Italy is famous in the world for many different types of products: from fashion to food, from sports cars to wines. We are obviously talking about famous brands and recognizable labels. When it comes to the latter though, especially the ones to be found on a bottle, there is brand new world yet to be discovered. Not many people know, in fact, that Italy boasts over 350 native grape varieties, many of which come from the Tuscia area. Thanks to the Università degli Studi della Tuscia, which has been studying the local varieties for the last thirty years, the wine makers of this beautiful part of Lazio have been happily rediscovering some ancient types of grapes that still produce excellent wines with a contemporary taste. The same result is achieved with other varieties and blends as the Tuscia area – just like the Etruscans and the Romans knew very well – has an exceptional terroir.
Fascinating names, excellent taste
A rather intriguing story is linked to the Est! Est!! Est!!! wine produced in Montefiascone, near Lake Bolsena. Legend has it that in 1111 the German Archbishop Johannes Defuk, whilst travelling to Rome with Henry V, used to send his servant Martin ahead on the road with the precise task of finding the taverns that served the best wine. Martin was requested to signal the good ones by writing in Latin “Est” (meaning : it is [good wine]) next to their doors. As he arrived in Montefiascone, the wine he found was so good that he wrote by the door of the inn: Est! Est!! Est!!!. It is easy to understand Martin’s excitement even nowadays as the Est! Est!! Est!!! is a lovely, dry white wine perfect – when served chilled – with appetizers, fish and white meat dishes.
Going West, along the shores of Lake Bolsena, Marta is a pleasant stop-over for wine lovers. It is in fact in the countryside just outside this pretty fisherman’s village that the Cannaiola is produced: red and slightly sweet, this wine will warm your Fall and Winter afternoons as it is the perfect match for tozzetti (local biscuits made with hazelnuts) and for roasted chestnuts. The Canaiolo is an ancient grape variety therefore it is proving rather difficult to trace down the precise origin of its name: one of the most trusted options, makes it derive from the Latin dies canicularis, those hottest Summer days when veraison commences. Red, with deep violet shades, pleasantly sweet and tasty at the same time, thanks to the volcanic terroir where the grapes grow. Perfect with a cheese platter, cold cuts and with shortcut pastry desserts.
The land near Lake Bolsena is also home to the famous Aleatico, that is produced in the area close to Gradoli. The origins of this grape variety date back to Ancient Greece still nowadays it is known in the world as one of the most popular Italian ones. Although a red grape capable of dry wines, Aleatico’s aromatic intensity sees it best suited to fortified wines or those made or with dried grapes. In the last few years, a few local wine-makers have been also experimenting a new vinification process that gives a white, sparkling version with higher acidity levels, more freshness and definitely an enjoyable taste.