Frascati is one of the most famous names in the Italian wine vocabulary. It belongs to a tiny, ancient town in the hills just south-east of Rome, and also to the light white wine produced there. This white Frascati wine is arguably the most famous produced anywhere in the Lazio region, and has a heritage dating back many centuries. According to archaeological research carried out in the late 20th Century, grapes were cultivated for wine production here as far back as 5,000 BC. Modern-day Frascati comes in both still and sparkling (spumante) forms. Since 2011, the area has had an additional title for its highest-quality wines, Frascati Superiore DOCG.
Frascati town, one of the 14 Castelli Romani, is located in the Colli Albani, the hills that mark the southern edge of the campagna romana plain on which Rome is located. The town's terracotta-tiled roofs climb steadily from 850ft to 1200ft (260m to 365m) into the northernmost hills here. On a clear day, Rome is clearly visible on the plain below, and just 15 miles (25km) to the west lies the Tyrrhenian coast. The official Frascati viticultural area extends beyond the commune of Frascati itself and takes in the vineyards of neighboring Grottaferrata and Monte Porzio Catone. It even spreads northwards into the southern suburbs of Rome and eastwards into Montecompatri. Its western boundary is marked by another of the Castelli Romani, Marino.
The Colli Albani and their two volcanic crater lakes, Albano and Nemi, are all that remains of the ancient Latium volcano. This volcano's activity (and ultimately its collapse) created the Colli Albani landscape that exists today. As a result, the soils in which Frascati's vineyards are planted are mainly volcanic in origin, fertile, porous and rich in potassium. This makes for prolific vineyards and large harvests – one of the key reasons that Frascati is a wine produced in quantity rather than quality.
Several grape varieties are used to make Frascati wines, but the core is formed by the classic central Italian white-wine blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia. Two forms of Malvasia are permitted (Malvasia di Candia and Malvasia del Lazio) and two forms of Trebbiano (Trebbiano Toscano and Trebbiano Giallo). In addition to these are Greco Bianco and Bombino Bianco, which give wines a distinct yet subtle character.
Between 15% and 30% of the blend may be made up with other varieties sanctioned for use under Lazio's wine laws. These include not just local grapes but French varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Since the 1990s, a number of Frascati's more-modern producers – aware of how globally popular these varieties are – have incorporated them into their blends.