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. Nourishment for the grapes is provided by lava and tufa soils, rich in potassium. This type of soil is particularly suited to white grapes as it ensures a good balance of acidity. 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. Traditionally these wines were fat, rounded, abboccato and made for immediate consumption. Today the styles are lighter, drier and crisper thanks to modern vinification methods. However they are still 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. Also of note are Canaiolo and Ciliegiolo; in total, there are more than 200 grape varieties in the area.
Lazio is home to rpughly 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 are Orvieto (shared with Lazio's north-eastern neighbor, Umbria) and Marino. A rare find also comes from around the Lago di Bolsena lake in the form of Aleatico di Gradoli, a sweet red which can also be transformed into a liquoroso.
Cesanese is home to Lazio's only DOCG wine, made under the Cesanese del Piglio title. The hills just south of Rome, where Piglio is located, are also home to two other Cesaneses: di Olevano Romano and di Affile. Nevertheless its leading red is Velletri, a robust red wine made from Sangiovese, Cesanese, Montepulciano, Merlot and Ciliegiolo, which is also produced as a riserva. 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). Falernum, once the great wine of ancient times, is today part of a more modern wine, based on Aglianico and native Cecubo with some local Abbuoto and Negroamaro.