Lazio is a central Italian region bordering the Tyrrhenian Sea. It’s principle city, Rome, is Italy’s capital city and was at the heart of the Roman Empire. Latina, a province located south of Rome in the center of the Pontine Plain. There numerous autochthonous varieties, like Aleatico, Passerina or Bambino Bianco from this area but here are three lesser-known varieties, and related wines, from the area of Latina, that are creating a buzz with wine professional world.
The White One – Bellone
Bellone is a magical variety whose ancestor was believed to be described by Pliny the Elder and is a high vigor white variety with large round berries and portly bunches. Bellone is considered to be one of the best grapes in Italy today but unfortunately it is also rare too. It has the ability to produce dry or sweet wines of real depth and complexity. Found in a number of local white blends and in two varietal DOC wines: Marino Bellone DOC and Nettuno Bellone DOC (although mandatory minimum amounts of grapes of this variety are only 80% and 85% respectively) but the best and most exciting Bellone wines today are IGT Cori, made with 100% Bellone. Cori is one of the up and coming exciting production areas in Italy. Cori is located 45 minutes southwest of Rome and more famous for high quality tobacco.
This grape is resistant, vigorous and fast growing; therefore a careful vineyard management must be conducted to be sure to grow quality grapes. It results in a wine with telltale luscious texture and juicy acidity and delightful honeyed, citrus and tropical fruit aromas and flavors.
When late harvested, grapes are left on the vine until November to lose about 50% of their water content, resemble high quality Sauternes with more honey, sweet spice and peach aroma and flavors.
The Red One – Nero Buono
Nero Buono is one of Italy’s least known grapes. Its name means “good black grape”, and can be the source of excellent mid-weight red wines. Legend has it that Cincinnato, a Roman statesman, brought Buono Nero to the area of Cori in the 5th Century BC, after defeating the Equi tribe and indeed it is almost solely cultivated in the surroundings of Cori.
It is usually blended with other local varieties in Cori DOC, max 40%, and in Castelli Romani DOC Rosso it can be used for 100% however, historically the less important variety and the IGT wines can be wines can be 100%. Nero Buono does well in both calcareous soils, where it tends to have more structure and body, and volcanic soil, where the wines have more elegance. Nero Buono should be grapey and vinous, light-med body with juicy black fruit and fresh herb aromas and flavors. Indeed, only a few tens of hectares are planted with it.
The Sweet One – Moscato di Terracina
Once believed to be Moscato Bianco, Moscato di Terracina is a distinct member of the Moscato Family of grapes. Located closer to the Lazio shore where the vines are subject to extreme living conditions with warm marine breezes and salt in the soils.
It is used in many local blends as well as to produce varietal wines – dry, sparkling and sweet – of which most representative is probably the sweet one. It is a straw wine, produced by concentrating sugars in the berries by making them shrivel on straw mats or racks.
Moscato di Terracina DOC (or Terracina DOC) also allows 15% of the grapes to be of different varieties (provided that they are traditionally grown in the area) for the production of dry and sweet wines, but the percentage becomes 100% when it’s about producing sparkling Terracina DOC.
Quality producers from Latina- Marco Carpineti, Cinciccato, Donata Giangiroiami, Pietra Pinta, Villa Gianna, Cantina Sant’Andrea & Casale del Giglio.