The Wine: Alea Viva Aleatico 2019
Andrea Occhipinti Alea Viva Aleatico is a red natural wine made from 100% Aleatico organic grapes grown near Lake Bolsena, Lazio, near the border with Tuscany. Spontaneous fermentation with native yeast, minimal sulfur at bottling. Amazing medium-bodied red wine from a very talented and yet little known winemaker.
The Producer: Andrea Occhipinti
Andrea Occhipinti (no relation to the more famous Arianna) makes wine on the slopes of Bolsena, a lake in Lazio close to the Tuscan border and an hour or so north of Rome. He fell in love with Lazio while studying agriculture in the region and eventually purchased 4 hectares of vines in the mid-nineties on the slopes of an ancient volcano 450 metres above sea level and decided to work exclusively with Lazio's indigenous grape varieties including Aleatico and Grechetto.
The Region: Lazio
Lazio, Latium in Latin, is located in Central Italy, its capital is Rome and is one of the biggest and most populous regions of Italy. Lazio was first inhabited by the Etruscans and then by the Latins and Romans. Lazio was always a wine producing region and borders with other historically important Italian wine regions - Tuscany (North), Campania (South), Umbria and Abruzzo (East).
The Romans and the Roman Empire as a political and cultural entity had the biggest impact on the development of the region: trade, agriculture, technology, and also winemaking, where deeply influenced by the capital, Rome, known as "Caput Mundi" - the capital of the world. Falernian wine, the most famous wine of ancient Rome and perhaps ancient times, was produced from Aglianico grapes grown the border of Lazio and Campania.
However, after the Barbaric invasions and the fall of the Roman Empire, the region went through several centuries of underdevelopment and winemaking stopped being a central part of everyday life. After the unification of Italy, in 1961, when Rome became the capital of the newly formed nation state, winemaking was rediscovered in an attempt to reestablish the glory of the past.
The Terroir of Lazio
Lazio is a hilly region - Rome is famously built on the "Seven Hills of Rome". These are mostly hills of volcanic origin, which is an ideal characteristic for winemaking as we have seen for other wine regions - Soave, Etna, Taurasi, Sannio among many others.
Volcanic soils tend to be very well-drained and rich in nutrients such as potassium. In a similar way to the soils of Soave and Sannio, Lazio volcanic soils are conducive to growing excellent white grapes. Winds and cool breezes from the Tyrrhenian Sea, Lazio has a long coastline to the West, also play a factor in the region's viticulture, which benefits from relatively mild temperatures and good aeration and is protected to the East by the Apennines.
The White Wines of Lazio
Trebbiano and Malvasia di Candia are the local heroes, usually vinified in a style that prefers roundness and a certain chewiness combined with an off-dry profile. Nowadays things are somewhat different, also thanks to a plethora of natural winemakers who are embracing Lazio's indigenous varietals but are adopting a different winemaking approach.
Lazio's white wines are crisp, light, refreshing and low in alcohol, meant to be drunk young. Acidity is the main element, and winemakers have learned how to capitalize on Lazio's grapes high and yet well balanced natural acidity. Le Coste di Gradoli is one of the best examples of this natural renaissance, which also reinterpreted the ancient skin contact technique.
Some of the most popular whites are Frascati, Orvieto, Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone - a real hidden gem.
The Red Wines of Lazio
Red wines from Lazio are also going through a major renaissance thanks to natural winemakers. The most important grapes are Sangiovese, Cesanese, perhaps the most representative Lazio indigenous grape varietal, Aleatico Montepulciano, and Nero Buono di Cori. In Lazio, there are more than 200 hundred grape varietals and some of the red wines are field blends of mostly unknown grapes.
Some of the most popular are Cesanese del Piglio (or Piglio), which is the only Lazio DOCG, and Aleatico di Gradoli (a sweet wine) along with Sangiovese and other varietals common in Central Italy, Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo, and Canaiolo.