahed, a graduate student in Gastronomic Sciences and Cultures at the Roma Tre University? Discover all the experiences and travel to this beautiful Italian region with Italia Delight! 😉🚗