I had the good fortune to spend ten days in Rome in the end of June and beginning of July. Rome is, of course, a wonderful city for history, culture and food. But we are here to talk about wine. As the capital city and a major commercial center, Rome has some distinct advantages and a few disadvantages when it comes to wine. Among the advantages are that it has a culture where wine is integrated into everyday life. Another is the huge range of wines from all over Italy that are available. I will be writing about some of those wines later.
Today I am going to write about a problem I encountered in Rome. Rome is located in the Lazio region and the wines from Lazio “don’t get no respect”. I had wines from Lazio in several trattorias. The reds were pleasant, drinkable and unmemorable. The whites were thin, acidic and almost totally lacking in aroma or flavor. They were the poor quality wines that gave Italian whites, and Lazio’s wines in particular, a bad reputation. OK, so that was the trattorias. When I went into the more upscale restaurants and, with a couple of notable exceptions, wine bars, the story was even worse. They stocked at most one or two token Lazio wines, usually Falesco’s Montiano. In many cases they had no local wines; this in an area with an over three thousand year tradition of wine making. This in an area where the “buzz” is about a steady increase in quality and interesting wines. I don’t get it.
A real bright spot and one that convinced me that the buzz about Lazio’s wines was on the money was a wine bar called Palatium. It is the Enoteca Regionale del Lazio or regional wine shop of Italy. The enoteca stocked only wines and other products from Lazio. Even the bottled water they served us was local. I had encountered regional enotecas during trips to Italy’s Piedmont region. There the enotecas are located in and cover more specific regions such as Barolo or Barbaresco rather than the whole of Piedmont. This makes sense in an area with an established reputation.
Having a regional enoteca for all of Lazio in Rome is a great idea. The reality was good too. In a pleasant space I found a friendly and knowledgably staff who helped me through the list of a few hundred wines. Each of the wines I tried was well made, flavorful, and interesting. Bravo.