Italy Abruzzo Lazio
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.
The ancient region of Abruzzo in central Italy has been an important center of wine production for millennia, with most archaeologists agreeing that the first vines cultivated in the excellent soils of the region were probably planted sometime in the sixth century BCE. Indeed, legend has it that Hannibal was given Abruzzo wine after he brought his elephants over the Alps, whilst on his way to sack Rome. As with many historic wine regions of Italy, Abruzzo's reputation was heavily tarnished in the mid 20th century, and it became known as a region more concerned with bulk and quantity than quality. Today, this couldn't be further from the truth, and wineries in Abruzzo are once more using their traditional techniques to make wonderful, characterful wines from their native grape varietals, and finding new successes and new fans all the time.
The central Italian wine region of Lazio is widely regarded as one of the oldest wine regions on earth. The origins of the viticulture in this special part of Italy, which includes the capital city of Rome, is shrouded in myth and legend, although it seems likely that the Etruscans were the first people to cultivate the native vines which thrive there. The Romans stepped things up a notch, and wines produced in Roman Lazio were exported across the empire and celebrated for their finesse and character, but upon the collapse of this mighty civilization, Lazio wines almost disappeared forever. The viticultural practises of Lazio weren’t resurrected until the late 19th century, when Italy was unified, and it continues to be an important Old World wines region to this day.
Lazio benefits from a range of microclimates, which are influenced greatly by the proximity to the coast - bringing cooling sea breezes over the vineyards which would otherwise be roasted by the scorching midsummer heat. The mountains in the northeast of the region bring more variety, and as such, an enormous range of wines are produced across Lazio. The main grape varietals there are Nebbiolo and Malvasia di Candia, although red wines made from Sangiovese and Montepulciano grapes are certainly on the rise and have been gaining plenty of praise in recent years.