When talking about Italian wine there is a well of history to source from, when talking about wine in Lazio the task at hand almost feels daunting. Wine in Lazio stems to the Etruscans and then there is the Roman Empire that played a big part in spreading the art of winemaking also all through Europe. Now, I am not going to go too deep into the history of ancient Etruria or the Roman Era as there is not enough space or time for that here. The theme this month in the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel group is Lazio, more precisely Wine in Lazio: following in the footsteps of great history. So, I will talk about some memories from pre-pandemic wine trips to Lazio where I had the opportunity to visit various wineries.
When going to Lazio, in most cases it means that you go to visit Rome without paying much attention to the other areas and provinces outside of Rome. It is true that tourists and wine lovers go almost everywhere nowadays in the search of more particular areas, however, still, it could be argued that Lazio lies a bit in the shadow of Rome.
When it comes to wine, Lazio has been a region that has perhaps not been considered as one of the main wine areas of interest in Italy. Compared to regions such as Tuscany, Piemonte, Veneto, Friuli, to just name a few, Lazio can perhaps be said to also have been a bit in the shadow of Italy itself. Recently, this has started to change as the interest in native grapes and a focus on local winemaking traditions has reawakened overall in Italy. Let’s hope that post-pandemic travel and tourism will be more sustainable and bring about a slower pace together with an interest in visiting lesser-known areas.
Let us discover more about Lazio and its native grapes and winemaking this month together with the #ItalianFWT group.
Wines of Lazio at the #ItalianFWT in April
The Italian Food, Wine, and Travel group – #ItalianFWT – will focus on Lazio in April under the theme Wine in Lazio: following in the footsteps of great history. The contributions this month will talk about topics that range from food and wine pairings to wines produced with low intervention, a look at an American wine made with grapes sourced from Lazio, and more.
How to Participate in the Twitter Chat
On Saturday, 3 April, at 11 am ET / 17.00 CEST the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel group will explore Wine in Lazio: following in the footsteps of great history in the #ItalianFWT chat on Twitter. All those of you who are interested in wine, food, and travel regarding Wine in Lazio are very welcome to participate in the chat on Saturday. It is always great to have new fellow Italian wine and food enthusiasts join and add new perspectives to the discussion.
Join us on Twitter on 3 April, by typing in the hashtag #ItalianFWT in the search field on Twitter and click Enter, thereafter, you click Latest which will show you all the live tweets. In that way, you can take part in the live discussion. After the chat, you can also head over to read and comment on the article writers’ blog posts. It’s always nice to get feedback on the articles.
Native Grapes in Lazio via Rapillo Winery
Lazio can make a show of fascinating grapes such as Bellone, Passerina (del Frusinate), Malvasia del Lazio, Cesanese del Piglio and d’Affile, and Nero Buono. In an earlier article, I talked about mainly Bellone and Nero Buono so here I will focus more on Passerina and Cesanese del Piglio and d’Affile.
Honestly, I had never tasted a Passerina del Frusinate and knew close to nothing about it until I went on a short press trip to Lazio a couple of years ago. The hashtag of that trip was #campagnaromane and the aim was to draw attention to the countryside outside of Rome. In general, we know the Passerina grape to be native to Le Marche and Abruzzo, but it is also grown in Lazio. The Passerina grown in Lazio is considered to be considerably different from the Passerina in Abruzzo and Le Marche. Still, a lot of tests and research need to be here, according to Ian D’Agatha (Native Wine Grapes of Italy, pp. 385-386). The Passerina grapes in Lazio are smaller and in some areas are said to give more aromatic wines.
On a sunny afternoon, we were driving towards the small Rapillo winery just outside Serrano, in the province of Frosinone, in Lazio. While driving, the sky started getting cloudy and turned quite sturm und drang. After that, it was like the sky opened up and the rain started pouring down. We were not discouraged though, when we arrived we got out of the car and ran towards the winery doors where we entered a small winery cellar that is more or less the cellar below their house. It was a universe of its own where we discovered down-to-earth winemaking focused on low intervention (natural wines, though I prefer to not use that term).
Antonella and her husband inherited the vineyards in 2000 and have since then step by step restored the old vineyards and renovated the winery. We got a tour of the winery below their house and then tasted their wines in their very homey kitchen. Their Passerina del Frusinate IGT is made with grapes from a 35-year-old vineyard. I remember it was a fresh wine with a mix of fruity, floral, and herby aromas with a nice smooth, mineral, slightly sapid, fruity, and herbal taste. A wine perfect as an aperitivo as well as with lighter dishes.
Cesanese is a wine that has been enjoyed since ancient times. Pliny the Elder talked about a red wine produced on the hills in the “Cesae” area in his Naturalis Historia. “Cesae” apparently means clearings, i.e. the clearings where trees had been cut down to be able to plant vineyards. The Roman Emperor Nerva is also said to have liked wines that were made around Piglio, so much so that he decided to build a house there. The first written mention of the Cesanese wine can apparently be dated to 1825, according to Ian D’Agatha (Native Wine Grapes of Italy, pp. 246-247). A funny anecdote is that apparently the porn star Savanna Samson’s first wine in 2004 also put Cesanese on the international map. She has a winery in Lazio where Roberto Cipressi, a well-known winemaker, is working with her. I have not tasted her Cesanese, but I am sure it is a nice wine. However, let’s face it…boobs sell wine…whether it’s a famous porn star or a meager female wine influencer. ,-)
There are two different varieties of Cesanese, that is the Cesanese comune that you can find a bit all over Lazio and the Cesanese d’Affile which is specific to the area around the town Affile not far from Rome. The Cesanese del Piglio that is produced in the southern part of the Frosinone province is a DOCG while the Cesanese d’Affile and Cesanese Olevano Romano are DOC wines.
Rapillo winery makes three different Cesanese del Piglio DOCG wines. Here, I will talk about their Trasimondo Cesanese del Piglio DOCG as it is a quite particular wine. When they described it to me it sounded more like an Amarone made with Cesanese, and I was intrigued. A part of the grapes are dried – appassite – and then wine undergoes two fermentations making it into a very unique wine.
Even though a part of the grapes are appassite, the wine is still dry with lots of notes of the classical notes of cherry and spices, creamy texture, and it has a body and structure that makes it special. They told me that they wanted to better enhance the characteristics of the local territory with this wine. A wine definitely to taste if you can find it. Their production is very small but I think they have an importer and some minor presence in the US.
See the other bloggers’ contributions
Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Lazio in California: The Quintessential Roman Pasta + 2017 Big Sur Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve
Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm: Alberico Appia Antica 400 Rosso 2016 paired with Stracci di antrodoco
Terri at Our Good Life: Pietro Est! Est!! Est!!! with Crab Dip Crostinis
Susannah at Avvinare: Cesanese del Piglio, Classic Wines From Lazio
Gwendolyn at Wine Predator: “If You See Kay” — Lazio in Paso Robles? #ItalianFWT
Marcia at Joy of Wine: Bellone – one of Lazio’s Great White Grapes
Jennifer at Vino Travels: Frascati: The White Wine of Lazio
Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles: Lazio – Exploring low intervention wines inspired by tradition and nature #Italian FWT
Katarina at Grapevine Adventures: How Wine in Lazio is Reimagining its Past Greatness