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Lazio, a.k.a. Latium, is the region that surrounds Italy’s capital of Rome. We often associate ancient Roman wine consumption with never-ending goblets of red wine, but this is predominately a white wine producing area.
Of course its history is long and eventful. This was the heart of the Roman Republic and Empire, seeing generations of politicians and nobility through the ages. It became a papal state starting in the 5th century. A long period of power struggles between religious and governing factions kept a lot of its wine production as a mere afterthought, and much of the vineyard areas were left to the elements. It wasn’t until the Italian unification in the late 19th century when Rome officially became the capital of Italy that there was once again an interest in strengthening wine production.
The soils, primarily of volcanic composition, are particularly suited to white wine production for their contribution to the grapes’ acidity. As are the various cool microclimates from factors such as the Tyrrenhian Sea on the west coast and the Apennines Mountains.
Many of the wines are based on the varietals Trebbiano and Malvasia di Candia. For a long time, these were heavy abboccato (“mouth-filling”) styles that weren’t meant for long export commutes or cellar aging. However, quality has ramped up considerably with the introduction of more modern production techniques. Today, the styles lean toward lighter, crisper whites, though most are still meant for consumption while young.
The most famous white Latium DOCS are Castelli Romani, Frascati and Est! Est! Est! The latter is named for a legendary tale in which a Flemish steward serving Bishop Giovanni Defluck was sent ahead to suss out accommodations and mark inns at which he liked the quality of the wine with “Est!” (this is it!). When he reached a certain establishment in Montefiascone, he enjoyed the wine so much that he enthusiastically marked the door with “Est! Est! Est!”
Marino is another well known white Lazio DOC, and the region also shares parts of the celebrated Orvieto with Umbria.
However, the region’s sole DOCG is a red wine, produced from the local Cesanese grape, called Cesanese del Piglio. This legendary wine dates very far back, and was enjoyed by the likes of Pope Innocenzo III and Bonifacio VIII in Medieval Rome.
Aprilia was one of Italy’s first DOCs, given status in 1966. This region encompasses both red and white wines, with the reds being more on trend using a blend of Merlot and Sangiovese. Velletri also follows this modern path, producing a blend of Sangiovese, Cesanese, Montepulciano, Merlot and Ciliegiolo. There are several notable vino di tavola wines with international and local blends, such as Fiorano Rosso, Colle Picchione and Torre Ercolana.
Lazio also produces some notable sweet wines. Aleatico di Gradoli, from Aleatico grapes, is also sometimes vinified as a liquoroso (fortified) wine akin to Port. And bowing to its past, a modern version of Falernum, the wine famously enjoyed by the Romans, is produced from Aglianico, Cecubo, Abbuoto and Negroamaro. ~Amanda Schuster
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