Rome: A quick guide to local wines (and Italian wine classification)
After visiting all the historic sites of Rome, what better way to spend your evening than sipping a glass of wine to quench that thirst? But where do you start with that long list proudly presented to you by the waiter?
Fear not: Whether you are a wine buff or a wine buffoon, we are here to help with a short guide to Lazio wines and to the maze of Italian classifications.
Lazio, the region in which Rome is situated, is not as well known for its wines as other Italian regions such as Tuscany and Abruzzo, but it still has a fair few to sample.
In the 1930s, the Lazio region suffered from boggy, malaria-infested land. However, Mussolini initiated a “bonification” program to make the land usable, which meant workers from the north brought down local grapes such as Merlot or Cabernet. This has led to a diverse wine industry in the region.
Around 80% of the wines produced in Lazio are white, with the best known being Frascati from the Castelli Wine Region just close to Rome and Est Est Est, from Lake Bolsena, further north towards Umbria. Lovers of red should try a sip of Cesanese del Piglio or look out for the Red Cremere (produced by local vineyard Terre del Veio). There is even a Rosato Risona Rosé wine (which is nothing like the sweet, cloying wine drunk by teenagers at the height of 1970’s sophistication).
Wine Classification System
How do you know if you are buying a wine bargain or something that would be better sprinkled on your chips? Luckily, Italy has its own system for classifying wine quality. Bring along this (not very) serious guide and you will never have to worry again…
DOCG – Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita
This classification denotes the highest quality recognition for Italian wines, and only a few achieve this status. To be sipped seriously without the use of a straw and served on very special occasions such as marriage proposals and honeymoons, or sampled freely and without discretion at wine tastings.
DOC wine – Denominazione di Origine Controllata
Good stuff. Wine that has passed a strict set of tests to ensure its provenance and to ensure that the region’s produce remains distinct. Probably one to buy for a first date or a business lunch, ensuring that the label can be seen at all times.
IGT – Indicazione di Geografica Tipica
General wines that are suitable for the table. These wines are often grown in specific geographical growing regions but without the strict controls of DOC wines. Tend to be of a lesser quality, but excellent DOC wines fall under this to avoid the paperwork for DOC status. (It’s worth tasting them all to check.) Works well if drunk as a second bottle and/or third.
VdT – Vino Da Tavola
This signifies wines that have met no other criteria than that they were produced somewhere in Italy. Fine in an emergency, but most suitable for buying as a present to take home to relatives or colleagues that you don’t like very much.
And if all that sounds like too much hard work, ask for the house wine, or “vino sfuso,” which costs hardly anything (you should pay around €4 for half a liter) and goes down like a treat. The best advice is just to try as many as you can!