Located in central Italy, Emilia Romagna is often cited as the country’s food capital. Home to the cities of Bologna, Parma and Modena, famed of course for ragù, prosciutto and balsamic vinegar, the region’s wines also offer plenty of excitement.
To some extent the region’s most important wine is Romagna Albana, the DOCG wine focussed on the white Albana grape. As the first DOCG created in Italy there was plenty of hype around and controversy around its establishment. While some highlighted the potential of the variety to create complex wines, many others laughed at the typically Italian levels of bureaucracy and cronyism that enabled this fairly obscure territory to find itself leading Italy’s wine hierarchy. Regardless, it can produce curious white wines with plenty of mineral character. With age they can take on extra nutty flavours. It’s not always easy to produce good Albana and there are plenty of poor examples floating around.
Of increasing interest is the white Otrugo grape which, is cultivated in the hills surrounding the town of Piacenza. Although local to the area, it only really caught on in the 1970s and eventually achieved appellation status in 1984 as Ortrugo dei Colli Piacentini DOC. In recent years the wine has benefited from reduced yields and increased understanding of the variety. When produced in a frizzante or Spumante style it can make for a very pleasant refreshing fizz.
The other wine of importance for the region is Lambrusco and its various interpretations. Internationally Lambrusco is frequently misunderstood. It is often dismissed as a cheap fizzy red wine but in reality there is a growing movement of very serious producers crafting expressions of Lambrusco that showcase varietal and territorial integrity. They can also make for wonderful food pairings.
One of the oldest DOCs in Emilia Romagna, the hills around Bologna, or the Colli Bolognesi are home to range of different wine styles. Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon are behind the majority of red wines in the area while Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco are common white wines.
Colli Bolognesi Pignoletto broke away from the Colli Bolognesi DOC in 2010 in order to showcase and promote the quality of the Grechetto di Todi grape grown in the hills around Bologna. A sparkling wine can also be made. Some producers refer to the variety as Grechetto Gentile.
Colli di Scandiano e di Canossa DOC is home to a wide range of grape varieties. While Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were popular there is growing interest in local grapes such as Marzemino and the various Lambrusco varieties.
Colli Piacentini DOC produces a large amount of wine from an extensive list of grape varieties that are typical to the wider Emilia Romagna region. Chardonnay is important here, but local grapes such as Ortrugo and Croatina are gaining in popularity.
Ortrugo dei Colli Piacentini DOC, produced from the white Ortrugo variety in the dry and infertile hills of Piacenza is one of Italy’s most curious wines. Although overlooked for many years in favour of the more aromatic Mavasia varieties, Ortrugo is making a bit of a comeback.
The white wines of Pignoletto are produced with the Pignoletto grape, also known as Grechetto di Todi in Umbria. It often appears as a still wine, although plenty of producers make both frizzante and spumante versions. Some producers use the sub zones of Colli d’Iola, Modena and Reno on the labels.