If there is a wine synonymous with Rome, it’s Frascati. For more than 2,000 years this refreshing dry white wine has graced tables throughout the world.
At the height of its popularity it was famously referred to as the “Wine of the Popes” and was served in almost 100 taverns in the hilltop town of Frascati, for which the wine is named. Fast-forward to today and many will agree, somewhere along the line Frascati fell from its noble popularity into a wine sometimes described as bland and dull.
Over lunch with Mauro Merz, director and head winemaker for Fontana Candida, I gleaned insight into what happened to this once popular wine. Merz considers himself an ambassador for the wine, determined to restore Frascati’s reputation as exciting and vivacious.
He believes the main cause for its popularity plummet was declining quality caused by massive overproduction. Today the moving force is toward better-quality wines. In the 1980s, Frascati producers, led by Merz, began a renewed emphasis on quality winemaking with strict control of yields, requiring numbered bottles and banning bottling outside the region. This quality control also meant going back to the base of great Frascati, the malvasia grape, and restricting certain poorer quality clones used in the past.
What has remained constant through centuries of Frascati’s up-and-down journey is terroir. The vineyards are cooled by maritime breezes and are on nutrient rich volcanic soil, thanks to Lazaile, the nearby volcano. These lower temperatures matched with rich soils make for strong, healthy vines.
After tasting Fontana Candida’s Frascati bottlings my palate can praise with confidence an affirmation to Merzs’ intentions of once again making a vibrant and vivacious white wine. If in the past you were turned off because of quality, now is the time to give Frascati another try.
- 2010 Fontana Candida Frascati, Italy (about $8 retail)
- 2009 Fontana Candida Luna Mater, Italy (about $25 retail)