Frascati Wine Tour

Let’s take a quick break from the cooking class courses and talk about WINE! The perfect accompaniment to a great meal, or even just to a great day (or a bad day…). Anyhoo, we took this tour and had a fabulous time.

Our first stop was about 40 minutes south of the city was the Pallavicini vineyard. The vines we were visiting are relatively young, but ready to produce a full Frascati wine. Interesting tidbit: they will plant rose bushes at the end of my rows of vines as a “canary in the mine.” The rose bushes are so sensitive to changes in the soil, the wine experts know that if the rose bushes start to fail, they will need to correct some kind of imbalance!

Once again, our being there in early September gave us a unique opportunity – tasting the grapes off of the vine! Early September is picking season for the Frascati grape, so they were ready to be eaten and just beautifully succulent and sweet. Unfortunately for the olive lovers, the olives aren’t ready be picked until November…(Luckily for me, I prefer olives in their oil form!)

After seeing a few of the machines that now crush the grapes (as opposed to being crushed by foot), we were brought into the cave where the wine is stored in oak barrels and then for a few months to a few years in their bottles.

After marveling at all of this, we were hustled and bustled back onto the bus and brought to what they called “The Office” where our wine tasting was to take place. We found out quickly from our wine expert, Mauro (who spoke in Italian which was then translated by our tour guide, Tiffany) that we would be tasting 4 wines as a special treat. (woohoo!)

The first was the signature grape wine of the Lazio region – the Frascati grape and wine. It is a cool white wine that is absolutely delicious refreshing when done right. It’s not sweet, but it’s not dry. Definitely a new favorite white of mine…but know that not all Frascati wines are equal and some are pretty awful…

The next was their 2008 Syrah. This is a new grape for them that they are beginning to experiment with and I believe it is grown at their vineyard closer to the sea where the soil is sandier. It was also a remarkable wine, full of flavors and with a strong nose. All of the Lazio region’s wines are extremely alcoholic so they do age them for quite a while to try to pull back on the percent alcohol. However, they kept giving us full glasses of wines that most people were finishing, so the group began to get a little rowdy even after glass two, which  made listening to Mauro hard…

He then launched into a speech about how the idea of abusing alcohol has never really come into play in Italy as they are all taught at a young age to appreciate the flavor and taste of wine. Of course, it took a while to hear the translation, but the Boy, La Mamma, and I were all cheering him on…even if the rest of the group were too drunk to get the hidden critique in his monologue = ).

The third wine was their 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, which they’ve called “Soleggio.” At first, I have to say the nose to me was like Marmite…which I love, having been brought up on it by a Scot, but it wasn’t exactly what I expected to smell in a wine. The nose turned out to be an indication of a deep and incredible wine that I ended up buying at the end of the day. Each sip brings you a new taste and even seems to fill you up – you don’t even need a meal with this one. Perfetto!

The final wine was their dessert wine “Stillato.” Normally, I’m not a huge fan of dessert wines because they’re sickeningly sweet and try to take the place of the dessert themselves. I want the dessert to be the dessert and the wine to complement it, thank you! And that’s exactly what this wine does. There’s more acidity to the Stillato than in most dessert wines and it has a complexity of flavor and a refreshing quality that would cut through the richness of a dessert quite easily. I ended up bring this one back with me as well, along with their “Prunastro” olive oil!

Overall, it was really nice to get out of the city into the beautiful countryside for an afternoon and to taste some lovely wines. Our tour guide was helpful, informative, and bubbly..though I’m not sure I’d pick that as my profession – I don’t know how patient I could stay with that many drunk people in a bus! = ) Check it out if you have time while you’re in Rome. Lazio has an incredible amount to offer in wine and I feel it’s probably often eclipsed by the Chianti region not too far north. You do have to take the tour, however, unless you have rented a car, because the vineyard is impossible to get to using public transportation and it seemed like they only open the Office to visitors if reservations had been made in advance.

Most importantly, find yourself some of the gems the Lazio region has to offer and…Salute!

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