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Latium Native Vines – First Part
Rosa D'Ancona – May 1, 2006



Introduction

 
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Vitiviniculture in the Latium region has roots in truly ancient times, dating as far back as to the Etruscans, who were known to have grown vines in what's currently the Viterbo province. During the Roman times though, Rome became the imperial capital and vine growing was further developed and spread throughout the whole region.

Vine and olive groves found their ideal environment in the volcanic soil of the Castelli Romani (Roman Castles) area, where their cultivation was mentioned in works by the poets, Tibullo, Orazio and Catullo, as well as in more scientific writings of the time, such as the Naturalis Historia (Natural History) by Plinio the Elder.

As is the case though, the wines produced where not particularly refined, as they were the result of rudimentary forms of winemaking. It was only in the Middle Ages, around the 12th century that Latium developed quality vitiviniculture. In 1406, with Pope Gregorius the 12th on the throne, wine production methods were defined with the 'Statuti dell'agricoltura' (Agriculture Statutes), however, during the 13th to 19th centuries, wine culture wasn't considered important by the ten ruling popes, and things changed only with the arrival of the Piedmontese.

Toward the end of the 1800s the best known wines produced in the Latium region were the Castelli Romani, Frascati, Marino and Est! Est!! Est!!!, all of them made with the fruits of native vines.

Favored in part by the advantageous climate and environment, wine production spread throughout the region at the level of family production for personal use, expanding also into areas which were not particularly indicated for vine growing.

The evolution of viticulture in the region has been fairly slow, marking a gradual transition from cultivation methods aimed at emphasizing quantity, to a more modern approach which promotes quality. Through modernization was brought forward by producers' cooperatives, which built industrial-sized winemaking facilities, winemaking innovation was slow to follow.

  Latium

White grapes are the most cultivated in the region, where in addition to Trebbiano we find Malvasia Bianca di Candia, Malvasia del Lazio, Bellone, Bombino, Cacchione, Grechetto and Moscato di Terracina. Among the red grapes grown in the region we should mention Cesanese, Ciliegiolo, Nero Buono, Sangiovese and Montepulciano.

It is noteworthy that up to the first half of the 20th century the local viticulture was characterized mostly by the cultivation of native vines, but starting in the 1950s and 60s, many imported varieties which guaranteed more yield, though were not typical from the area were brought in. This fact put at risk the very existence of the regional original vine legacy, with its characteristic biodiversity.

In application of the Regional Law number 15/2000, entitled 'Tutela delle risorse genetiche autoctone di interesse agrario' (Protection of the Genetic and Native Resources of Agricultural Interest) the ARSIAL (Agenzia per lo sviluppo e l’innovazione dell’ agricoltura del Lazio, or Agency for Agricultural Development and Innovation in the Latium Region), recorded in the Registro Volontario Regionale (Discretional Regional Register) the native vines used in the production of regional DOC and IGT wines, as well as some minor native vines currently cultivated in zones where viticulture is but a marginal agricultural product.

Research and experiments done with some of these minor native vines, such as the Rosciola (grown mostly in the high Aniene River Valley), Capolongo, Lecinaro, Maturano and Pampanaro, (cultivated in the Liri and Comino valleys), as well as the Uva Vipera (or Viper Grape, cultivated in the area known as Basso Pontino) have brought to light truly interesting characteristics. Their use in winemaking promise to contribute to further enhancing the typical characteristics of Latium wines, underscoring the strong relationship with the terroir, as well as local history and traditions.

In particular, the selection made over centuries by local growers have resulted in vines which are not only highly adapted to the environment, but have also developed resistance to animal and vegetal parasitic organisms.

The wine sector re-qualification process promoted in recent years by the Assessorato Regionale all’Agricoltura (Regional Agriculture Council), brought the regional wines to the attention of national and international consumers. In fact, currently Latium is the third DOC wine producing region, following Piedmont and Tuscany, for a total of 26 DOC and IGT denominations.

The regional vineyards cover 38,000 hectares (around 93,900 acres), which produce about 2.3 million hectoliters (around 60.76 million gallons), or 33 million of 750 milliliters of wine, valued at around €200 million (check current value in other currencies), which accounts for 9% of all agricultural production in the region.

The production of DOC wines amounts to 1.08 million hectoliters (around 28.53 million gallons), 80% of which are white and 18.3% are red wines. IGT wine production totals about 300,000 hectoliters (about 7.92 million gallons). Currently 61% of Italian wine consumers drink wines from Latium, up 12% from 200, when only 49% of Italian wine drinkers were doing so.

In addition to regional wine production strongly linked to the terroir, currently Latium offers a favorable quality/price ratio. The greatest challenge for the future though, is guaranteeing the presence of these regional wines on the tables of Italian and international wine drinkers alike. In order to achieve this goal, the local producers are investing aggressively to improve their wines' quality, and to deliver products which convey the terroir and traditions of this historically important area.

DOC and DOCG wines made with the main native vines

NATIVE GRAPES DOC WINES
DOCG WINES
Aleatico
  • Aleatico di Gradoli

 

Bellone
  • Bianco Capena
  • Cori
  • Marino
  • Montecompatri-Colonna, Nettuno
  • Velletri
Cesanese
  • Castelli Romani
  • Cesanese del Piglio
  • Cesanese di Affile
  • Cesanese di Olevano Romano
  • Cori
  • Genazzano
  • Tarqunia
  • Velletri
Malvasia
  • Bianco Capena
  • Castelli Romani
  • Cerveteri
  • Circeo
  • Colli Albani
  • Colli della Sabina
  • Colli Etruschi Viterbesi
  • Colli Lanugini
  • Cori
  • Est!Est!!Est!!! di Montefiascon
  • Marino
  • Montecompatri-Colonna
  • Tarqunia
  • Velletri
  • Vignanello
  • Zagarolo
Montepulciano
  • Castelli Romani
  • Cerveteri
  • Cesanese del Piglio
  • Colli della Sabina
  • Colli Etruschi Viterbesi
  • Cori
  • Tarqunia
  • Velletri
Nero Buono
  • Cori
Sangiovese
  • Aprilia
  • Castelli Romani
  • Cerveteri
  • Cesanese del Piglio
  • Colli della Sabina
  • Colli Etruschi Viterbesi
  • Genazzano
  • Nettuno
  • Tarqunia
  • Velletri
  • Vignanello
Trebbiano
  • Aprilia
  • Bianco Capena
  • Castelli Romani
  • Cerveteri
  • Circeo
  • Colli Albani
  • Colli della Sabina
  • Colli Etruschi Viterbesi
  • Colli Lanugini
  • Cori
  • Est!Est!!Est!!! di Montefiascone
  • Montecompatri-Colonna
  • Nettuno
  • Tarqunia
  • Velletri
  • Vignanello
  • Zagarolo

Latium IGT Wines

IGT WINES

NATIVE GRAPES

Civitella D’Agliano

  • Grechetto Rosso
  • Malvasia
  • Sangiovese
  • Trebbiano

Colli  Cimini

  • Malvasia
  • Sangiovese
  • Trebbiano

Frusinate

  • Bellone
  • Bombino
  • Malvasia
  • Moscato
  • Olivella Nera
  • Passerina
  • Sangiovese

Lazio

  • Alicante
  • Barbera
  • Bellone
  • Bombino Bianco
  • Bombino Nero
  • Carignano
  • Ciliegiolo
  • Colorino
  • Dolcetto
  • Garganega
  • Greco Nero
  • Lanaiolo Bianco
  • Malvasia Bianca di Candia
  • Malvasia del Lazio
  • Malvasia del Chianti
  • Montepulciano
  • Montonico Bianco
  • Moscato Bianco
  • Moscato di Terracina
  • Nero Buono
  • Olivella Nera
  • Passerina
  • Pecorino
  • Sciascinoso
  • Verdello
  • Verdicchio
  • Vernaccia di San Gimignano


 
 
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