Lazio

Italy

Legend has it that Aeneas escaped the fall of Troy, sailed around the Apennine Peninsula, and landed in modern-day Lazio. Here, he bore a line of descendents that would eventually lead to Romulus and Remus. These two brothers, according to legend, decided to found the city of Rome on April 23, 753 BC, but after an argument, Romulus killed Remus.

What’s far more likely is that the city grew from settlements on the Palatine Hill that had sprung up because the area at the base of the hill was ideal for pasture. The region of Lazio is so-named because the original inhabitants of the land were a group of people who called themselves the “Latini.” The language spoken by these inhabitants served as the basis for Latin (and also the name). Holding this area as its base of power, the Roman Republic/Empire spread across most of Europe and the Mediterranean.

It’s no secret that Lazio revolves around Rome. It’s the Eternal City, the location of the Holy See, a dream come true to archaeologists, and a thriving city boasting enough legendary works of art to keep art historians busy for eons. The bustling Roman metropolis stands in stark comparison to the pastoral scenes from the surrounding lands. Pastures, farms, miles of beaches, and small mountain towns are but a few of the treats awaiting those who venture outside Roma.

Traditional cooking in Lazio is that of shepherds and farmers; that is, what the earth provides from the surrounding area. The favorite meat is lamb, but it is rarely extravagantly prepared. Normally, it is roasted in an oven with seasonal vegetables. Among vegetables, artichokes (called "romanesco") command as much importance as lamb. Romanesco alla Giudia (“Jewish style”) is something of a regional delight: simply boiled and fried artichokes. The eponymous Romaine lettuce originates in this region and delights mouths across the world.

For years, Lazio had no wines of DOCG status, but in 2008, Italy elevated wines made from the Cesanese grape in the Piglio region to DOCG (Cesanese di Piglio DOCG). This is still the only DOCG for red wines in Lazio. The most famous wine to come from this region is easily Frascati, a simple white wine made from Malvasia Bianca. In late 2011, Italy bestowed the honor of DOCG status on two wines from the Frascati region. Cannellino di Frascati became a DOCG for sweet white wines (minimum 35 g/l or 3.5% residual sugar). Frascati Superiore DOCG was established with the hope of helping the quality level of these otherwise poorly regarded white wines.

The most interesting story for wines from Lazio is that of Est!Est!!Est!!! di Montefiascone. Centuries ago, there was a traveling bishop who sent his page ahead to scout local bars and taverns to see who served the best wine. When the page found one such bar, he would write “Est!” on the door of the bar so that the bishop would know to stop there. When he came to the town of Montefiascone, one bar was serving wines that had been made locally. The page was so taken with the wines that he scribed “Est!Est!Est!!!” on the door.

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