Emerging Treasures

As the tastes for new discoveries in wine and food evolve, the wine regions of Italy – ancient though they may be - continue to yield new terroir for sommeliers to explore. The region of Roma in the province of Lazio is a great example of a region whose treasures are emerging for a new generation in search of gratifying food and wine experiences. Master Sommelier John Szabo puts it all into context:

"The challenge for the wines of Lazio has always been the capital itself - Roma. With countless millions of tourists passing through each year, there has been little motivation to strive for quality. The vast majority of wine is consumed locally in taverns and trattorias. What little was exported was generally cheap as well, earning regions like Frascati a reputation for mediocrity. But times have changed. There’s a bigger need for export, and to be competitive on the world stage, there’s no getting around quality. There’s no doubt that the volcanic Frascati hills around Rome, and especially the northern part of Lazio on the border with Tuscany with its volcanic tufa soils can produce fine wine - the Etruscans already knew this 3000 years ago.”

When it comes to wine and food Szabo has some pointers:

“I would also expect revived interest in local grapes like Cesanese, which can really be quite delicious. Make a point of trying the local pasta specialty, caccio e pepe, made with a local piquant hard cheese and a few twists of black pepper, so simple yet so hard to do well, with a cool, fresh glass of white from the Colli Albani, or a lightly chilled, fruity cesanese, for some memorable local flavours. Eccoci!” John Szabo, MS

All Roads lead to Rome

Renée Sferrazza is a sommelier, writer, and consultant living in Toronto with deep Italian roots who was drawn to the region – like so many – because of the attraction of the historic capital city:

“The wines of Roma and Lazio region, as a whole are hard to find outside of Italy. The culture of Roma is tied to the city that wines are often found secondary. That was my thought when I had traveled to the region for the first couple of times. As a child I was a big history buff as the grandeur of the city of Rome, the ruins and the surrounding land claimed to the breath of Italian ingenuity pulled me in right away.”

As her interests as a sommelier took hold, so did a new passion for the region, and of course its wine and food:

“I have so many memories of traveling through the province and just thinking wow, this place is amazing. As an Italian, I am still blown away by how bold my culture can be and Roma is no exception. There are some quintessential dishes and wines that have made me fall in love with the region again. Vignarola, a dish made with artichokes and broad beans, and Gnocchi alla Roma, cooked in a pan and more like a perogie, are my stand out favourite local eats.”

Then – when asked more about the specific wines, Sferrazza says:

“Expressions of Malvasia and Bellone in the region are divine. These white wines have palate-grabbing aromas of tropical fruits and while Malvasia di Lazio leans on white fruit notes and Bellone di Lazio on bolder ripe yellow fruits, they both have good structure and present minerality. For reds, I am consistently surprised by winemakers that are blending local grapes with French varietals. The warm climate of the region and volcanic soil kicks up with the levels of spice in productions with Montepulciano, Syrah, Cabernets and Petit Verdot. But I simply can't forget about Cesanese. A soft and inviting red wine made just west of Roma. It has bold aromas and flavours of red fruits and plums complemented by wild game spices. a truly complex and unforgettable wine.”