Visiting the eternal city is always better with wine. When exploring wines in Rome, you have to drink as the Romans did (and still do!) Many wines of Lazio (the region Rome calls home) remain hidden gems (because the Romans drink them all themselves) in the Italian wine scene, making your trip the perfect opportunity to explore them all. Plus, the wines go flawlessly with many beloved Roman dishes (pasta carbonara or alla gricia anyone?)
Let’s explore all the wines you must try on your next trip to Rome, along with restaurants and wine bars to visit, ensuring you have the best Roman food and wine experience.
Est! Est!! Est!!! Montefiascone
North in Viterbo - by the gorgeous Lago di Bolsena - lies the Montefiascone DOC, producing its convivial white wine Est! Est!! Est!! (yes, that is indeed the real name of the DOC.)
You probably imagine there's quite a story behind this wine's name. In the 12th century, a major Bishop was heading to the coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V. On the way, he was searching for the best inns to stay in and drink. To identify a good place to stay, the word ‘Est!’ was written on the door of the inn. Upon drinking the wine in the area, the Bishop’s cupbearer excitedly wrote ‘Est! Est!! Est!!!,’ to remember precisely where they sipped such great wine.
Moving back to the 21st century, Montefiascone remains a respected wine-producing area. The wine here is made with indigenous Malvasia and Trebbiano grapes. These grapes grow on hillside vineyards with volcanic soils, gifted by the former underwater volcano that now is Lago di Bolsena. These elements yield a wine that is fresh, mineral, and gently aromatic. Viterbo is a university town with a medieval center that is worth a visit as well.
Est! Est!! Est!!! Montefiascone DOC is a natural pairing for a perfect plate of spaghetti alle vongole (or other shellfish dishes) or fried foods like the classic Roman supplì.
You may have heard of this white wine before. Frascati is a wine popular all over the world. So, you may not be surprised that Frascati was one of the first 3 DOCs in Italy, established in 1966 (along with Est! Est!! Est!!!.)
The Frascati DOC is southeast of the eternal city in Castelli Romani, a vast area that was once a retreat for wealthy ancient Romans. It is a large area comprising multiple communes (including Frascati itself). Here, the volcanic Nemi and Albano lakes grace the land with rich volcanic soils. Similarl to Montefiascone, the wines here gain a mineral quality that makes them extra refreshing, especially during the hot Roman summers.
So, what is Frascati like? Frascati DOC is a medium bodied white wine with floral aromas and almost tropical flavors. It's made from at least 70% Malvasia del Lazio or Malvasia Bianco di Candia. The rest of this blend can be a blend of local, native varietals such asBombino Bianco, Bellone, and Trebbiano.
Frascati DOC is a natural pairing for most classic Roman pasta dishes - Frascati's acidity and body can cut through the creaminess of cacio e pepe or carbonara with ease. Try this wine with the carciofi alla romana (Roman artichokes) or even a streetside porchetta sandwich.
Continuing on the white wine train, we dive into a wine that is the least known on the list. Bellone is an ancient grape varietal from Lazio, yielding interesting wines thanks to producers giving it the attention it deserves in the last two decades.
So, what is Bellone? This Roman grape comes from the Castelli Romani area, existing for thousands of years. Pliny the Elder identified Bellone as ‘uva pantastica’ in his famous Naturalis Historia, substantiating that this grape was around in ancient Roman times.
Today, Bellone is finding its part on the wine stage again after thousands of years in the shadows of Frascati (although a small amount of Bellone can be used in Frascati wines). Alone, Bellone can stand on its own. Marco Carpineti is showing just how, producing a Bellone that shines a light on the grape's inherently fascinating character. Carpineti’s Capolemole features Bellone fermented in stainless steel, expressing Bellone’s naturally nutty-like and herbal flavors.
And, a little fun fact about Bellone? It might have been a holy wine. Bellone has a clone named arciprete, which means archpriest, having many enologists believe this grape once was a staple for mass.
When pairing Bellone, it goes flawlessly with traditional Roman fried foods like carciofi alla giudia (Jewish artichokes) and white meat dishes, like pollo alla romana.
Cesanese del Piglio (DOCG)
You can’t talk about red wines in Rome without mentioning Cesanese. This grape is indigenous to Lazio, with a history likely dating back to gladiator times. And, it has a character to match too.
There are two types of Cesane and Cesanese del Piglio is quite the stand-out. Lazio's first DOCG wine has a character that sings of the land. This wine is an ode to the farmers of its homeland, who have adored this wine for centuries. Cesanese is a wine that echos this farming spirit through its personality and vigor.
Heading about 80 kilometers south of Rome, you will find the ancient town of Piglio in the province of Frosinone. Here, two types of Cesanese grow (Comune and Affile) in limestone and volcanic soils. Together, these grapes make up at least 90% of Piglio DOCG wine.
Fortunately, over the last couple of decades, producers have given extra attention to Cesanese del Piglio, showing the world how impressive of a wine it is. These producers practice very sustainably, paying homage to their farming roots. Damiano Ciolli offers incredible expressions of Cesanese, with wines exuding terroir. Also, the newcomer Abbia Nova - a winery run by two young brothers - offers fresher styles of Cesanese, grown in organic vineyards nurtured by biodiversity.
Cesanese is a very adaptable wine, pairing flawlessly with typical Roman first courses and second courses. Many adore it with cacio e pepe or carbonara, as its tannins and acidity slice through the salty goodness of the pasta. Cesanese del Piglio - especially a Superiore - also pairs well with meat, particularly coda alla vaccinara (traditional Roman stewed oxtail.)
Must Visit Restaurants and Wine Bars
You really can’t visit Rome without going to Roscioli at least once. Between their restaurant, wine bar, and bakery, it's hard not to find yourself at this Campo Dei Fiori hot spot.
When it comes to wining and dining, we advise heading to Roscioli’s restaurant or Roscioli Rimessa. The restaurant has quite a lineup of Roman staples, and a great wine list to match. But, to level up your experience, Rimessa offers unique food and wine-tasting experiences. Their food menu and wine pairings are equally exciting, sending you on an exhilarating food journey. And, you may meet some fellow wine-loving friends along the way too.
Nestled in Trastevere is Latteria, one of Rome’s leading natural wine bars. Here, you can enjoy a solid selection of local and other Italian wines, along with quite a wide selection of wines by the glass.
And, you can’t sleep on their food either. This wine bar offers a small but mighty menu of appetizers (their crostini are exquisite) and large plates featuring seasonally inspired dishes and classics. With some delicious crostini and a cold glass of white wine, you will easily hang out at Latteria's sidewalk patio for hours.
While some folks head to Pierluigi to spot celebrities, you can also visit this restaurant for an incredible meal and wine list. Located in the Centro Storico, it's a historic restaurant always worth a visit (and most definitely requires a reservation.)
Pierluigi’s local wine selection is small but tight-knit. It's a spot for those looking for a wider, more international wine list with a bounty of local Roman cuisine. And, don't sleep on their fresh seafood. Besides maybe spotting Snoop Dogg, it's the fish that makes Pierluigi famous.
Da Cesare al Casaletto
This once-hidden gem - which gained major attention from food blogger Katie Parla - is slightly outside the city center, but always worth the visit. Da Cesare hasn’t lost its charm. They cook up some of the best Roman staples in the city, from carciofi alla romana to polpette di bollito to all the classic Roman pasta dishes.
What we adore just as much as Da Cesare’s kitchen is its wine list, thoughtfully maintained by its owners. You can find an excellent selection of Lazio wines, including Damiano Ciolli and other spectacular Cesanese producers.
Did exploring the wines to drink in Rome make you even more excited about your trip? We hope so. To get you started, our Big Hammer wine team is here to help you savor all the Italian wines, prepping your palate before your Italian adventure!
Wines to Try:
2020 Reguta Prediale Trevenezie
2019 Foradori Granato Vigneti delle Dolomiti
2019 Guerrieri Montepulciano D'Abruzzo 'Guerriero della Terra'
2021 Scarbolo 'Il Ramato' Pinot Grigio Venezia Giulia DOC
2020 Malibran Prosecco Valdobbiadene DOCG
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