THE FOOD AND WINE OF CIOCIARIA ⋆ Silver Compass Tours
Discovering Ciociarian food and wine is an absolute lightbulb moment – with the region famed for its fresh produce, cheeses, truffles, olives and olive oil, and its wine and food festivals!
It’s awash with foodie discoveries, from making fresh ricotta with shepherds on top of mountains, searching out truffles, tasting tangy pecorino sheep’s cheese and porchetta rolls in the market, and dining al fresco at an organic hillside vineyard during a wine-tasting. Sign us up, every time!
FOOD SPECIALTIES AND SAGRAS
The region is renowned for its succulent buffalo mozzarella and many of the mountaintop village specialise in regional products such as truffles, olives, olive oil, pecorino sheep’s cheese, ricotta goat’s cheese, buffalo mozzerella, porchetta, proscuitto, wild forest mushrooms and porcini, chestnuts and more.
Many of the local villages hold dedicated Sagra (food festivals) annually to celebrate their local specialty or pasta dish. It’s often hard to know about these events unless you’re a local, and they are often hard to find (think small village on a mountaintop), but once you stumble across them my gosh they are great fun. Joining in on a local Sagra is definitely part of the itinerary on our Wild Heart of Italy tours!
And as for the wine, the Lazio wine region has been growing vines to supply vino to tables since the Roman times – and there’s actually evidence to suggest that there was a viticulture even prior to this.
LAZIO WINE REGION
Lazio is home to roughly 30 DOC titles, and according to WineSearcher three white DOCs stand out in particular: Castelli Romani (apparently the most important), Frascati (the more renowned and traditional but enjoying a resurgence) and Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone (not widely known outside of Italy but hey, I’d go there and drink all their wines just for the name).
On that point, Est! Est!! Est!!! may be a strange name for a wine region, but it apparently relates back to the 12th century when a Bishop on his way to Rome sent a servant ahead of him to search out the best wine of each village so he knew where to stop for the day during his travels. Scrawling ‘Est’ – Latin for ‘It is'(here) – on the doors of all the places with good wine, according to legend when the servant reached the inn at Montefiascone and tasted all the wines on tap he enthusiastically scribbled Est! Est!! Est!!! on its door.
There are six additional location-specific IGT titles in the Lazio IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), and three of these relate directly to the Ciociaria region within the region (it’s much like Chianti in Tuscany). These are: Anagni IGT, which covers the Frosinone province; Civitella d’Agliano IGT, which is exclusive to the Civitella d’Agliano parish just north-east of Montefiascone; and Frusinate IGT, which covers the Frosinone province.
The region is most well-known for its white wine varietals, in particular Trebbiano and Malvasia. Sangiovese and Montepulciano are the dominant reds of the region, although WineSearch (and Paolo!) recommend you seek out the local Cesanese as one of the region’s “most interesting” and indigenous red grape varieties, and Civitella D’Agliano has lent its name to the fabulous Aglianico red varietal so count us in for that too.
In an article titled ‘The Rise of Cesanese and Lazio Wine‘, Winemag has stated that while you may never have heard of Cesanese before it is “poised to become one of the hottest rediscovered red grapes in central Italy.
“Among the rare red wines of Lazio, Cesanese del Piglio is the most interesting,” says Rome-based wine historian Andrea Gabbrielli. “Today, the market wants wines with identity and personality and even though Cesanese is an antique variety, it represents an exciting new trend.”
During our travels through the wine regions of Ciociaria, we have also had the good fortune to stumble upon a holistic organic vineyard on top of a mountain that’s making incredibly good Pampanaro del Frusinate.
The charming Poggio alla Meta (or Hill of Rock) in Pescosolido is experimenting with cultivating the vines in the natural limestone and sandstone rock of the mountain – with truly remarkable results. You’ll need to taste it for yourself, and luckily this vineyard is part of our Wild Heart of Italy tours.
So there you have it, a quick introduction to the marvellous food and wines of Ciociaria.