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The wines of Emilia-Romagna

The wines of Emilia-Romagna

by Marco Rossi 22 July 2016

Marco Rossi introduces the wines of one of Italy's most famous regions, home to favourites such as Lambrusco and Albana Romagna.

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Just saying the name Emilia-Romagna puts a smile on my face and fills my palate with joy. When I think of this region, of the red towers of Bologna or the crowded beaches of Rimini, I’m reminded of the slow life of the past, a happy and hospitable people, simple moments and great flavours. Maybe I'm biased; I studied and lived in Bologna and have an enormous love for Fellini, but every time I sit down to a table full of Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano cheese, tortellini, lasagne, salama da sugo, tigelle or piadine, while drinking good Lambrusco or a fruity Sangiovese, I am regenerated by the tastes and ancient aromas that can be found in the region.

I will never forget tasting the wines that I believe perfectly represent this feeling. Lambrusco Grasparossa Vittorio Graziano ‘Fontana dei Boschi’, probably the most ‘abrupt’ type of Lambrusco, is jovial and melancholy at the same time, just like a clown. After a few glasses you will almost feel guilty for having forgotten the pure and simple joy of living a simple life without the distractions of modern day culture.

Emilia-Romagna is quite a young region, as before 1970 it was divided into two distinctly separate territories. Our journey will take us through these two territories, sometimes together, sometimes clearly distinct over centuries of history.

Lambrusco vineyards
Emilia-Romagna is famous for the sparkling wine Lambrusco, which is now shedding its reputation as a cheap and cheerful option
Emilia-Romagna
The region is the perfect mix of hills, plains, mountains and coastlines, offering all sorts of microclimates to winemakers

Emilia

DOCGs

Colli Blognesi Classico Pignoletto DOCG (the hilly part of the province of Bologna touching some municipalities in the province of Modena)

This DOCG was formed in 1997 to enhance the Pignoletto, an ancient variety that was traditionally linked to farming. According to specifications, producers need to use at least 95% of Pignoletto grapes while the rest can be Riesling or Trebbiano Romagnolo. There's also an amazing sparkling version of this wine that goes perfectly with traditional Emilia boiled meat.

  • Visual: light yellow with greenish reflections
  • Bouquet: fruit dominates the aromatic spectrum with distinct hints of apple, peach, tropical fruits and almonds, which give way to subtle floral and herbal notes
  • Taste: soft, warm and quite fresh with good structure, closing with a hint of bitter almond
  • Pairing: the famous Bologna tortellini in broth are perfect with Pignoletto, but cheese, snails and grilled fish also work well

Must try:

Traditional: Az Agricola Manaresi – Colli Bolognesi Classico DOCG Pignoletto

New Wave: Monte Vecchio Isolani – Colli Bolognesi Pignoletto Frizante Classico DOCG

DOCs

Lambrusco DOC (province of Modena, Reggio Emilia and Mantova)

Lambrusco wine deserves a separate article as there are so many types, ranging from dry to slightly sweet that we could taste. For a long time, Lambrusco was relegated to the role of a sparkling wine made just for traditional meals and frugal banquets, but today it is experiencing a moment of glory thanks to a new wave of quality producers using the Metodo Classico, used for Champagne.

As already highlighted in the early stages of this article, Lambrusco is a light, unpretentious and humble wine that can give immense joy, sometimes achieving unexpected levels of genuine elegance. The four main Lambrusco producing areas are Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Grasparossa Castelvetro, Lambrusco Calamino of Santa Croce and Lambrusco Reggiano.

  • Visual: from light pink (in the rosé version of Sorbara) to ruby red (purple is reached only in Grasparossa version), the carbonation varies depending on the method of vinification
  • Bouquet: winey aromas, often linked to wort, red fruit and notes of violet
  • Taste: the freshness reigns over everything else, with a beautiful acidity
  • Pairing: fatty foods of the region, aged cheeses such as Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano or lamb

Must try:

Traditional: Cleto Chiarli ‘Lambrusco del Fondatore’ – Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC

New Wave: Fattoria Roretto ‘Canova’ – Lambrusco Grasparossa DOC

Colli Piacentini DOC (much of the province of Piacenza)

Piacenza has been a land of wines since ancient times. Popes, kings, lords and great artists up to this day just loved the wines of this area. In the Colli Piacentini area you will find amazing blends such as Bonarda, the Gutturino and Pinot Noir rosé sparkling wine – all high quality wines made by both international varieties and native grapes.

  • Visual: intense light yellow
  • Bouquet:: notes of Mediterranean flowers, golden apples and ripe yellow fruit
  • Taste: good correspondence between nose and palate with hints of orange and tangerine with a good length and good structure
  • Pairing: Cheeses, ravioli and tortellini with pumpkin, white meats and Baccalà alla Vicentina

Must try:

Traditional: Lusenti ‘Regina Bianca’ – Colli Piacentini Malvasia DOC

New Wave: Luretta ‘Bacca di Rosa’ – Colli Piacentini Malvasia DOC

Romagna

DOCGs

Albana Romagna DOCG (Part of the provinces of Forlì, Cesena and Ravenna, reaching Bologna)

The Albana is one of the oldest vines in Romagna, and producers must use only this grape when making wines to gain DOCG status. There are five different versions: dry, demi-sec, sweet, raisin and sweet reserve. During ancient times Albana was considered a poor tavern wine until Roman rule, when it was served in a golden cup due to its delicate taste.

This was the first DOCG of the unified Emilia-Romagna, originating in 1987, and one of the first DOCGs made from white grapes in Italy. The Albana name comes from the Latin albus (white).

  • Visual: pale yellow with golden reflections
  • Bouquet: good intensity with clear notes of peach, apricot, citrus fruits, figs and flowers, with an interesting hazelnut flavour.
  • Taste: great structure and body, good flavour and lively tannins. Good roundness; enough but not too cool
  • Pairing: tagliatelle or lasagna with meat sauce, duck with oranges or pork

Must try:

Traditional: Fattoria Zerbina ‘Scacco Matto’ – Albana Romagna DOCG Passito

New Wave: Santa Lucia ‘Albarara Cru Artigianale’ – Albana Romagna DOCG Secco

DOCs

Sangiovese of Romagna DOC (Bologna, Ravenna, Forlì and Rimini)

Sangiovese is the most popular grape in Italy together with Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo. Outside of Tuscany – its homeland – there are only a few areas which can use it to its full potential, Romagna being one of them. For the people of Romagna, Sangiovese is almost a friend or relative that has historically accompanied them through centuries of cultural evolution. In Romagna Sangiovese is not made into wines that need ageing (as in Tuscany) – here you can get great results with young wines.

  • Visual: intense ruby red with violet reflections
  • Bouquet: going from notes of violet, pink and sweet spices to small red fruit pulp and cherry
  • Taste: strong tannins, great structure and body with a good persistence and bitter finish
  • Pairing: pasta dishes such as tagliatelle with meat sauce or lasagne, pheasant and some cheeses like Parmesan and Grana Padano

Must try:

Traditional: Fattoria Casetto de Mandorli ‘Vigna del Generale’ – Predappio Predappio IGT

New Wave: Noelia Ricci ‘Sangiovese’ – Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore DOCG

Pagadebit DOC (provinces of Ravenna, Forlì, Cesena and Rimini)

The name of this DOC is extremely interesting – in Italian it literally means ‘pays debts’. The grape is also known as Bombino Bianco but people from Romagna call it Pagadebit as, being an extremely sturdy and weather-resistant variety, it always ensured the farmers would have a safe harvest and be able to produce white wine even in bad years, helping them pay the debts accumulated during the year.

  • Visual: pale yellow with green highlights
  • Bouquet: very intense with aromas of chamomile, hawthorn, plum and herbs with a good minerality
  • Taste: dry and extremely fresh but not necessarily persistent
  • Pairing: shellfish, pasta with seafood and the classic local dish piadina

Must try:

Traditional: Podere La Berta – Pagadebit di Romagna DOC

New Wave: Podere di Vecciano ‘Vigna delle Rose’ – Pagadebit di Romagna DOC

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