The Wines of Lazio
In ancient times Lazio was considered by the Romans as not only their larder, but also their cellar. It was in Lazio that a grape variety called Aminea was used to make the Romans favourite wine Falerno. The Volsci, the original inhabitants of Lazio before the Romans, had pressed the Aminea grapes and named it after the town of Falernum which was situated in the heart of the regions vine growing area. According to ancient records Falerno was available in both red and white and even Pliny the Elder, famous author and naval captain of the early Roman empire described Falerno as the greatest wine he had ever tasted describing it as been made both sweet and strong.
Lazio Wines Today
The modern DOC wine, Falerno del Massico is completely different to its Roman ancestor. The grape variety Aminea disappeared from the vineyards of little hundreds of years ago, and furthermore Falerno del Massico is no longer pressed in Lazio, but in the neighbouring region of Campagna. Todays Falerno is made with the red grape varieties Aglianico and Piedirosso, can develop into a strong powerful wine, full of character but is little known outside the regions of Lazio and Campagna.
Today Lazio has almost 118,560 acres of vineyards where at least 30% of the wine produced is DOC making Lazio one of the most important wine growing regions in Italy. Lazio mainly has a reputation for white wines, many of which are made from Malvasia and Trebbiano grape varieties. One of Lazio's best known wines is Orvieto, the vineyards of which extend a little way into Lazio and Frascati which is produced on the southern facing slopes of the Alban mountains. Frascati is always best drunk when its young and needs to be well chilled, for centuries it has been popular with the Roman clergy, but in those days it was made in a medium dry style or even sometimes as a sweet wine called Cannellino. Many wines in this area are made in the style of Frascati, including Colli Albani, Colli Lanuvini, Marino and Zagarola, as well as the white wines of Castelli Romani, Cori and Velletri, which also is made as a full bodied red wine.
In the vineyards of Lazio today there is much experimentation with international grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, Merlot and even more recently Shiraz is making an appearance in some forward thinking vineyards. This experimentation with international varieties has led to some stunning full bodied, complex wines with great ageing potential to be produced. A few of these international varieties were introduced to Lazio in the early 20th century by Venetian settlers who came to work on the draining of the Lazio marshlands and found the land suitable for wine growing. Lazio's native red variety, Cesanese, unfortunately is rarely able to produce good quality wine and its future is looking very bleak as many winemakers, where DOC regulations permit, are reducing the amount of Cesanese they plant in their vineyards and use in their wines, Many winemakers are now planting Sangiovese, which is becoming a common sight in most Lazio vineyards and a key blending variety in many of the regions wines, as well as been made into a couple of very impressive single varietal wines.
Lets take a look at the major wines of Lazio -
Probably the Lazio regions most famous and probably best loved wine. Frascati is produced from grapes grown on the southern facing slopes of the Colli Albani, to the south of the Eternal City itself. For many years the wines of Frascati were a favourite of the Roman population and of the many thousands of tourists a year that flock to visit the Eternal City and the Vatican State and were often made in medium dry style. Now due to modern wine making techniques Frascati is now produced in a medium dry but fruity style, with well balanced fruit flavours backed up with good levels of acidity.