There’s no denying that organic wines have become more popular over the course of the last decade. Producers all over Italy have adopted organic farming principles in an effort to meet growing consumer demand for these types of wine.
That’s no surprise.
As people became more informed about the use of man-made chemicals in the production of food, a definite desire for more natural products appeared. In the Italian wine industry, many made the argument that the use of such chemicals caused issues for the wines. Beyond the possibility of consuming unsafe chemicals, many argued that these man-made pesticides and fertilisers damaged the land that they were used on. They altered the natural ecosystem and may even have an effect on the taste of the wine that the land eventually produces.
Of course, organic is far from the standard at the time of writing. Many others will argue that a little man-made enhancement causes no harm.
Still, most Italian wine regions now boast a healthy contingent of organic producers who pride themselves on how they treat their land.
For many years, Lazio couldn’t count itself among them. One of Italy’s most historic wine regions, Lazio had found itself falling behind the pack when it came to the adoption of new techniques.
But today, there’s a rising tide of organic Italian wine producers in the region. Here, we’re going to chart a brief course through the history of wine production in Lazio before we take a look at where the region stands today.
From Quality to Quantity – Lazio’s Early Wine History
Once upon a time, Lazio was a byword for quality in Italian wine. A couple of thousand years ago, the region was considered one of Italy’s very best. In the time of the ancient Romans, viticulture was one of Lazio’s strong points. Many wine tasters of the era called the region their home and it was filled with wine bars.
This reputation for quality continued all of the way into latter half of last millennium. In the 16thcentury, wines from Lazio made up a large portion of the wine cellar that Pope Paul III kept at the Vatican. The Pope’s personal sommelier of the time chose plenty of Lazio vintages, with wines from the Colli Albani province among the Pope’s favourites.
In the 19thcentury, it was well-known that Queen Victoria of England was a huge fan of the wines from the region. She imported a lot of Frascati, which was typically the wine of choice in the English courts.
All of this suggests a rich history of quality for the Lazio region. And for centuries, that was the case. Lazio stood alongside Italy’s other winemaking powerhouses for many years.
Unfortunately, a strange thing can occur when a region becomes known for its quality. Demand for the wines increases because people fall in love with them. Sensing opportunity, winemakers start looking for ways to improve their yields and create as much of their wine as possible.
Eventually, the production of quantity takes priority over the creation of quality. The very demand that showed that Lazio was a region to be respected also led it down the path of mediocrity. Producers stopped focusing on creating the best wines and instead focused on how to create as much of the wines that people had grown accustomed to as possible.
Slowly but surely, Lazio’s reputation as a leading winemaking region crumbled. And this wasn’t helped by many producers of the 19thand 20thcentury failing to keep pace with the advances of their era.
Where others experimented with lower yields, tighter grape selection and organic farming, Lazio seemed somewhat stuck in the past. Its producers continued their focus on quantity and the wines from the region suffered as a result.
The 1970s proved to be the zenith for this period of mediocrity. With the DOC cracking down on quality standards, many of Lazio’s wines were discovered to be nowhere near the quality needed to carry the organisation’s label. After all, when you have a white wine that oxidizes almost as soon as it enters the bottle, you can’t possibly hope to have people consider what you produce as being of high quality.
The good news is that this situation prompted a complete transformation in how Lazio’s producers made their wines. The 1980s and 1990s saw a concerted focus on quality that started the process of slowly but surely rebuilding the region’s reputation.
And today, Lazio is recognised again as a region that produces quality wines. Unfortunately, they still haven’t undone the damage of the previous hundred years. As a result, many wines from the region receive plaudits without earning the commercial returns that they deserve.
However, we’re sure those Lazio’s wines will once again come to prominence. And the region’s increasing move towards organic farming will play a large role in that.
Lazio and Organic Farming
When a region focuses too much on quantity, bad things can happen to the land. Over-farming occurs and producers try to get as much as they possibly can out of each harvest. Foreign chemicals get introduced into the land and the quality of the wines suffers as a result.
That’s exactly what happened in Lazio. Many producers did whatever they could to improve their yields without thinking about the damage that they did to their land. Over time, this damage accumulated to the point where their land simply wasn’t capable of producing great grapes.
The shift towards organic wine in Lazio is an attempt to redress that balance.
It’s fair to say that Lazio is still undergoing a healing process. But with each passing year, the wines that come from the region get better and better.
The rising tide of organic production in Lazio plays a big part in that. From being a region where organic techniques weren’t adopted, Lazio has now become one of the major players in organic Italian wine production.
We’re excited to see what comes out of Lazio in the coming years. And we encourage anybody who may have been swayed by the region’s reputation from years past to try an organic wine from Lazio today.
You may find yourself surprised at just how good it is.