Lazio is starting to rock as a wine producing region with some wonderful Lazio wine producers doing great things to raise the profile of Lazio wines. Producers are taking Lazio native grapes and playing with them to elevate wines and the region to a whole new level.
Lazio has it all: volcanic soil, areas with a maritime influence, mountains, lakes, sandy coastline soil and islands.
Tune in for a deep dive into Lazio wine - the best producers, native grape varietals, where to buy online and the top 4 Rome enoteche (wine bars) for expert sommeliers, guided tastings and Lazio wine purchase.
About sommelier Cynthia Chaplin
Sommelier Cynthia Chaplin works at Vinitaly International in Verona. She's a dynamo in the wine field and is always busy teaching and presenting, or following courses and certifications. As she says, there's always something new to learn in the wine sector. Cynthia is also a podcaster on VOICES the Italian wine podcast. Find Cynthia on Instagram and Facebook. Cynthia is my go-to wine gal and we love to chat about everything that's Italian wine.
Why Lazio isn’t ranked as one of Italy’s premier wine regions
It’s in part historical. During the second world war when the Nazis were in retreat from Rome they followed a scorched earth policy and devastated many of the vineyards and wine cellars. Post World War II a lot of wine growers didn't return. Those who did return often sought the assistance of French wine makers, and produced wines with international grape varietals like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Native indigenous Lazio grape varietals were overlooked and left behind. More importantly there was a loss of focus and identity among Lazio winemakers.
Additionally, the wait staff in Rome and throughout Lazio often serves clients some of the better known varietals and wines from other regions rather than showcasing Lazio wines. They often serve pricier wines from other regions, or wines customers are already familiar with.
I love wine served in beautiful wine glasses. These wine glasses with hand-painted stems and base from Deruta are my favorites.
Lazio's best wines and producers
Some of the great and better known Lazio wines are made with international grape varietals rather than indigenous grapes. These larger producers include Omino Romana, Sergio Mottura in the Viterbo area, in northern Lazio, and Casale del Giglio.
Casale del Giglio is a large commercial producer that makes around 20 different wines. One is Mater Matuta, a wonderful red wine but it’s made with Syrah, an international grape. In recent years Casale del Giglio has started making wines like Anthium, a delicious wine that uses the indigenous Lazio grape bellone.
The Famiglia Cotarella winery - ex-Falesco winery, is owned by the Cotarella brothers. Their Falesco wine is made with a native Umbrian grape, Roscetto.
Falesco was originally made in Montefiascone, near Lake Bolsena, best known for the Est Est Est wine.
Est Est Est has a wonderful story that's probably part legend and part truth. Back in the 12th century a German bishop known as quite a gourmand sent ahead his delegate before traveling to Italy. He asked him to write “est” on the door wherever he encountered a locale with great food and wine. Est is Latin for “it is here”. When he arrived in Montefiascone he had a wonderful white wine made with a Malvasia del Lazio blend with Trebbiano Toscano, so good that he wrote Est Est Est on the door. Apparently the bishop and his delicate never left Montefiascone. He's buried there and there's an annual celebration in his honor every summer.
Falesco makes the best example of this wine, Poggio dei Gelsi (Roscetto 40%, Trebbiano 30%, Malvasia 30%).
The other Falesco wines are made with international grapes. The Cotarella daughters now run the business and have restyled it. They remain focused on international and Umbrian styled wines which makes sense as the winery is located on the Lazio-Umbria border.
Roscetto, greccheto, Trebbiano Toscano and montepulciano grapes are native to Umbria and as Viterbo is right on the Umbria-Lazio border the case can be made that wines made with these grapes are true Lazio wines.
The grapes historically associated with, and native to, Lazio are bellone (white) and nero buono (red), and cesanese.
Bellone and nero buono grapes grow along the coast south of Rome. Wines made with these native grapes were drunk by the Caesars, although back in ancient times the wines would have been sweet wines.
Marco Carpinetti was the first Lazio winery to be certified organic and makes some great wines using the bellone grape.
Cincinnato, in the lovely hill town of Cori, also produces wonderful wines with bellone and nero buono grapes.
As you head south of Rome you might want to continue along the coast to visit one of the regions most charming hill towns with beachfront: Sperlonga. Flavor of Italy offers weekend and weeklong culinary experiences to this charming town.
Cesanese is a difficult grape to work with and needs lots of love and care. It needs to ripen fully otherwise some cesanese wines can have green vegetal, almost woody, characteristics. Cesanese grows in very high yields so if a producer doesn't keep the yields down and allow the grape to mature fully the wines can be very poor quality.
The Perinelli family’s Casale della Ioria winery makes excellent cesanese and has for generations. They make an incredible Cesanese Classico Superiore Riserva. It's elegant and sophisticated with black cherry, herbal notes.
Raffaele Schiavella is a very small producer in Genazzano, a hill town southeast of Rome. Raffaele is doing something quite different with the cesanese grape. He makes a blanc de noir sparkling white wine. Raffaele uses the metodo classico, or champagne method, which yields a sparkling wine with lovely biscuity, brioche, and tiny fruity berry notes. It’s aged at least three years on its yeasts in the bottle. (A prosecco, by contrast, uses the tank method of aging - three months start to finish).
It pairs really well with some of Lazio's fatty dried sausages and salumi, and with some of Lazio's richer sauces or with a cacio e pepe. Try my delicious Cacio e Pepe with pears.
He also does sparkling rosé that is tank method and a rosé that is champagne method: layers and layers of fruit and floral, a jammy note, peach and raspberry - wonderful layers of complexity and a beautiful color. He also makes a still rosé but it's really his sparkling rosés that stand out.
Raffaele Schiavella is a very small producer and he sells almost all of his sparkling wine to the Vatican.
Frascati wines are produced southeast of Rome. Made with the malvasia del Lazio grape, it’s usually blended with bambino bianco or Trebbiano toscana. Just as there are some very bad cesanese wines there are also some bad Frascati wines so you have to look for producers who’ve been making this wine for a long time, and in limited quantities.
Casale Marchese makes a wonderful Frascati superiore, Torre del Piano. It's a still, dry white wine blend with malvasia del Lazio and Trebbiano toscana, and a little bit of bellone. It's aged about two years first in steel then a bit in oak to build body, texture and structure, and then bottle-aged.
Casale Marchese also makes Canalino, a wonderful sweet dessert wine made with the same blend. It has notes of candied fruit peel and dried apricot but it also has an acidic spine to it. It's very unusual and delicate, and wonderful with cheese. Try this wine with a Lazio pecorino cheese.
Every September the small town of Marino holds a harvest festival that features Frascati wine. The town fountain flows with wine and people bring their empty bottles and fill up for free. There's a medieval parade and the town is decked out with grapes.
Best places to buy Lazio wine
First try your favorite wine shop (and importer or supplier) - let your wine shop owner know what wine you’re looking for and often the owner can get it for you.
Buy directly from the producer - some of the smaller producers sell wine directly so contact them by email or phone.
Tannico is one of the better online sites to purchase wine, with a fabulous selection. They also have a wine club.
Vivino, is a user generated site so what's written about wines may be written by a novice wine drinker. The Vivino founder now weights wine reviews so you'll know if it’s a review written by a sommelier, or by a wine educator. They have a good selection of online wines.
Roscioli Wine Club - Rimessa Roscioli has a wonderful Italian wine club well worth checking out. You can also contact Roscioli directly by email or phone and the owners speak perfect English.
One of the great features of the Roscioli Wine Club is member access to Roscioli's 1000+ Italian wine producer videos.
Rome’s top four wine bars (enoteche)
if you're looking for the best places in Rome to find an excellent selection of wine with a staff of well-informed sommeliers and sales people these are the perfect enoteche for you.
Enoteca Costantini - As soon as you step inside head right downstairs where you'll find wine experts ready to guide you through tasting and purchase of the very best of Italian wines. They have thousands of wines to choose from and they also ship overseas. This enoteca is in the Piazza Cavour area of Rome.
Bernabei opened its first wine shop in Trastevere, Rome in 1933. Since then it's grown and opened enoteche throughout Italy. Bernabei also has an extensive online shop. Bernabei offers all kinds of wine tasting experiences accompanied by appetizers, lunch or dinner. Bernabei offers wine courses and winery visits. Find the Rome enoteca on Via S.Francesco a Ripa, 48.
Arcione is a small but very well curated enoteca. It's located in Piazza Crati in central Rome. The Arcione online shop sells wine plus all kinds of gourmet products including pasta, oil and vinegar, coffee.
Rimessa Roscioli has some of the most delicious food in all of Rome and of course an incredible and vast wine selection. They have both an Italian and an international wine club, along with an online shop. You can buy delicious gourmet products at Rimessa Roscioli as well as wine. They are located on Via del Conservatorio just a short walk from the Campo dei Fiori market.
Do you have a comment or something you'd like to share with me? Scroll down to the very, very end of this page to reach the Please Leave Your Comment section.
I'd love to have your feedback and questions!
I make a small commission on purchases made through links on my website. Prices are identical for you, but purchasing through my links helps support my work to bring you great recipes, podcast episodes, culinary and travel information.