Lazio (or Latium) is a place that visitors to Italy flock to. It is the Italian region that sits at the knee of the boot, with Italy’s most famous city, Rome. Visitors flock to the city, but wine lovers? It’s probably not the first region on their list.
For wine lovers Tuscany and the Tre-Venezie are probably a more likely draw. Wine geeks might even explore Marche for Verdicchio or Montepulciano or Puglia for some Negroamaro. But Lazio for wine? I suppose some may be familiar with Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone, or perhaps Frascati DOC, but much of this region has been pretty under the radar for all but the most deep-diving oenophiles.
This month some of those deep-diving oenophiles with the Italian Food Wine and Travel group are gathering to virtually explore the region. Led by Katarina Andersson of Grape Vine Adventures, we will explore the wines of the Lazio region, sharing our thoughts through in-depth articles (which you will find links to at the bottom of this piece), as well as gathering for a discussion on Twitter. You can read her invitation post here.
You can join us for the Twitter Chat on Saturday, April 3rd at 8 am PDT (1500 or 3 pm GMT).
Just use and follow the hashtag #ItalianFWT to join the conversation!
Lazio (Latium) its wines and history
Lazio sits on the Mediterranean side of Italy on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It has 360 kilometers of coastline and manages to touch 6 other regions, Tuscany to the North, Umbria to the Northeast, a tiny bit of Marche and Abruzzo to the East, Molise to the Southeast, and Campania to the South.
Winemaking in Lazio, dates to before the Romans with the Etruscans, which makes sense as the Etruscans had so much influence on nearby Tuscany. So wine has a long history here dating back to the 7th century BCE.
Malvasia di Candia, Malvasia Puntinata and Trebbiano are the varieties that Lazio is most famous for. White wines all. But there is more to the region than white wines. Cabernet and Merlot have been in this area at least since the 1700s and there are many other varieties; Grechetto, Aleatico, Bellone, Bombino, Cesanese, Nero Buono, just to name a few, that grow in this beautiful region for viticulture.
Today the Lazio region has 27 DOCs and 3 DOCGs, and the quality of wine continues to increase.
Finding a wine from Lazio
It can be difficult to find wines from Lazio, so rather than search, I went right to my favorite wine shop/bar Garagiste LV. They had two wines from the region, imported by Scuola di Vino, a red and a white, both low intervention wines with stories of passionate winemakers, so rarely than choose one, we went with both.
Both of these wineries are part of a natural-wine movement in Lazio that has been happening over the last couple of decades. In this region, so close to Rome, winemakers are choosing to focus on quality fruit from healthy vineyards. Vignerons are returning to tradition, in farming and winemaking.
The stories of our two wines are actually intertwined.
Le Coste di Gradoli, Lazio
Gianmarco Antonuzi and Clementine Bouveron met in Alsace and fell in love. They began Le Coste di Gradoli in 2004. Gianmarco had spent childhood summers in this area which is in the northernmost part of Lazio.
They planted over a dozen varieties to high density at 10,000 vines per hectare. Vines are ungrafted and each is trained up a stake, in the “Albarello” method, and yes, with this high density, everything must be done manually. All the farming here is done naturally and by hand.
Beginning with 3 hectares, they have grown to about 14 hectares, which includes olive groves, orchards, and woodland area in addition to vineyards. They apply biodynamics to their methods, while not Demeter certified, and look to biodiversity on the property.
In the cellar, everything is native ferment with no fining or filtering.
The soils here are volcanic and the warmth of this part of Italy is moderated by the nearby lake and by the elevation of the vineyards. From the vineyard, you can see Lake Bolsena and that view is seen in silhouette on the label.
Sete Natural Wines, Priverno, Lazio
Located in Priverno, about 100 kilometers south of Rome, Sete lies in a region with rich ancient agricultural tradition. Sadly, with recent decades and economic downturn, many of the vineyards were ripped out or abandoned.
Emiliano worked with Gianmarco Antonuzi of Le Coste di Gradoli and found the “vinnaturist” way appealing. In 2013 he and childhood friend Arcangelo created Sete (which means “thirst” in Italian).
They call their project “agri-cultura” the idea embedded in the culture, and they looked to bring back life to old vineyards in the Amaseno valley. The Amaseno Valley sits in the southern part of Lazio.
So they found local elderly farmers and began purchasing their grapes or renting their vineyards. They found more than vines, they found agricultural wisdom from these farmers.
They work about 3 hectares of vineyards that are divided into 11 parcels, all naturally without pesticides doing the manual work of tending to the vines. They incorporated a vegetable garden in the vineyard. This was the way it used to be done, vines and crops for the family. This aids in their biodiversity.
I reached out to Martina, Emiliano, and Arcangelo with Sete and they were kind enough to share with me some wonderful photos!
They explain the essense of the project on their site.
We have been recovering vineyards since 2013 and growing grapes in harmony with nature, telling through wine the changes in the places where we were born, grew up, returned and where we decided to stay.The generations of our grandparents and great-grandparents did not know the concept of biodiversity, however they were able to enhance it with subsistence agriculture based on polyculture and total respect for nature. The primary objective of the Sete Project is to recover and enhance this virtuous heritage by growing grapes according to the methods of natural agriculture (organic certification Soil and Health) and making wine with the minimum possible intervention.
SETE “Tropicale” 2019
90% Ottonese, 5% Trebbiano, 5% Moscato
This wine is a blend of Ottonese (another name for Bombino bianco), Trebbiano, and Moscato from vines that average 40 years old. These are white grapes, typical of the region, but not made in a typical style. These are fermented and aged on the lees for 8 months in fiberglass vats. No added sulfites, no fining or filtering.
My notes on the Sete “Tropicale”
Hazy with a deep gold color this natural wine did have a bit of pétillance upon opening that quickly dissipated. Unfined and unfiltered, there were floaties in the bottom, likely lees (yeast).
The nose was of lemon, Meyer lemon, lemon verbena, and wet hay and there was a bit of Volatile Acidity, but not to an unpleasant point. There were additional richer citrus notes of orange tangelo apple cider, almost apple cider vinegar, warm pineapple, and a hint of tarragon.
On the palate, it was dry with a note of tannins, perhaps from skin contact. High acid, medium body, but texturally rich, this has refreshing high acid. I tasted Meyer lemon, apple cider, lemon verbena, tangelo, and apple cider.
Michael found an almost hoppiness to it. (maybe unsurprising and Emiliano and Arcangelo began as beer lovers).
This is a delicious wine for the adventurous palate or the beer and cider lover, looking for a wine.
We paired this with Sunset, which is a perfect pairing. Especially on a cool spring day, when the richness of this wine is perfect for savoring as the sun sets. Michael had opted for a flute for his wine. My glass might have been better for getting the aromas, but his glass definitely took the better glamour shot!
Pairing – other than sunset
We did have a bit left when the sun was gone and we paired it with a dinner of Moroccan chicken with carrots, snap peas, and spicy green harissa.
The carrots were coated in ras el hanout a blend of spices including cardamom, cumin, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, ginger, chili, coriander, sweet and hot paprika, fenugreek, and turmeric. The addition of this spice lent itself beautifully to the wine.
Le Coste di Gradoli 2018 Vin Rosso
Made of Greghetto (the local name for Sangiovese) with a bit of Ciliegiolo, Colorino, Cannaiolo and Vaiano. This comes from 3 parcels of different ages and elevations. Destemmed the grapes spend 10 days on the skins and age for a year in chestnut casks.
My notes on the Le Coste Vino Rosso 2018
This wine had a pronounced nose with red fruits; red currant, tart cherry, red plum, and a hint of darker richer black fruits like black cherry and black plum. There were dried fruit notes of dried fig and prune and a slight herbal note of mint. Secondary notes of cedar and nutmeg and a bit of tobacco.
The wine is dry and has high acid, medium tannins, and medium body with pronounced flavors of redcurrants, red and black cherry and plum, and bits of the spicy notes of nutmeg. It has a medium-plus finish. This wine is delicious and I do not doubt that it will continue to evolve and become more delicious.
This wine, while beautiful on its own, screamed for food. Its high acid paired perfectly with a quick lasagna. This was a bottle that we savored over several hours.
The Italian Food Wine and Travel writers
This region has so much diversity in varieties and styles, I can’t wait to read the pieces by my colleagues. Check out the links below and don’t forget to join us Saturday morning on Twitter!
- 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 Our Good Life
- Susannah at Avvinare: Cesanese del Piglio, Classic Wines From Lazio
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator: “If You See Kay” — Lazio in Paso Robles? #ItalianFWT
- Marcia with The Joy of Wine shares: “Bellone: The Great White Grape of Lazio”
- Katarina at Grapevine Adventures: How Wine in Lazio is Reimagining its Past Greatness
Sources and Resources
Here are some of the great resources I found on the region and these wines!
More on Italian wines here on Crushed Grape Chronicles!
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.