This month’s Italian Food Wine Travel region of focus is Lazio. The most prominent point of interest in the Lazio region is Rome. As luck would have it my husband and I plan to visit Rome this fall and we have been immersed in studying and planning our vacation. While Rome is the principle city of Lazio and the heart of the ancient Roman Empire, Lazio is also a notable wine and food region.
To live like Caesar during the time of the ancient Roman Empire one must erect the Colosseum;
and Palatine Hill.
Moving from ancient Rome to the sixteenth-seventeenth century one must take in the astounding beauty of all that is St. Peter’s Basilica, including the Sistine Chapel, and Vatican City (1929).
The Lazio region was originally settled by the Etruscans; however, it was the Latins who gave the region its original name, Latium. Once the Romans took over the area the agriculture and trade flourished until the fall of the Roman Empire, where the Lazio region was left in disarray until the 1870’s when Rome became the capital of modern Italy. Lazio has an ideal terroir for viticulture. Lazio’s volcanic hills provide fertile and well-drained soil that is rich in potassium and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west brings in cooler sea breezes to temper the warmer coastal air. Lazio is known for producing white wines that are light and crisp, designed to be enjoyed in their youth, with high acidity and sharpness. Lazio is home to many red wines but they are lower in profile and in my experience almost impossible to find in the United States. Lazio is home to 30 DOC titles and only one DOCG in Cesanese. I tried diligently to locate a Cesanese del Piglio through multiple channels but never found success. I was able to locate a few IGTs from Lazio but I did not purchase since I was more interested in trying an indigenous Lazio varietal.
In the land of Caesar the food is hearty and robust. Common to the Lazio cuisine include primi pasta dishes such as Gnocchi alla Romana, Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Rigatoni con la Pajata; and secondo piattos such as Saltimbocca alla Romana, Involtini di Vitello al Sugo, and Abbacchio alla Scottadito. Many Americans are familiar with the red pepper flaked spicy arribbiata, meaning angry, sauce that also comes from Lazio. Roman artichokes and giant green and black olives are also very popular in Lazio. Please join me as I sought to explore the wine and food of Lazio.
Coenobium Bianco Lazio 2012: This wine was crafted of 55% Trebbiano, 15% Verdicchio, 20% Malvasia and 10% Grechetto. It poured an old gold with dark yellow highlights into the glass and opened with a muted aroma of very soft minerality with faint hints of nuttiness and honey. On the palate this wine delivered a firm mineral foundation with hints of citrus, honeysuckle and almonds. It was well-structured with round acidity, a crisp clean mouth-feel and a clean finish. Wine Importer Rosenthal explains the Coenobium’s “intrigue comes from the volcanic soils that underlay the vineyards and the longer than usual contact that the fermenting juice has with the skins … this being a vinification technique encouraged by winemaker Giampiero Bea.” SRP $22. Click here to find this wine near you.
This wine was crafted from the Monastero Suore Cistercensi. “The Sisters of the Cistercian order live and work at their monastery in Vitorchiano, ninety minutes or so north of Rome in the Lazio district. Here at this quiet religious outpost eighty women of this religious order work vineyards and orchards and gardens organically. Under the guidance of winemaker Giampiero Bea, they produce two wines as honest and sympathetic and gracious as they are.” Via Rosenthal Wine Merchants.
It was my plan to make Gnocchi alla Romana to pair with the Coenobium; however, life took over and left me with no time to prepare this dish before publishing this article. Therefore, I decided to craft my own Caesar inspired meal. With limited time on a Monday night I made what I like to call a weeknight pasta “dump.” What this means is whatever I have in my kitchen becomes a pasta dish, it usually comes out very good, my teens love it, and this dish was no exception. Here is what I found: frozen gnocchi, pesto, peas, leeks, bacon, and fresh Italian Parmesano Reggiano. I defrosted and boiled the gnocchi (it was previously fresh so only required 5 minutes to come back to life). While the gnocchi was cooking I sautéed chopped bacon, a chopped leek, 2 finely sliced garlic cloves and a handful of peas. Once the gnocchi was cooked and drained I topped it with the sautéed veggies and bacon and mixed it with fresh pesto and a touch of grated parmesan cheese. The Lazio region tends to eat “rustic” or “peasant” style foods; although this dish was not authentic Italian I felt it certainly fit into to the rustic Lazio style and most importantly it was delicious and paired beautifully with the wine! The following day I made a simple summer salad from a Heirloom tomato, fresh mozzarella, fresh pesto, Italian EVOO and balsamic vinegar. The salad looked so good I decided to pair it with the Coenobium. Another delicious combination. The Coenobium was a delicious and versatile wine that would pair beautifully with Italian cuisine as well as whatever you can create.
To learn more about Lazio and explore more Lazio food and wine pairings please check out my fellow #ItalianFWT writers:
Vino Travels – Lazio Food & Wine Pairing: Saltimboca alla Romana with Casale del Giglio Petit Verdot
Italophilia – Visit Ariccia with Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell
Orna O’Reilly – A Foodie Easter in Rome
Cooking Chat – Orzo, Salmon and Pesto Paired with a Frascati
Food Wine Click – They’ll Drink Anything in Rome
Enofylz Wine Blog – A Taste of Lazio
Christy’s Palate – Living La Vita Lazio
The Palladian Traveler – Civita di Bagnoregio: The Dying Town
Adventures of a Carry On – When in Rome Eat Like a Roman: Bucatini all’Amatriciana
Girls Gotta Drink – Eat Like a Roman (With a Roman): Unusual Things to do in Rome
If you are reading this early enough please join us live on Twitter at 10 CST using #WinePW as we discuss food, wine and travel in Lazio.
Furthermore, join us Saturday, August 1 as we explore the Italian island of Sardegna.
My Song Selection: One of the things my husband and I hope to do one night in Rome is visit a jazz club. There are many famous jazz clubs in Rome but rumour has it Casa del Jazz is tops. I felt a smooth, light and crisp jazz song from musicians at Casa del Jazz would be the perfect musical pairing to this Lazio exploration as well as a perfect accompaniment to the Coenobium’s flavors and style.
Live like Caesar with your own Lazio food and wine experience and let me know what song you pair with it. Cheers!