Cantina De Sanctis
Cantina De Sanctis
Southeast of Rome lies the Frascati region. Since Roman times these hills have been famous for their wines and, more recently, the vineyards found a ready market for their produce in the thousands of restaurants that feed the millions of visitors to the Eternal City. Even now, if you eat out in a trattoria or osteria in Rome and drink the house wine, red or white, the chances are that you will be drinking a wine from this area and it is pleasant enough. In 1966 the popular white wine from this region received DOC status. Named Frascati after the main town, it is normally found in a slightly frizzante form, and in 2011 it received the prestigious DOCG status.
However, at Cantina De Sanctis (www.frascati-desanctis.com) you will find something much more interesting. The wines here are organic – the Italians use the term ‘bio’ – and production is a modest 80,000 bottles. The Frascati area is all part of a massive extinct volcano and so the soils of the vineyard have what the Italians call a distinctive minerality to them. In practice, this is a saltiness on the palate, particularly in the white wines, which is very attractive. It stimulates the mouth making you feel hungry and so these wines are especially suited as an aperitivo and also pair well with fish.
At the vineyard we were met by Francesco, the fourth generation of his family to run the business, who showed us around. The cantina was rebuilt and extended in 2009 and at that time a beautifully vaulted underground tasting room was constructed. If you go to the far end there is a small opening and through this you will find yourself looking at a Roman aqueduct dug into the soft volcanic tufo. Evidence of Roman activity is commonplace in this area but the aqueduct is a real find.
The first wine we tasted was a Frascati Superiore named 496 after the commonly accepted date for the Battle of Lake Regillus. The colour is deep straw with an intense bouquet of elderflower with hints of almond. On the palate there is a good balance between the acidity and salinity. A blend of Malvasia di Candia 90% and Trebbiano Toscano 10%, this is a wine to enjoy with fish.
The second was called Diciassette Undici. This is a late harvest wine which means that the grapes are left on the vine until the middle of November. This explains the name, which translates as seventeen eleven. The idea is that the grapes become infected with botrytis, more prosaically called noble rot and this in turn produces a drier, sweeter fruit. This is a process that is fraught with the potential for disaster, most commonly from late rains causing the less than noble grey rot to step in and destroy the berries. The result is that not every vineyard tries to produce this DOCG wine called Cannellino di Frascati and of those that do not all will be successful every year. The De Sanctis version of this dessert wine has a delicate bouquet of green apple with apricot and peach on the palate without oppressive sweetness and is very much to my taste. This late harvest is a blend of Malvasia Puntinata 90%, Greco 5% and Trebbiano 5% and is 19.5% ABV.
The full range of products from this cantina is three whites, a rose and a red as well as the dessert wine. Drop by and see which you prefer – the tasting room is worth a visit!