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Emilia Romagna - Food and Wines - Wines

Emilia-Romagna's wines might be considered northern Italy's odd lots, different on the whole from the neighbours', often facile in style, but nearly always refreshingly individualistic. As the hyphenated name reveals, the region consists of two distinct sectors which coincide more or less at the capital of Bologna.

To the west lies Emilia with its prosperous small cities strung like jewels along the ancient Emilian Way - Modena, Reggio, Parma, Fidenza, Fiorenzuola, as far as Piacenza. The premier wine here is Lambrusco, in frothy shades of purble to pink, made from grapes grown on high trelissed vines mainly in the flatlands south of the Po. Lambrusco is produced at the rate of about 50 million bottles a year in the four DOC zones around Modena and Reggio, though few consumers abroad have tasted these wines in their authentic style. Most Lambrusco shipped away is "amabile" or sweet and sold without an apellation, while most of what is drunk at home is dutifully dry and more often than not DOC. Though there are historical precedents for both types, the dry is considered the unpa- ralleled match for the rich regional cooking.

Wine in Emilia Romagna

Even in Emilia's hills, along the Apennine range to the south, the wines are often "frizzante," made from Malvasia, Trebbiano and Ortrugo into easy, fun-loving whites, or from Barbera and Bonarda into zesty reds of more flavour intensity than Lambrusco. But there is a definite trend in the DOC zones of Colli Piacentini, Colli Bolognesi and Colli di Parma to make still and somewhat serious wines from such varieties as Sauvignon, Chardonnay, the Pinots, Barbera, Cabernet and Merlot. Natural conditions favour wines of depth and finesse but markets seem to favour the lightweights.

East of Bologna lies Romagna, decidedly diverse from Emilia but equally prolific. The plains of the Po basin between Ferrara and Ravenna are noted for fruit, vegetables and ultra-high-yield vines, most of which are sources of blending wines. The hills south of Imola, Faenza, Forli`, Cesena and Rimini are known for DOC wines, primarily from the native Albana, Sangiovese and Trebbiano.

Wine in Emilia Romagna

Albana di Romagna, which emerged in 1987 as Italy's first DOCG white wine, is now most often dry and still with a distinctive almondy undertone and, occasionally, some complexity. Albana's best expression seems to be as a richly sweet passito from partly dried grapes. The traditional semisweet and bubbly versions are usually drunk up near home. Trebbiano (Romagna's is distinct from other vines of the same name) is almost always light and fresh, whether still or bubbly, with a fragility that makes it best in its youth.

The local favourite is Sangiovese, usually a medium bodied red with a certain charm in its straightforward fruity flavour that ends in a bitter bite. Now and then, from certain plots in the "superiore" zone, it becomes a wine of size and depth with the capacity to age gracefully as "riserva."

In Romagna, too, there are trends toward Sauvignon, Chardonnay, the Pinots and Cabernet. But leading producers devote efforts to developing superior strains of Sangiovese and Albana, while building interest in such rare local wines as the DOC white Pagadebit and red Cagnina and Bosco Eliceo Fortana.

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