Frascati: The Drink of Rome

Zane Lamprey chugs to Rome tonight, one of the world’s greatest cities for over two thousand years. As they say, “When in Rome, drink like the Romans.” Italy is a hotbed for fabulous wine production, and wine is the most imbibed cultural beverage. Thus, it’s worth taking a look at the most synonymous wine to Rome: Frascati. Romans refer to Frascati as the Golden Wine in reference to its color and its value. The grapes that make Frascati are grown in close proximity to the city, in the province of Lazio. The bustling metropolis stands in stark contrast to the surrounding pastoral scenes of Lazio, made up of farmland, mountain villages, and beachfronts that await those who venture outside of Roma. Compared to Italy’s more famous wine provinces, such as Piedmont and Tuscany, Lazio is not very well known for the simple reason that Rome consumes most of the Latium wine production, leaving little for the outside world.

Lazio: The Province to Rome

Photograph by National Geographic Channels
Photograph by National Geographic Channels

Rome sits in the province of Lazio. The founding of Rome is mixed in legend and archaeological truths. Legend has it that Aeneas escaped the fall of Troy, sailed around the Apennine Peninsula, and landed in modern-day Lazio. Here, he bore a line of descendants that would eventually lead to Romulus and Remus. These two brothers decided to found the city of Rome on April 23, 753 BC, but after an argument, Romulus killed Remus. The more likely version is the city grew from settlements on the Palatine Hill that sprung up because the area at the base of the hill was most suited for pasture. The region of Lazio is so-named because the original inhabitants of the land were a group of people who called themselves the “Latini.” Sound familiar?

Frascati: The Wine of Rome

Steeped in history and legend, Frascati production dates back to the 5th century B.C. As the most mentioned wine in Italian literature, Frascati was the preferred drink of Ancient Rome as it passed over the lips of Cleopatra and Julius Ceasar on many occasions, later becoming the wine for Popes and the darling to Renaissance poets and artists. Frascati is made from a number of grapes: Malvasia di Candia, Malvasia del Lazio, Grechetto, Bombino Bianco, and Trebbiano. Each grape lends specific nuances, aromas, and flavors to the final blend. The wine itself comes in three forms: dry, sweet, or sparkling–the most popular being dry.

Photograph by National Geographic Channels
Photograph by National Geographic Channels

The grapes of Frascati can craft stunning, age-worthy wines, but most Romans associate it with serviceable white wine fit to serve in cafés throughout the Eternal City. The usual suspect is subtle in taste, flowery on the nose with a hint of citrus fruits on the palate, lending to a prickly or tart mouth feel–not too far off in flavor from the ubiquitous Italian white wine, Pinot Grigio. Despite Frascati’s reputation as a mediocre wine best consumed in café settings, modern day winemakers are embracing its potential through the use of more new techniques in the winery and the vineyards.

Interestingly enough, one of the hottest new producers on the Frascati scene, Piero Constantini, owns Rome’s most famous wine shop, Enoteca Constantini–a shop featured in Zane’s journey this evening. Constantini is one of the revolutionaries turning Frascati into a note-worthy white wine at his vineyard in Lazio, Villa Simone.

The wines themselves are best sipped on a hot summer evening paired with lighter pasta dishes and a medley of fish dishes. So when in Rome, drink like the Romans, or simply go seek out a bottle of Frascati at your local wine shop and see if it transports you to the Eternal City.

Photograph by National Geographic Channels
Photograph by National Geographic Channels

ProTip: Coming soon in late February, Rome’s most venerated vegetable, carciofo romanesco, otherwise known as the artichoke. The best preparation of this veggie is “alla giudia.” This “Jewish style” artichoke is deep fried whole until its outer leaves are crispy and light and the heart is sweet and delicate. Shave a bit of Pecorino cheese on top, followed by a sip of Frascati. Ecco! A wine and food pairing fit for Romans.

Don’t miss Chug: Rome tonight at 7:30/6:30c!