Updated: May 21
With origins dating back to the Etruscan settlements and then the Roman Empire, wine production in Rome is not really a new concept.
But having been semi-permanently living in Roma the last few years, I was amazed to hear that Roma DOC wines even existed! Let me preface this by saying - though I do have a deep love and appreciation of vino, I am no wine connoisseur. Although I have been fortunate enough to meet quite a few experts in their field here, it wasn’t until I started expanding my palate to include Lazio grapes and wines within our fine region (thanks to said friends in the industry) and going to a few wine expos, that I was even aware of this newish consortium of Roma DOC.
From Ancient Roman times and the Imperial Age to the Monasteries and Abbeys - the production (and consumption) of wine has been around here for all of time, ingrained in the everyday lives, food, medicine, religion and culture. However, the overall perception and perhaps representation of wines from the Lazio region has not always been the best – especially compared to other famous wine regions of Italy such as Tuscany, Piedmont and Sicily. At least not until recently…
Following the establishment of the Roma DOC Wine Producers Association – a group of 10 wineries scattered across the Latium (Lazio) area around Rome, the Roma DOC appellation was born. This was only as of 2011, however the newest edition – and fifth one in the region of Lazio – was officially recognized in 2018. The Consorzio di Tutela Vini Roma DOC (Consortium for the Protection of Roma DOC wine) scattered across 35 hectares of vineyards is now part of four other docs – Frascati, Cesanese del Piglio, Marino, and Atina.
Sidenote: Wines from the Castelli started around the 1500’s but the diversification between Roman wine and wine from the Castelli wasn’t attested until the 19th century.
The first Roma DOC Board of Directors to be appointed is Tullio Galassini. A graduate of San Michele all ‘Adige in oenology, Tullio been in the wine business ever since - as a grape producer at Galassini Viticoltore and now as the President of the Consortium, with Rossella Macchia of Az. Agricola Poggio Le Volpi as Deputy President.
The first official Consorzio di Tutela Vini Roma D.O.C. Press Tour was on May 11th, 2023 and I was honored to be a part of it, thanks to an invitation from wine lover and blogger Alberto Chiarenza. The very first of a series of several events, ours was the “Tour da Frascati Ai Monti Prenestini” Itinerary 1 where we spent the day exploring four very different but equally unique and beautiful vineyards: Fontana Candida, Poggio Le Volpi, Principe Pallavicini, and Vinicola Federici. A few words about these magnificent Rome wineries are below but be sure to check out my Instagram for pictures that I hope do each more justice…
Fontana Candida – Standing in a centuries-old farmhouse and a villa perhaps belonging to the poet Quintus Horace Flaccus, it is here that you can breathe the tradition of the famous “vino dei popes” along with some breathtaking scenery.
Poggio Le Volpi – A beautifully modern wine estate with a long family history of winemaking and olive oil production also has an amazing restaurant and braceria aka barbecue. Some of the most delicious Rome DOC wines can be found here along with Rosella Macchia who will take you around the grounds as if you were in her own home.
Principe Pallavicini – It is difficult to find the words to quite capture this place. An enchanting estate with deep-rooted history, a stunning vineyard and cantina, and the most knowledgeable, charming sommelier Michelle Smith behind each bottle being served.
Vinicola Federici – Family-owned-and-operated vineyard, Federici is a “new generation of winemakers” with wines that stay true to family traditions and the grapes of their territories, thanks to Antonio Federici who is very much still a part of every step in the winemaking process.
But first…what is DOC?
D.O.C. (Designation of Controlled Origin or Denominazione di Origine Controllata) is the second highest quality level after D.O.C.G. wines (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) which have an extra “qarantita” (wine quality) via the Italian government. Yes, the Italian Government controls something like this and yes, I had to look this up.
What makes Vini Roma DOC?
The Consorzio di Tutela Vini Roma DOC aims at promoting a model of wine production that is transparent and guarantees its traceability from vineyard to bottle. Wines are monitored in compliance with the rules established by the Production Regulations that are the basis of its identity and done meticulously in order to
protect this up-and-coming denomination from imitation and fraud. Even the forms of cultivation i.e. planting distances, irrigation and pruning systems are protected.
With wines and grapes coming from vineyards within central Lazio as well as the coastal territories including Roman Sabina, Colli Albani, Colli (Monti) Prenestini and part of the Roman countryside (Roman Campagna) – over 60 municipalities but all within the province of Rome.
As for the official guidelines, the wines that can bear the designation “DOC Roma” are:
- Seven types of White Wine: “Bianco”, “Classico Bianco”, “Bellone, “Classico Bellone”, “Malvasia Puntinata”, “Classico Malvasia Puntinata”
- One type of Sparkling wine: “Romanella Spumante”
- Two types of Rosé Wine: “Rosato”, “Classico Rosato”
- Four types of Red Wine: “Rosso”, “Classico Rosso”, “Rosso Riserva”, and “Classico Rosso Riserva”
The Roma D.O.C. Grapes Cheat sheet :
The grape varieties for Roma DOC white wines are:
Malvasia del Lazio
And for the Roma DOC Reds:
Cesanese di Affile
Montepulciano – yes…not just from Tuscany!
The Lay of the Roma DOC Land…
The soil which is now protected under Roma DOC, dates back to the Quaternary or Neozoic Age - the most recent geological period (the one we live in) characterized by two main geological units: the flat areas of the Tiber and Aniene valleys, and the inland area resulting from the eruptions of the Latium Volcano dating back to the end of the Pliocene. This volcanic ash, which is very much a part of the land, attribute to the Roma DOC wine’s unique taste in combination with several other factors: the soil is ideal for draining (something particularly favorable for viticulture), the general exposure of the Roma DOC wine territory - which is oriented towards the west, southwest and south, with significant variations in temperatures and higher than average rainfalls in the higher areas. That, plus a terrain made up of hills and plains, an altitude between 0 and 600 m a.s.l., and extremely mild Mediterranean temperatures – all contribute to the aromas and flavors which can be found in the Roma DOC wines. Characteristic of the climate and soil – with whites that are minerally and earthy, rosés that are packed with flavor, and equally unique and somewhat bold reds.
In layman’s terms…the bright and airy environment in the Lazio region makes for some really delicious vino.
Currently representing 47 producers and bottlers covering about 330,000 hectares and a production of about 1,880,000 bottles a year, Roma DOC is one of the most exciting ‘new’ group of wines you can try in Italy.
Photos of the Consorzio di Tutela Vini Roma D.O.C. Press Tour...
First stop: Fontana Candida
Second stop: Poggio le Volpi
Third Stop: Principe Pallavicini
Fourth and Last Stop on the Tour: Vinicola Federici