Emilia-Romagna is one of Italy's best loved wine regions, and this northern region of one of the world's great wine countries has been associated with fine wine making and superb viticulture for an astonishing length of time. Indeed, wine has most probably been made in Emilia-Romagna for almost three thousand years, and as one might imagine, such an ancient and respected wine region remains today deeply traditional and proud, with wineries determined to protect the region's status and reputation as a region of quality and distinction. With twenty-two DOC's, and two DOCG's, Emilia-Romagna is very much a home of quality wines, and there is a fairly even percentage of red wine and white wine grapes being grown in the region's expansive and beautiful vineyards. There are few countries in the world with a viticultural history as long or as illustrious as that claimed by Italy. Grapes were first being grown and cultivated on Italian soil several thousand years ago by the Greeks and the Pheonicians, who named Italy 'Oenotria' – the land of wines – so impressed were they with the climate and the suitability of the soil for wine production. Of course, it was the rise of the Roman Empire which had the most lasting influence on wine production in Italy, and their influence can still be felt today, as much of the riches of the empire came about through their enthusiasm for producing wines and exporting it to neighbouring countries. Since those times, a vast amount of Italian land has remained primarily for vine cultivation, and thousands of wineries can be found throughout the entire length and breadth of this beautiful country, drenched in Mediterranean sunshine and benefiting from the excellent fertile soils found there. Italy remains very much a 'land of wines', and one could not imagine this country, its landscape and culture, without it. Emilia-Romagna is an administrative region of Northern Italy comprising the two historic regions of Emilia and Romagna. The capital is Bologna; it has an area of 20,124 km² and about 4.3 million inhabitants.
The best Emilian wine is perhaps Lambrusco, a sparkling, joyous red made from grapes grown on high trellised vines in four DOC zones in the Modena, and Reggio Emilia provinces. Lambrusco is made for consumption within the year and very few consumers abroad have tasted the wine in its authentic dry style. Most exported Lambrusco is sweet and 'amabile'. Though both types count in historical traditions, the dry variety is considered the best match for the area's rich cuisine.
In the foothills of the Apennines to the south of the region, fun-loving white wines are made from Malvasia, Trebbiano and Ortrugo as well as zesty reds which are made from Barbera and Bonarda grapes. Though in the areas of the Colli Piacentini, the Colli Bolognesi and the Colli di Parma, more serious wines are made from Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot, Barbera, Cabernet and Merlot, the majority of Emilian wines are frothy and somewhat lightweight.
In Romagna, wines are made primarily from the native Sangiovese, Trebbiano and Albana grapes. Albana di Romagna, which became Italy's first DOCG white wine in 1987, is usually dry and still with a distinctive almond undertone and finish. The traditional semisweet and bubbly version of Albana Spumante is a rich and sweet passito made from partly-dried grapes. Another Romagna white, the Trebbiano di Romagna, is often light and fresh and, whether still or bubbly, has a fragility that renders it best in its youth.
The king of Romagna wines, though, is Sangiovese, usually a robust red with pronounced fruity flavors, reminiscent of the great variety of produce and fruits gracing the area. More and more often, though, local producers of Sangiovese are making superior reserve wines of greater depth of bouquet and flavor, capable of aging gracefully.