Located in central Italy, Emilia Romagna is often cited as the country’s food capital. Home to the cities of Bologna, Parma and Modena, famed of course for ragù, prosciutto and balsamic vinegar, the region’s wines also offer plenty of excitement.
To some extent the region’s most important wine is Romagna Albana, the DOCG wine focussed on the white Albana grape. As the first DOCG created in Italy there was plenty of hype around and controversy around its establishment. While some highlighted the potential of the variety to create complex wines, many others laughed at the typically Italian levels of bureaucracy and cronyism that enabled this fairly obscure territory to find itself leading Italy’s wine hierarchy. Regardless, it can produce curious white wines with plenty of mineral character. With age they can take on extra nutty flavours. It’s not always easy to produce good Albana and there are plenty of poor examples floating around.
Of increasing interest is the white Otrugo grape which, is cultivated in the hills surrounding the town of Piacenza. Although local to the area, it only really caught on in the 1970s and eventually achieved appellation status in 1984 as Ortrugo dei Colli Piacentini DOC. In recent years the wine has benefited from reduced yields and increased understanding of the variety. When produced in a frizzante or Spumante style it can make for a very pleasant refreshing fizz.
The other wine of importance for the region is Lambrusco and its various interpretations. Internationally Lambrusco is frequently misunderstood. It is often dismissed as a cheap fizzy red wine but in reality there is a growing movement of very serious producers crafting expressions of Lambrusco that showcase varietal and territorial integrity. They can also make for wonderful food pairings.
Bosco Eliceo is home to white wines made predominantly with Trebbiano Romagnolo and Sauvignon Blanc. There is also some red wine produced from Merlot and the local Fortana grape.
One of the oldest DOCs in Emilia Romagna, the hills around Bologna, or the Colli Bolognesi are home to range of different wine styles. Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon are behind the majority of red wines in the area while Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco are common white wines.
Colli Bolognesi Pignoletto broke away from the Colli Bolognesi DOC in 2010 in order to showcase and promote the quality of the Grechetto di Todi grape grown in the hills around Bologna. A sparkling wine can also be made. Some producers refer to the variety as Grechetto Gentile.
The small DOC of Colli di Faenza cultivates a range of different grape varieties to make both red and white wine.
Colli di Parma covers red wines made from a base of Barbera and Bonarda. There is also plenty of demand for sparkling wines produced from Malvasia di Candia Aromatica.
Both red and white wines are made in the Colli di Rimini DOC. Biancame is growing in popularity, as is Grechetto di Todi. Reds generally focus on either Sangiovese or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Colli di Scandiano e di Canossa DOC is home to a wide range of grape varieties. While Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were popular there is growing interest in local grapes such as Marzemino and the various Lambrusco varieties.
The hills around Imola produce simple, easy drinking wines from Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Although Pignoletto is also grown in the area these wines are now labelled as Pignoleto DOC.
Colli Piacentini DOC produces a large amount of wine from an extensive list of grape varieties that are typical to the wider Emilia Romagna region. Chardonnay is important here, but local grapes such as Ortrugo and Croatina are gaining in popularity.
Colli Romagna Centrale, the hills in the centre of the region produce white wines from Chardonnay and Bombino Bianco while reds are generally made with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Barbera.
Emilia IGP, sometimes expressed using the name of the variety dell’Emilia IGP is a catch all appellation for wine making in Emilia Romagna. Literally dozens of red and white varieties are permitted. Styles and quality differ enormously.
The wines of Gutturnio pull together Barbera and Croatina with interesting results. Still largely unknown outside of Italy, Gutturnio can provide some surprisingly good wines.
Lambrusco di Sorbara was established as a DOC in 1970 and covers in excess of 1000 hectares. Much of this produces sparkling red wines from the Lambrusco di Sorbara grape, and this is frequently blended with Lambrusco Salamino.
Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro is a sparkling red wine named directly after the variety growing around the town of Castelvetro di Mondena.
Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce DOC is one of the more fragrant Lambrusco wines. It is produced from the Lambrusco Salamino di Santa Croce variety.
The wines of Modena are fairly varied, with dry whites produced from Grechetto, Trebbiano Toscano and Montù, while reds are generally made with a variety of different Lambrusco cultivars.
Ortrugo dei Colli Piacentini DOC, produced from the white Ortrugo variety in the dry and infertile hills of Piacenza is one of Italy’s most curious wines. Although overlooked for many years in favour of the more aromatic Mavasia varieties, Ortrugo is making a bit of a comeback.
The white wines of Pignoletto are produced with the Pignoletto grape, also known as Grechetto di Todi in Umbria. It often appears as a still wine, although plenty of producers make both frizzante and spumante versions. Some producers use the sub zones of Colli d’Iola, Modena and Reno on the labels.
Reggiano DOC produces red and rose wine from a range of different Lambrusco varieties, as well as sparkling red and rose.
The little known appellation of Reno produces white wines from either Albana and / or Montù.
The large Romagna appellation covers a wide variety of wine making styles from a plethora of permitted grapes. Sangiovese dominates red wine production, while Albana, Bombino Bianco and Trebbiano Toscano are prevalent white varieties.
Originally known as Albana di Romagna, this DOC was promoted up to DOCG status in 1987 and then renamed to Romagna Albana in 2011. It produces high quality white wines from the Albana in a dry and passito style.
The Rubicone IGP is one of the most used appellations in Emilia Romagna with estimates suggesting there are 7000 hectares under vine. Much of this is simple, easy drinking still and sparkling wine made from a huge list of different grape varieties.