The region of Lazio is not the most well known of Italy’s 20 regions for its wines. In fact, many people have only heard of Lazio because of its capital city, Rome. This region which lies in the center of Italy, bordered by Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo, Molise and Campania actually has five main provinces. Most of the wines made in Lazio are made in the area near Rome, known as the Castelli Romani. However, much new and innovative activity is taking place in the lesser known provinces.
There is a lot to say about the red wines from this region with their signature Cesanese grape but this post is about white wines. A host of native varieties grow in Lazio. Not all have their origin in Lazio such as Passerina which hails from Le Marche but a wonderful version is also made in Lazio by Casale della Ioria located in Arcuto. While they are very well known their Cesanese del Piglio, its the Passerina del Frusinate IGT that I am referring to.
Viterbo is in the Northern part of Lazio, halfway between Rome and the Tuscan city of Grosseto. One of the most famous wines to come out of the Lazio region is the wine known as Est! Est !! Est !!! from Montefiascone. Falesco, a well known producer, makes this delicious white wine from Trebbiano, Roscetto and Malvasia grapes on the same hillside where it was discovered.
Legend has it that Henry V of Germany was traveling to Rome with his army to receive the crown as the Holy Roman Emperor from Pope Pasquale II in 1111 together with a German Abbot by the name of Johannes Defuk who was supposed to be a great wine aficionado. The abbot would send ahead one of his people, a certain Martin, to try out the different wines. Martin would then mark the doorways of the inns where he had tasted good wines. In this way, Defuk would know where to stop. The code was to write the word Est if it was a good place to stop.
As the story goes, in Montefiascone, Martin was so impressed with the local wines that he wrote EST! EST!! EST!!! The legend goes on to say that the Defuk stopped for three days in Montefiascone on the way to the Papal palace. He returned on his way home to Germany. It is said that Defuk remained in Montefiascone for the rest of his life and eventually died from drinking too much wine. On his tombstone in the local Benedictine church of San Flaviano, Martin is said to have had written “herein lies my Master who died from drinking too much Est.”
While people malign this one, I had a version recently which was a perfect balm for summer. It’s the first white wine from Lazio everyone learns about and its indigenous grapes Trebbiano, Malvasia, and Roscetto are all worthy of note. Roscetto which may be new to you, it was to me too, is a white grape that can make still or late harvest wines. Some also suggest Roscetto is really Trebbiano Giallo but that is still under examination. It is only really produced by Falesco, according to this article from the Wine Spectator.
Sergio Mottura, a producer from this area must also be mentioned in any piece on the wines from Viterbo. He is famed for his interpretation of the Grechetto grape in his Grechetto Latour a Civitella
Latina is also a province in Lazio that is making a name for itself in terms of its wines. Perhaps one of the most well known wineries from this area is a young winery called Casale Del Giglio. Started in 1969 by Berardino Santarelli, the winery has been conducting research on which grapes are best suited to the area since 1984. Many international varieties are planted such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Syrah. Another producer from Latina that has been getting his share of attention is Marco Carpineti. He is considered to be an organic wine maker and is biologically certified, a rarity in the Italian wine panorama. Carpineti makes wines using white grape varieties such as Bellone, Arciprete Bianco (a clonal variety of Bellone), Malvasia, Trebbiano and the two varieties of Greco, locally named Moro and Giallo.
Latina is also home to one of the great sweet wines of Lazio, the Moscato di Terracina. The Pandolfo family of Sant’Andrea make a variety of versions of the Moscato running from dry to sweet with difficult names such as Oppidum for the dry, Templum for the Amabile version and Capitolium for the Passito. All are worth trying.
Together with Est, Est, Est, it was and is the white wines of Frascati and the Castelli Romani that Lazio was always famous for. I have had the good fortune to spend time in these areas thanks to a good friend who lives in Zaragolo, one of the Castelli Romani. She and her husband have helped me explore some of these wines. Frascati is usually made from Malvasia di Candida, Trebbiano, Greco, and Bombino, native white grapes. I’ve had versions that I like and others less so but the whole area and the wineries have made great strides in the past 10 years. Cannellino with Ciambelle di Vino is one of the dessert wines of Lazio that I love.
Another one that I have tried and really enjoyed was the Pallavicini dessert wine called Stillato, made from 100% Malvasia del Lazio. It is simply a symphony in your mouth with notes of apricot, tropical fruits, honey and vanilla. Approximately 25% of the wine is partially fermented in barriques made from Acacia wood which gives it a honeyed complexity on the palate. The Pallavicini make a very wide range of white and red wines. A fascinating family history goes along with that storied Roman name and great wines, more on that here.
As you might have guessed, I am a fan of the white wines of Lazio and am on my way to Rome in 10 days so really excited to try some new ones.
We will be having further discussion about the Native White Wines of Italy tomorrow morning at 11 AM ET. You are welcome to join us for twitter chat and will find us by following #ItalianFWT. We would love to hear about the Italian Wines that you have tried and enjoyed. Here are some of the topics that we will be discussing……..
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