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Rome was once the capital city of an empire that spanned three continents, and it was responsible for establishing and spreading viticulture and winemaking throughout Europe. The Roman military, specifically, either built from scratch or enhanced and created trading hubs of wine production in European territories where terrain and climate allowed Vitus vinifera to thrive, essentially creating the wine industry that is still the nexus of wine production worldwide. If not for the Roman legions, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Barolo would not exist, or be mere shadows of themselves at best. And so here comes the irony: while Italy produces more wine by volume than any other country in this nexus, Lazio (aka Latium), the region where Rome is located, is arguably one of the least significant wine-producing regions in the nation.

Lazio is bordered by Campania to the south, Tuscany to the north, Abruzzo to the east and Umbria to the northeast, all of which boast worldwide recognized appellations and varietals. Lazio, not so much. Yet the fertile volcanic hills of Lazio are rich in potassium with a porous nature that keeps the land well drained, and the proximity to the Tyrrhenian Sea provides cool breezes to temper humidity and heat while mountainous terrain creates microclimates… all perfect for viticulture. 
Source: World Population Review (https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/wine-producing-countries)
So what happened? There aren’t easy straightforward answers to that question. Part of the reason is simply the vestiges of the decline of the Roman Empire. Buy the 19th century when commerce was truly starting to globalize, only the Vatican remained of the empire and the city of Rome was inconsequential as a geopolitical player; even political power, commerce and industry on the Italian peninsula itself had moved north. As an indicator, the population of Rome had plunged to only 220,000 by the time of Italy’s unification in 1870.


While the Roman Empire declined and the Lazio region around the capital reverted to provincialism and small-scale agriculture, its viticulture barely evolved while other wine regions in Europe profited immensely from reputation and commerce. Hence by the time Rome became a consequential city in Italy again, as the capital of a unified Republic, its brand of winemaking had largely gone out of style. The major varietals in Lazio, Malvasia and Trebbiano, white grapes in a world that was worshiping red, were overcropped, and sweet wine was still a thing while most wine was merely functional for the consumption of the immediate environs. Of course wine never stopped being a staple product for the region itself, but with export market, even beyond its regional borders. However, being a natural for viticulture, the region has proved that it just needed a little passion and expertise to start its comeback. 
May 2023: Wines of Lazio Realizing Their Potential
Wine Folly: https://winefolly.com/deep-dive/the-wines-to-know-from-lazio/
There are 30 official wine designations in Lazio, but because the region has been ignored for so long only a few are truly notable and recognizable, such as Orvieto, Castelli Romani, Cesanese del Piglio, Frascati, Orvieto, and Est! Est!! Est!!!. There are also varietals that are characteristic to the area. For the wine club, we’ve found wines from one of the appellations as well as a wine from a popular native red varietal, and another from a lesser-known native red varietal. Since we could not find a wine for the club from the appellation Est! Est!! Est!! we feel compelled to mention it regardless just because its story is so interesting. One would think that any nomenclature that includes exclamation points must be the result of campy modern advertising. But, no, this appellation name, replete with exclamation points, dates to the 12th century! A high-ranking clergyman and wine aficionado who was traveling to the Vatican from northern Europe for a meeting with the pope sent ahead a “wine scout” to survey villages for decent wine to bring home after his trip. The scout was instructed to write 'Est' (Latin for 'It is') on the door or wall of establishments he visited along the route in which he was impressed with the wine they served, so that the clergyman could sample the wine and decide whether he wished to purchase it. In Montefiascone, the scout was so impressed with the local wine that he wrote Est! Est!! Est!!! on the door of an inn to set it far apart from the others he had recommended. Alas, we could not find a suitable representative of this appellation for the club, but we will continue to search to get one in the store as we are confident that as Lazio continues to develop its winemaking reputation, more importers will find more gems to bring into the US market.


Unlike the colorful historical background for the name of the Est! Est!! Est!! appellation, Frascati simply takes its name from the town of Frascati, which is located only 15 miles from Rome. And, in fact, this proximity to the nation’s capital has been key to maintaining its recognition, if not its reputation, as it is known more as a workhorse for local fare and is poured in many of the city’s restaurants. Evidence of viticulture in archaeological excavations of Tusculum, the original name of the Frascati, date to the 5th century BC.

The key varietals in the Frascati appellation are the white grapes Malvasia di Candia or Malvasia del Lazio (aka Bombino) and Trebbiano. A Frascati DOC blend must comprise a 70% minimum of either of the Malvasia varietals and a maximum 30% of Trebbiano or Greco, and then 10% can include other white varietals.
Featured May Amaro Wine Club LAZIO wine: Poggio Le Volpi People Frascati Superiore (2021)
VARIETALS: Malvasia di Candia, Trebbiano

Poggio Le Volpi is a rather recent producer of bottled commercial wine, established as l’Azienda Agricola Poggio le Volpi a Monte Porzio Catone in 1996. But the family enterprise began in 1920 when Manlio Mergè began to produce olive oil and vino sfuso (wine offered on tap from barrels). A generation later, Armando and Felice Mergè decided to put the fertile volcanic land of their estate to better use, cultivating their vineyards with care and putting serious effort into making export-quality wine, and they are not afraid to experiment with native varietals outside of the historical norm for local winemaking.
Yet, having a Frascati DOC in their portfolio was a no-brainer considering they are located in the heart of the appellation’s territory. The People Frascati Superiore is meant to be a classic, yet elegant expression of the appellation. They named it “People” to reflect that it is a wine meant to complement the everyday cuisine of the region. Despite its rustic intentions, in 2020, the wine won a Bronze Medal from Decanter and in 2021 won a Gold Medal Asia Wine Trophy and a Silver Medal Mundus Vini.

FOOD PAIRINGS: seafood risotto, spicy seafood dishes, crispy fried cod, calamari, fried chicken, fresh soft cheeses, crudités
Vineyards on a slope with a view of the nearest town of Monte Porzio Catone.


The Cesanese is a red varietal like its white varietals Frascati appellation cousin in terms of having a reputation as being a workhorse to pair with the rustic cuisine of the area. There is also a DOCG appellation that features the varietal, called Cesanese del Piglio, surrounding the town of Piglio in the most southeastern part of Lazio. Despite its reputation as a workhorse, Cesanese actually is quite versatile. It is can be vinified young and rustic, but also takes to aging and refinement. Besides Piglio, the varietal is grown in various vineyards around Rome and the town of Frosinone and vinified as both a single-varietal wine or blended (We have a blend in the store: Poggio Le Volpi Roma Rosso). For the Wine Club we opted to for a premium version of a single-varietal Cesanese wine, and not from the Cesanese del Piglio appellation.
Featured May Amaro Wine Club LAZIO wine: Casale del Giglio Lazio Cesanese Matidia (2020)

Casale del Giglio is in Le Ferriere, a village close to the ancient city of Satricum about 30 miles south of Rome. The Casale del Giglio estate grew out of a wine merchant company founded by Berardino Santarelli in 1914, which he developed into a wine and liquor house in 1924 with his sons until his grandson, Dino, founded the estate as a natural development of bottling regional Lazio wine for export. In the 1990s, Dino’s son Antonio teamed up with a young enologist Paolo Tifenthaler from Trentino to step up the winemaking estate’s game leveraging the rich, red clay and alluvial soils to produce truly export-worthy wines.
For this wine, the duo has taken it upon themselves to prove how the varietal can produce an age-worthy premium wine. They start with three full weeks of maceration on the skins and fermentation of the grapes in cherry wood tonneaux and oak, allowing malolactic fermentation to smooth the natural acidity of the varietal. The wine is then aged 12 months in a combination of stainless steel and French barrique.

The name Matidia derives from the niece of Roman Emperor Trajan and mother-in-law to Roman Emperor Hadrian who declared her a deity after she died in AD 119 after which statues of her were erected throughout the empire and coins minted with her effigy. The name choice was not random as the ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to Matidia was found within the Church of Santa Maria in Aquiro in Piazza Capranica right next to where Berardino began his wine merchant enterprise over 100 years ago.

FOOD PAIRINGS: garganelli alla coda, game meats, cassoulet, beef and venison stews, pappardelle with Ragù of wild boar, gnocchi, mature cheese
The Casale del Giglio Estate and the four influential players that have developed it over the past century.

The excavations of the nearby ancient city of Satricum are revealing a rich viticulture including this ancient Greek drinking skyphos


The Nero Buono di Cori varietal (aka Nero Buono) is believed to have originated near the town of Cori, and it usually appears in a blend in the Cori DOC appellation, which is even more obscure than the grape itself. In the Cori appellation, the varietal is usually blended with Montepulciano and Cesanese. Because of its deep violet pigmentation, its primary purpose is to add a rich hue to the blend. On the topic of pigmentation, the Nero Buono varietal is one of the few red grapes in which the pulp matches the color of the skin. Hence, if you only press the juice, the wine will still be red. 
As we have explained in previous Wine Club literature, what usually makes red wine “red” is the color of the skin of the red varietal grape that leeches into the juice when they are macerated together for a period of time. Otherwise, if you just press red grapes for the juice without involving the skin, you are left with white wine. There are a few exceptions to this, the Nero Buono being one of them.
For this Wine Club, we found a wine that expresses the Nero Buono varietal exquisitely (we are quite proud of this find) made from 100% Nero Buono. It is not a Cori DOC, but we selected it for that reason so that you could have the opportunity to experience how the varietal expresses itself as a single-varietal wine. 
Azienda Agricola Poggio le Volpi a Monte Porzio Catone
Featured May Amaro Wine Club LAZIO wine: Poggio Le Volpi Lazio Baccarossa Rosso (2019)
VARIETALS: Nero Buono di Cori

The Baccarossa is made from the same producers as the Frascati in your May Wine Club package. As we mentioned earlier, Armando and Felice Mergè have employed a new philosophy to the estate and are not afraid to experiment. Hence, they chose to make a single-varietal wine from Nero Buono in lieu of a blend, gently pressing it after macerating with the skins for a short period of time while it fermented. Then they aged it for a year in wood.

FOOD PAIRINGS: coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew with vegetables), beef stroganoff, pizza margherita, smoky vegetable salad, bucatini all’amatriciana