Americans tend to think of Emilia-Romagna as a single region. While this is true from an administrative perspective, the two areas are radically different in terms of wine. Anyone who has travelled through the Emilia cities of Bologna, Parma and Modena has likely encountered Lambrusco at every meal. Venture out into the eastern regions of the Romagna countryside, though, and you’ll find Sangiovese that rivals the best of Tuscany—at a far more affordable price.
The estate most widely distributed in the U.S. is Fattoria Paradiso, located on a hillside near the medieval city of Bertinoro. Founded in 1950 by Mario Pezzi, a visionary credited with reviving regional winemaking in Italy, the property is run today by his daughter Graziella and her son, Jacopo. Their lineup includes bargains such as Vigne delle Lepri ($15), made from the same Sangiovese Grosso native to Montalcino. The wine is filled with rich flavors of cherries, spiced plums, anise and black pepper, framed by serious tannins; poured blind, most tasters would mistake it for Brunello.
The flagship wine of Fattoria Paradiso is Barbarossa Il Dosso ($35), made from a unique grape variety discovered in the vineyard by Mario Pezzi. The seductive nose is reminiscent of Amarone, perfumed with scents of stewed red fruits and walnut husks. The similarity to Amarone continues in the mouth, where the wine displays a bittersweet flavor profile and is concentrated yet fresh, intense without being cloying. This is a wine that will age gracefully: a bottle of 1996, opened by Graziella, exhibited the same ripe smoothness and class.
However, the wine of the region is not all red. Albana di Romagna was the first Italian white to be awarded DOCG status back in 1987. According to legend, a fifth-century Roman empress was offered a taste of Albana from a terra cotta jug. “This wine should be drunk in gold (berti in oro),” she exclaimed, giving the present-day town its name. Fattoria Paradiso produces Albana in both dry and passito (late harvest) versions.
Other notable Romagna wine producers include Giovanna Madonia, Campodelsole, Tenuta la Viola, Celli, Bissoni and Stefano Berti. If you seek them out, you’ll be richly rewarded.
(Photograph courtesy of Rudolf Hoffman, www.pfalz-aktiv-tours.de)
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); his first novel, Friend of the Devil, is forthcoming from Black Opal Books in spring 2016. For more information, go to amazon.com