Wine tours Rome in a nutshell

Coming from Napa area in California, I arrived in Rome with high hopes and expectations. Raised around some of the finest wines, I was still very excited to try the wine in Italy. At first, I was disappointed. It is not easy to go into a supermarket and choose a bottle of wine in a foreign language. It is also not easy to choose a bottle or glass of wine from restaurant wine lists. Some restaurants and wine bars have menus that are almost the same size as the bible. If your Italian is anything like mine was, and you get around saying “ciao, arrivederci, pizza, scuzi, and grazie”, good luck. Fortunately, after many weeks of struggling, I found some Roman friends.

Unfortunately, if you are only coming to Rome for a couple of days it is hard to find Italian friends. Luckily, I am your new best friend, and I am here to steer you in the right direction. First off, Do NOT be afraid of the vino della casa (house wine) when you are visiting an osteria, trattoria or ristorante. Drink the table wine; it is cheap. The restaurant itself may even produce it. Many Roman restaurants have been around for many generations. More often than not they have little farms outside of city center, which produce for meals. Sometimes they even supply the grapes for the wine, and olives for olive oil.

After choosing the house wine, there is still one more decision to be made. White or Red? The right wine can enhance a dish to perfection. For fish, seafood, chicken, duck quail, or light olive oil based pasta, a white house wine should be more pleasant. When ordering tomato-based meals, big game, or spicy foods, a red wine is usually more complementary.

If you have a sophisticated appreciation for wine and would like to sample sophisticated wine, make your way to a wine bar. It is nearly impossible to focus on the wine you are having with dinner when you are having Italian food. When your plate arrives, your eyes begin to bulge out of their sockets; nothing else matters in the world. If you would rather sit and order regional wines by the glass with snacks and small finger foods, look for enoteche. Relaxed and full of ambience and good wine, these are lovely spots for light and inexpensive lunches; perfect to educate your palate and recharge your batteries.

Join a Rome wine tasting or wine tours outside Rome with When in Rome Tours, a real treat for connoisseurs of Italian food and wine. Several wines from around Italy are served with many choices of cheese and meat from local farms. Roman wine tasting at it’s finest.


To spit or not to spit, a wine tours Rome primer

Having a good glass of wine is not a luxury in Rome, but standard. Beer drinkers beware; Rome is in serious need of more pubs. Fortunately, the lack of pubs is compensated by a great deal of wine bars.

Romans care very much about tradition and etiquette. Nasty facial expressions and piercing glances will shoot at you in every direction after ordering a cappuccino in the afternoon. So, if you have never been to a wine tasting, try to embrace the art of etiquette.

To spit or not to spit? Professional wine tasters have discovered that if they swallow all the wine they taste, they become far less thoughtful and capable of evaluating each glass of wine (especially as the day goes on). These wine connoisseurs! So spitting became acceptable. In some wineries (which you are unlikely to find in city center Rome), tasters would sometimes spit right onto the floor or into drains. But in most wine tasting bars, they provide a spittoon, which is usually just a bucket or plastic container for each customer. To some people this is disgusting, and at first, most people are unwilling to spit out wine. Two reasons why spitting can seem impolite; first, most people are taught from mother never to spit in public; it’s rude. Second, it usually costs a fair bit to go wine tasting and it’s a shame to waste the wine…

Well, if you decide to drink all of your wine at one of the many wine tours in Rome, which many people do, you could possibly miss out on other things. At many wine bars, they will advise that you don’t drink all of the wine for a couple reasons. One, evaluating the wines after glass 4-5 will become much more difficult. Wine usually ranges between 11-13% alcohol. The alcohol is masked by sweet fruity of grapes but wine is a creeper, and will sneak up on you before you know it. Second, swallowing isn’t necessary to completely taste the wine. Eight to ten seconds should be enough time to completely taste the wine. Thirdly, and most importantly, (especially in chaotic Rome) if you are driving to the tasting, it would be smart to have one person be the “spitter”.

In the end, the decision is completely the taster’s choice. If you choose to spit out the wine, which may seem strange, it’s not, and has actually become quite customary (it may even make you seem more experienced than you are!). But, if you cannot bring yourself to spit, no matter what reason, make sure you indulge in the cheese, crackers, and snacks provided so that you will make it home happy, safe and sound.


Frascati wine tours Rome

When most people come to Italy on vacation, they think about how much weight they are going to have to lose thereafter. Italy is recognized and assumed to have the world’s best pasta, cheese, pizza, gelato, and most importantly, wine. When most people think of Italian wine, they think of Asti or Chianti. But if you are visiting Rome, you might as well embrace the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Most Italians having dinner or lunch aren’t scrolling down the list looking for an expensive imported wine from Tuscany or Umbria. Instead, many Romans order a Frascati wine or “vino della casa” (house wine), which most of the time comes from the hills just south of Rome (Frascati region). For centuries, Romans would grow and purchase wine from Frascati, and the tradition endures today.. Chianti often outshines Frascati and other Italian wines because there was no need to export it around Italy or the rest of the world. Romans have always provided a healthy market for Frascati, which gives wineries minimal reasons to send bottles abroad.

If you happen to prefer white to red wine, you are in luck! Frascati is predominantly known for its production of white wines. Three types of  grapes are used; Malvasia, Trebbiano, and Greco. These grapes are used in many different ratios, varying in sweetness and dryness. Vineyards in this region focus mostly on table wine, served chilled and refreshed. Besides table wines, dessert wines are also produced and they are becoming more and more popular. These dessert wines have a beautiful golden color with a surprisingly mild and pleasant flavor. They tend to be quite strong and overpowering.

Although the Frascati region is mostly known for whites, many vineyards in the hills just outside Rome grow and produce a wide range of red wines as well, in Ariccia and Marino, for example. It is easy to fall in love with red wine from this region, even for the more refined palate.

If you are on vacation in Rome and would like to exchange the chance of city center tourist traps with a beautiful day sipping wine, head over to the Frascati region to explore beautiful vineyards and olive groves. If you are interested in taking a day tour, visit When In Rome Tours. They offer day trips to the Castelli Romani and the Santa Benedetta Roman vineyard. You will taste wine with the actual wine producers, indulge in tasty foods, and do as the Romans do!


Roman Wine

In Rome and the surrounding area, wine consumption is held in high regard. It is an ancient pastime which pre-dates the Roman Empire and has since evolved into a culture, an art form, a throwback to past times for some, always a pleasure for all.

The consumption of wine in Rome did not follow the ancient Greek tradition of the symposium (‘drinking together’), nor the form of religious excitement which was said to affect those who became inebriated, thought to be possessed by deities such as Eros, Dionysus or the Muses. In the bars and banquets of ancient Rome, wine was treated as a beverage rather than a ‘drug’, but it was also considered a rarity, even a luxury.

Drinking wine was a privilege reserved for the head of the family and adult males, occasionally bestowed to wives but strictly forbidden to young unmarried women. Wine was a precious commodity and never wasted, therefore ‘watering’ was common (hot water added to wine) prior to serving in oversized cups. ‘Pure’ wine was only consumed during votive libations or for medicinal purposes.

Victorious military campaigns and the consequent presentation of the spoils of war to the people of Rome gave rise to a dramatic increase in wine consumption. Newly opened taverns in the city encouraged the drinking of wine for fun, and it soon became commonplace for wine to be served warm with food. To show off their wealth, some drank wine filtered through snow for some kind of early prototype refreshment. The appreciation of vintage wine has changed little. A vintage was essential for important gatherings, and Petronius describes a 100 year old bottle of ‘Falerno’ served at the sumptuous table of Trimalchio. Pliny catalogued Italian and foreign wines, the proverb ‘In vino veritas’ (in wine, the truth) has been ascribed to him. Let it be known that his words referred not only to the fact that wine helps the best of us speak the absolute truth, but also the power it grants to those who indulge, establishing a connection with the gods.

One can only imagine how wine tasted in antiquity. Latin texts indicate that a ‘Magister bibendi’ (master of drinking) was selected by the roll of dice. Ironically, he had to refrain from drinking and ascertain how many parts of water should be mixed with the wine. Nobility loved to dilute wine with all sorts of ingredients, and the most common mixture was ‘Vinum mulsum’ (wine with honey). Romans drank to the health of their friends, lovers, and important people in society, as we do today. When men drank to the good health of a woman, they imbibed from as many cups as the letters in her name.

The best known Roman wines are those produced in hills due south of the city in the Castelli Romani region. A green and fertile volcanic basin boasting two crater lakes and 16 picturesque towns. Wine making in the Castelli is ubiquitous. Many white wines, particularly from Marino and Frascati, are of a very high standard, and have been awarded the prestigious DOC certification of quality. While red wines from the region are not as well known, they are no less appreciated by today’s Romans who run to the hills for wine, pork, cheese and bread when their city roasts in July and August.

Our Wine Tours Rome visit Marino, Frascati and other small towns in the Castelli Romani renowned for producing high quality white wines. Wine tasting in Rome is another option for visitors who prefer to remain in the ancient city centre.


Wine tasting in and around Rome

We’ll be extending wine tours of Rome this new year 2011 and we’d like to hear from you about the direction you’d like us to take. Our current Rome wine tour is spent in a villa near Frascati, with options to visit other wine producing towns in the Castelli Romani region south of Rome, the crater lake and forests of Albano or the papal residence in Castelgandolfo (see article below entitled ‘Wine tours from Rome in the Castelli Romani region).

 Rome wine tours 2011 provided by When In Rome Tours

There are many wine rooms (repositories) in Rome called ‘enoteche’ (singular; ‘enoteca’), and all of them offer wine tasting services. Each enoteca has a sommelier, typically qualified from the Association of Italian Sommeliers (AIS) based at the Rome Cavalieri Hilton, which overlooks the city from the summit of Monte Mario hill.

Many bars and restaurants in Rome call themselves ‘enoteche’, when in fact they are not even deserving of the description ‘bottiglieria’, a term rarely used these days which means ‘seller of wine’ (any wine). An enoteca works directly with local vineyards, and specializes in their produce. If we go ahead and include enoteche in our wine tours of rome, those we’ll visit will offer tasting and explanations of all the wines from the Castelli Romani region.

As the vast majority of our clients are picked up from hotels in Rome, we are looking into the possibility of organising late morning wine tasting in one or perhaps two enoteche in the centro storico, close to Piazza Navona, before heading out to the vineyards of Frascati and Marino.

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