Introducing Lazio as a wine region is rather challenging. It simultaneously a place of huge potential and startling disappointment. Arguably one of Italy’s most misunderstood wine regions, it is certainly one of the least fashionable internationally. The prevailing perception that Lazio is merely a source of cheap white wine and little else is a fairly common one, yet to believe it is to miss out on the best the region has to offer. A new generation of winemakers, with a renewed and welcomed interest in local grape varieties, is starting to make wines worthy of discussion and attention.
Lazio, located on the the west coast of central Italy, and home to the eternal city, is a region that boasts 30 different DOC wines. Most of them are scarcely known and many barely function, but nevertheless, they all theoretically offer something slightly different for the wine lover to get stuck in to. The majority are in the south of the region, in the rolling hills just south of Rome. Here, on these ancient slopes, known as the Castelli Romani, winemaking is easy. Conditions are perfect.
The majority of wine lovers know Lazio for its famous and historically significant Frascati wine. Produced from Malavasia and Trebbiano around the town of Frascati, the wine is known for its light, easy drinking simplicity. In recent years Frascati’s reputation has suffered. Like many classic Italian white wine areas, the 1970s and 80s saw the creeping influence of big bottlers, whose push for volume over quality resulted in lakes of uninteresting wine. Much like what happened in Soave, a Superiore version of Frascati was upgraded to DOCG status in a bid to protect the image of Frascati. The decision has not yet had the impact it’s had in Soave, although Frascati Superiore benefits from strict production rules that have the creation of quality wine at their core.
White wines dominate winemaking in Lazio and the quality revolution that has happened all over Italy has cleared a path for the traditional Frascati varieties of Malvasia Bianca di Candia and Malvasia del Lazio (also known as Malvasia Puntinata) to show just how good they can be. Many are now labelled as Lazio IGP. These can be frequently found blended with Bellone, a grape we will almost certainly be hearing more about in the coming years. Trebbiano Toscano and Grechetto are also found. Few producers specify which type of Grechetto they use and so it is assumed that the majority is the more common Grechetto di Orvieto, rather than the variety from Todi in Umbria.
Since 2008, the red Cesanese grape has been on the radar of Italian wine lovers. The region’s first DOCG was awarded to Cesanese del Piglio, located in the Province of Frosinone, and benefits from the slopes of the Ernici Mountains and the Valle del Sacco and the area’s iron rich soils. A superiore and a riserva version exists and there is a growing number of producers seeking to showcase the ageing potential of Cesanse. The variety has caught the eye of producers and there’s now a real movement of people keen to put Lazio on the map with this local indigenous grape. Two different types of Cesanese have been identified - one from around the village of Affile, the other known as Cesanese Commune. It’s believed that Cesanese di Affile has the better potential for quality wine. These grapes appear in the Cesanese di Olevano Romano DOC and the Cesanese del Piglio DOCG.
Sometimes just referred to as Piglio DOCG, Cesanese del Piglio is home to quality red wines produced with the Cesanese di Affile grape.
Cesanese di Olevano Romano, or sometimes referred to simply as Olevano Romano is a red wine made in Lazio. Made from at least 85% of either Cesanese Comune or Cesanese di Affile they can also be found in Superiore or Riserva style.
Once one of Italy’s most famous white wines, Frascati produces inexpensive white wine from Malvasia Bianca di Candia and/or Malvasia del Lazio.
Lazio IGP is a catch all regional appellation for winemaking throughout the Lazio region. Traditional grape varieties can be used as well as a range of International ones.
Taking its name from the village of Gradoli in Provincia di Viterbo, Aleatico di Gradoli DOC produces still red wines from the Aleatico variety as well as Liquoroso and Passito style wines.
Aprilia is typical of the Italian DOC system. It was created in 1980 but there is little evidence of any producers bothering to support it.
Named after the small village of Capena, this little white wine producing zone around 30km north of Rome is home to wines produced from local grapes such as Malvasia Bianca di Candia and Malvasia del Lazio and Malvasia Bianca Lunga.
Cannellino di Frascati is a premium quality DOCG area for sweet wine in Lazio. It is a blend of Malvasia Bianca di Candia and / or Malvasia del Lazio and potentially a number of other local varieties.
One of Lazio’s iconic winemaking areas, just 30 minutes from Rome. Despite this, the best areas have become their own DOCs and as such the Castelli Romani label tends to provide generic white wines.
Cerveteri DOC is a tiny appellation in Lazio where wine wine is produced form Trebbiano Toscano, known here as Procanico and red wines from Sangiovese and Montepulciano.
Cesanese di Affile DOC is sometimes shortened simply to Affile DOC. It produces red wines from the Cesanese di Affile variety.
Colli della Sabina is a tiny appellation Lazio specialising in Sangiovese and the white Malvasia del Lazio.
An area to watch, Cori is producing exciting dry whites, either in the Bianco style or as a varietal Bellone wine. Red wines are made from Nero Buono.
Frascati Superiore is a separate product appellation from Frascati. It requires lower yields and a higher minimum alcohol level than the basic Frascati DOC.
Genazzano DOC is a tiny appellation used for the production of Malvasia di Candia and Ciliegolo.
Marino DOC covers white wines produced from typical Lazio varieties such as Bellone, Bombino Bianco and Malvasia Bianca di Candia.
Roma DOC covers winemaking close Rome’s city limits. White wines can be made with Bellone and / or Malvasia del Lazio.
Terracina DOC, sometimes known as Moscato di Terracina DOC produces white, sparkling and sweet passito style wines from the little known Moscato di Terracina grape.
Velletri is a small DOC in Lazio producing white wines from Malvasia and Trebbiano and red wines from Cesanese and Montepulciano.
Zagarolo is a still white wine produced from Malvasia Bianca di Candia and Trebbiano Toscano. There are a small number of ‘superiore’ versions.