Castelli Romani discovering the territory: among the vineyards of the laziale volcano, a land full of history, myth, faith and quality wines

The Colli Albani are the gentle and leathery peaks that extend from the southernmost offshoot of Rome to the border with the Pontine plain. A slight descent for just over twenty kilometres, leaving Rome, which climbs between the hills and the two lakes of what is called the Lazio Volcano.

A journey between wines, history and myth along three main directors

Particularly fertile land, surprising for its beauty and, according to the tradition between history and myth, for the boldness and courage of those who live there.

Divine glimpses with flavors of wines (and not only) accompany the visitor or, better yet, the lover of these lands and its products along the three main routes: the Via Appia for sixty kilometers up to Velletri, crossing the vineyards of the hills of Lanuvio, the via dei Laghi, on which we cross Marino, Castel Gandolfo and, skirting Rocca di Papa, leads us to Nemi, then the via Tuscolana which takes us to Frascati, also caressing Grottaferrata on the via Anagnina, lands where Frascati wine originates which more than others characterizes the Castelli Romani DOC.

A territorial unicum completely favorable to wine production

It is a unicum from a territorial point of view that hides climatic, pedological and varietal specificities within it. In fact, we find ourselves in the presence of an area where viticulture has always played a predominant role in the local economy, thanks to the extreme vocation of the soil for vines. It is certainly no coincidence that in Lazio wine production revolves almost entirely around the Castelli Romani.

It is therefore worth going back to looking at the map and the three directions in which we actually divide the so-called “Lazio volcano”, each of which has very specific characteristics although belonging to a single territory, as mentioned, which gathers around a large volcanic system, with a well-defined crater belt that is around thirty kilometers in diameter. It is a gigantic block, blocked and compact, which fragments only towards the south-west to make room for the lakes of Castelgandolfo and Nemi.

Here we are, therefore, to analyze the three sub-areas in which the Castelli Romani extend, each of the three areas enjoys and can boast its own strength:

• Tusculan territory, here the strong point is Frascati.
• Territory Albano, Ariccia and Castel Gandolfo predominate.
• Territory of the lake, Genzano and Nemi are the most representative municipalities.

Ultimately, it is a hilly area characterized by the Albani mountains, of volcanic origin and by the Lepini, Ausoni and Orsini mountains, of calcareous origin.

The areas most suited to viticulture are found on the hillsides. The volcanic soils guarantee permeable soils with a good structure, with a high presence of potassium, a fundamental element for the sensory profile which particularly affects the aromatic profile of the wines. The same volcanic characteristic of the soil envisages a very wide range of types and characteristics of the soil, among which it is necessary to distinguish: the pozzolana, of a more sandy and permeable nature, the tuff, harder and more impermeable, therefore the lava rocks, practically unsuitable for cultivation due to excessive hardness.

The most widespread (and permitted) vines are Malvasia di Candia – originally from Crete, for over four hundred years under the dominion of Venice – and Trebbiano, in competition with other white grapes, for no more than 30%. Malvasia del Lazio (there are sixteen types of this grape in Italy, from Venezia Giulia to Sicily), here is called “dotted”, while that of Candia goes under the name of Malvasia Rossa. In the territory of Marino, whose vineyards are exposed towards the sea, the wines based on Malvasia di Candia or Rossa acquire a brackish background and a more robust structure.

The festival of grapes

In Marino, on the first Sunday of October, the public fountains, starting with the so-called fountain of the Moors, positioned in the center of the village, in the most frequented square, pour wine instead of water, as a famous song attributed by many to Petrolini sings, giving life to what has been the Grape Festival for almost a century, a bacchanal founded by the Roman poet, Leone Ciprelli in 1924. An appointment with many faces that in itself contains many, perhaps all the characteristics of the people and lands of the Castelli Romani imbued of religious faith and history with the supplication and the donation of the grapes to the Virgin of the Rosary at noon which, before the miracle of the fountains, opens to the re-enactment of the return of Marcantonio Colonna, lord of Marino, who was among the leaders of the Christian expedition that the 7 October 1571, in the waters of Lepanto, he defeated the Turkish troops.

However, at the Castelli Romani not only white wines are drunk. Although the whites are certainly the grapes that dominate the Lazio volcano by far, among the wine productions of the Colli Albani, in fact, there are also numerous denominations of origin in which the red grapes are expressed through remarkable and highly prestigious productions.

It is enough to list the names of some of the vines to understand the absolutely level of quality: Merlot, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Nero Buono and, more than anyone else, Cesanese which binds the hills of the Castelli Romani, through the Valle del Sacco to the plateaus of northern Ciociaria which act as a backdrop to another panorama: the Piglio vineyards that also open the volume of another story, of absolute excellence among the wines of the whole Italy.

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