A tour of the Castelli Romani, where the wines of the emperors became reality
In Lazio (Latium) you can taste excellent wines and find pioneering winegrowing projects amid rolling hills
As part of our ongoing exploration of Italy’s wine-growing tradition, we take you with us on a journey through seventeen charming villages south-east of Rome, those more commonly known as the Castelli Romani*. This area, encompassed by what was once a super-volcano that collapsed on itself some 500,000 years ago, is home to this precious green lung, nestled on the gentle slopes of the Albani mountains. An area with a wine vocation, needless to say, rooted in Ancient Rome, which welcomes the tourists of the new millennium along its Strada dei Vini dei Castelli Romani (Wine Route of the Roman Castles), with towers dotting the landscape, patrician villas, archaeological sites and endless lines of vineyards.
The classic wine route
Taking the lead among the whites is Malvasia, which competes with Trebbiano to produce six DOC wines: Frascati, Marino, Colli Albani, Colli Lanuvini, Monte Compatri e Zagarolo. The result is pleasant, easy-drinking, and fragrant wines, ideal for pairing with fresh cheeses, fish and vegetable dishes.
Of greater structure and complexity are the two DOCG wines of the Castelli, Cannellino di Frascati and Frascati Superiore, which can also be served with white meats or fine fish, such as monkfish or, why not, a triumph of Roman style broccoli. Red wine lovers find concentrates of freshness, crisp tannins, and beautiful notes of red fruit in their glass, as in the case of the Doc Castelli Romani Velletri, which includes Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Cesanese, excellent with the Ariccia PGI porchetta.
An exceptional project
And if you are looking for something pioneering, we suggest the project realised by Josè Amici, a young entrepreneur and expert scuba diver, who, with the help of his family (who run the Agriturismo Due Torri, where we suggest you stop for a delicious meal based on organic ingredients), has created the ‘submerged wine’, in Lake Nemi.
This is a volcanic lake appreciated as a place of delight by the Ancient Romans. Here the cult dedicated to the goddess Diana was professed, so much so that it was called Speculum Dianae, the mirror of Diana. Well, in this lake, where there is a constant temperature of 9 °C all year round at 15 metres, José Amici has aged two labels:
the Caligola Roma DOC, made from Cesanese, Syrah and Montepulciano, with pleasant hints of cherry, blackberry and plum, with good structure and discreet evolving potential
the sparkling wine Simposio, a Martinotti method from the indigenous Bellone grape, characterised by ripe peach, quince, and exotic fruit aromas, fresh and savoury on the palate.
There is a particularly interesting story about Caligola: this wine rests at the bottom of Lake Nemi, where immense palace ships were recovered, used by the emperor Caligola to perform rituals in honour of the goddess Diana. Hence the name. Surely the Emperor would have appreciated not only the wine dedicated to him, but above all the pioneering vision of José Amici, who succeeded in merging his greatest passions, wine, and diving. Ad maiora!
* The municipalities that are part of the area known as the Castelli Romani are: Albano Laziale, Ariccia, Castel Gandolfo, Ciampino, Colonna, Frascati, Genzano di Roma, Grottaferrata, Lanuvio, Lariano, Marino, Monte Porzio Catone, Monte Compatri, Nemi, Rocca di Papa, Rocca Priora, Velletri.