Lazio (Latium in Latin) is a region located in central Italy and home to the famous capital city of Rome. Although the region may be the second most populated of Italy, its wine presence might be one of the most overlooked in the whole country. Lazio shares borders with Tuscany and Umbria to the north, Marche, Abruzzo, and Molise to the east, Campania to the south, and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west.
Lazio is made up of 5 provinces; Frosinone, Latina, Rieti, Metropolitan City of Rome Capital, and Viterbo. The ancient region of Lazio began cultivating vines before the birth of Rome in 753 BC. The first record of winemaking was by the Etruscans, who were also the first inhabitants of the region around 600BC. Economic prosperity was dependent on the cultivation of vines by the Etruscans, making Lazio’s ancient wine history both unique and sacred.
THE TERROIR OF LAZIO
Lazio’s bustling region is hilly, with pockets of small mountainous areas in the eastern and southern districts. There are numerous ancient volcanoes that pepper the region making modern-day viticulture rich and complex. Along the coastline, Lazio has a typical Mediterranean climate, but as you shift inland towards the Apennine Mountains, the temperatures get cooler.
The Tiber River runs through Lazio until it drains into the Tyrrhenian Sea. The ancient volcanic hills that are sprinkled along the river provide well-drained, fertile, phosphorus-rich and porous land, delivering proper nourishment for the grapes. A combination of limestone, lava and tufa soils which are rich in potassium, have an affinity to white grapes, ensuring a delicate and complex balance of acidity.
Lazio’s typical Mediterranean climate of rainy winters and long hot summers make its terrain ideal for the cultivation of vines.
THE WHITE WINES OF LAZIO
Malvasia del Lazio (Malvasia Puntinata) – Malvasia del Lazio is a member of the large Malvasia group (17 different kinds in Italy). This is one of the most ancient grapes of Lazio and is typically grown in the Castelli Romani area. Malvasia del Lazio is fruity, floral and is one of the grapes in Lazio's most famous wine, Frascati.
Quick history fact – There is a famous wine from Lazio called Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone. The Italian dry white wine is a blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes. The myth goes that a bishop who was on a pilgrimage to Rome made his way through the town in Lazio of Montefiascone. He sent his servant to write the word “Est!” (Latin for “it is”) on every door in town where the wine was good. Turns out, the wine was so good in Montefiascone that his servant ended up writing “Est! Est!! Est!!!” on the doors of each inn. The bishop arrived after, realized the wine was too good, ended his pilgrimage, and stayed there enjoying great wine until his death.
Bellone (Cacchione) – A light-skinned white wine grape variety which is grown mostly in the vineyards around the capital of Rome. The wines produced from this grape have an intense yellow color, citrus notes, and a light mineral accent likely due to the soils of volcanic origin.
Grechetto Bianco - This wine offers aromas and flavors of green melon, white peaches, and a distinct amount of chalkiness. This grape makes a tangy, full-bodied dry white wine.
THE RED WINES OF LAZIO
Cesanese – The region where these grapes are grown covers a lot of the hilly land to the south of Rome. The grape ripens late in the sunny climates around Rome. The characteristics of this grape can exhibit ripe red cherries, minimal oak, and touches of red pepper.
Sangiovese - Popularly known for its abundant growth in Tuscany, Sangiovese grapes are also planted in areas of Lazio too. This is a dark-berried vine that has flavors of strawberry, hints of spiciness, and can take on an oaky flavor profile when aged in barrels. High acidity and light-bodied characteristics.
Nero Buono – A dark-skinned red wine grape variety which is native to the town of Cori in Lazio. Aromas of stewed raspberry, red cherry, and tart plum. The wine is on the fuller side with high acidity and low tannins.
THE FOOD OF LAZIO
Traditional Lazian cuisine has made its mark by becoming famous in almost every part of the world. Italy’s most famous pasta dishes come from Rome.
These include cacio e pepe (grated Pecorino cheese, pasta water, and black pepper), carbonara (eggs and guanciale), Amatriciana (tomato sauce and guanciale), gricia (guanciale, black pepper, and Pecorino), and arrabiata (a spicy tomato sauce). These beloved sauces are often eaten with long pasta noodles like bucatini, spaghetti, and fettuccine.
A lesser-known Lazian works of art include carciofi alla romana: fried Roman artichoke. It’s prepared in each household and served in all restaurants in the springtime. The artichokes are braised in white wine, olive oil, garlic, and herbs. The result is a tender, flavorful, and tradition-rich dish.
Vignarola is a vegetable stew that tastes of fresh springtime. Fresh artichokes, broad beans, and peas are cooked in white wine and lemon juice.
Pollo alla romana is beloved around the region as Lazians eat a lot of chicken. A whole chicken is jointed into pieces, braised in white wine with tomatoes and pepper until tender.
Author: Melissa Norton ©