Lazio is a region in central Italy, and home to the ancient capital city of Rome. Like many Italian wine regions, Lazio’s vine heritage is ancient. Its first inhabitants were the Etruscans, though it was the Latins who gave the area its original name Latium. The Romans brought the region into another era by improving trade and agriculture, although after the collapse of the Roman Empire the land was neglected. Only in the 1870s, when Rome became the capital of Italy, did this wine region flourish once again.
Latium is located in central Italy, bordering Tuscany to the north, Campania to the south, Abruzzo to the east and Umbria to the northeast. The volcanic hills provide an excellent base for viticulture thanks to the fertile and porous (well-drained) land. The proximity of the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west is also important: cool sea breezes temper the drier, warmer temperatures on the coast, while the mountainous area is subject to various macroclimates despite being protected by the Apennines from the cold winds coming from the north-east.
The region’s reputation is mainly based on its white wines, the mainstays being Trebbiano and Malvasia di Candia, designed for drinking young, characterized by their sharpness, high acidity and a lightness that makes them an ideal accompaniment to the local cuisine – they cut through the heaviness of these dishes such as porchetta (pork roasted with herbs) and abbacchio (young lamb). Although its red wines are not as high-profile, they are beginning to make a name for themselves, especially those made from Sangiovese, Cesanese, Montepulciano, Merlot and Nero Buono di Coro.
Lazio is home to roughly 30 DOC titles, representing a fine collection of wines in which three white DOCs stand out: Castelli Romani (the most important), Frascati (the more renowned and traditional) and Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone (lesser known on international markets). Other DOCs that have made a name for themselves such as Orvieto (shared with Lazio’s north-eastern neighbor, Umbria). Cesanese is home to Lazio’s only DOCG wine, made under the Cesanese del Piglio title. Some excellent vino da tavola is also being made, and Bordeaux kings Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot threaten to steal the show (in their own right as well as in conjunction with the local Cesanese).