When in Rome, Drink Like the Romans
Visitors to the Eternal City are often faced with difficult choices when it comes to deciding what to leave on and off an itinerary with so much art, architecture and history on offer. But along with discovering the iconic treasures of this magnificent city, there is much pleasure to be found in exploring another very important Roman passion: the food and wine.
While some Rome tours might cover this aspect to a certain degree, for those with a special interest it's not enough to simply pay lip service to the important contributions the city has made to Italian cuisine and the lasting legacy it's provided in terms of international gastronomy. Rome tours entirely devoted to the authentic wine and culinary traditions of the city bring them to life in the most delicious way.
The fertile wine producing area that encompasses the nine communes to the south-east of Rome is known as Castelli Romani. The mountainous microclimate and rich, volcanic soil makes for ideal grape growing conditions and wine has been produced in this region for more than 2,000 years.
While the wines from Lazio don’t have the star power of some of the other high-profile Italian regions, in recent times the area has been experiencing somewhat of a Renaissance in its viticulture. Of the mostly white varietals, Frascati, Grechetto, Bellone, Est! Est! Est!, Cesanese and the Super Lazio blends are the best known.
Frascati: The so-called "Golden Wine" is the one most associated with the Roman Empire and is mentioned often throughout Italian literature. The still and sparkling whites produced under the Frascati name come in both dry and sweet styles. To carry the label the wines must be produced from at least 50% of the Malvasia bianca di Candia grape under DOC rules. The distinctive citrus flavours of Frascati lend themselves well as an accompaniment to fish dishes, appetisers and cheeses.
Est! Est! Est!: This wine is made from a blend of Malvasia and Trebbiano grapes. With its perfectly delightful name, this wine is surprisingly complex in flavour, although very light and fresh. Its full name is Est! Est! Est! di Montefiascone and the story behind it goes back to an ancient tradition, when the word est ("it is") was written on the door of an inn where quality wine was served. Clearly the presence of three "ests" was a good endorsement! The wine is ideally paired with rich pastas and the traditional Carciofi alla Giudìa (Jewish artichokes).
Grechetto: While Orvieto, from where the Grechetto wines are produced, is primarily in Umbria, it does also encompass a small area in Lazio. Grechetto di Orvieto is one of Umbria's most renowned wines - using a blend of around 15-25% Grechetto. The traditional favourites of Italian royalty, the wines from this region were originally quite sweet in flavour, but have been adapted for the modern palate to a dry style. Similarities with Provence Rosé have been drawn, and the blend of Grechetto grapes with Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia (among others) produces a distinct texture and fruity notes. These varietals provide a beautiful complement to herby pastas and fresh vegetable dishes.
Bellone: The Bellone grape has been cultivated since Roman times and is a vital component of the region's viticulture. Bellone Bianco, the white variety, is mostly used to produce delicate wines with fresh, light flavours, but is also sometimes also used in sweeter varietals. The red grape, Bellone Nero, is less commonly cultivated today. The perfect food pairings with single-variety Bellone Bianco wines include slow cooked chicken and lamb dishes and vegetable pastas.
Cesanese: Cesanese grapes have also been cultivated since antiquity and produce wines with wonderful colour and rich, intense flavours. One of the rare reds from Lazio, for those who like deep fruity notes and warm, balanced tannins it is an absolute delight to the palate. In fact, it is this grape that is responsible (in the most part) for putting the region squarely back on the Italian wine-producing map. It is paired excellently with rich pork, lamb and sheep stews, as well as heavy Gnocchi alla Romana, saltimbocca, polenta and sausage dishes.
Super Lazio: The volcanic soils of Lazio are the perfect environment for the cultivation of French-origin varietals. The blends produced from grapes including Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah (to name a selection) are making a name as rivals to their Tuscan counterparts. The so-called "Super Lazio" blends go under a plethora of names so are not really easy to identify (easier with the benefit of an expert guide!) – but once tasted are not easily forgotten.
Discover Food and Wine Traditions on Dedicated Rome Tours
Exploring the food and wine of Lazio on dedicated small group Rome tours allows you to appreciate the depth and unique flavours of centuries-old gastronomic traditions. With an expert guide to share their knowledge and historical insights, you'll be able to experience the authentic tastes of this wonderful region just as they have been enjoyed for centuries.
Rose Magers is an Australian-born Italophile and the founder of ArtViva. With an international reputation for excellence and creativity, ArtViva are at the forefront of escorted day tours in Italy. Rose has indulged her own passion for history and the arts by designing an innovative range of exceptional small group Rome tours and experiences, from guided visits to view the masterpieces of the great art galleries to unforgettable Italian cookery classes.
Writer and Online Marketing Manager in London.