Stretching from the hills of the Apennines to the banks of the Po River to the shores of the Adriatic Sea is a distinctive Italian winemaking region called: Emilia-Romagna. Famed for its cooking, the area boasts some of the most fertile plains for grape growing in Italy.
The Emilia-Romagna wine region
The regional capital of Bologna joins the two sections of Emilia and Romagna and together these two cousins of winemaking rank sixth in size at 22,000 square km (8,500 sq mi) and 8th in population with nearly 4 million souls.
Vineyards of the area cover over 58,000 hectares (144,000 acres) producing an annual total of 473 million liters. Whether from the cool terraces of the Alps or the torrid fields of the Po basin, the wineries here contribute almost 20% of total Italian wine production. They rank a proud fourth after Apulia, Sicily and Veneto, helping to achieve Italy's off-again on-again world dominance (against France) in wine production.
Trebbiano and Sangiovese alone account for almost half the varietals grown here. The Sangiovese remains the local favorite red with its robust and fruity flavors, but there's also a delightfully dry Lambrusco in a style rarely seen outside the country.
The Lambrusco grapes are grown on high trellised vines mostly in the flatlands south of the Po where the output reaches 50 million bottles a year in the four DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata, a legal designation) regions around Modena and Reggio.
The better known Sauvignon and Chardonnay, and also the Pinot and Cabernet, are still wildly popular, of course. But, the rarer varieties, such as the white Pagadebit and red Cagnina, are well-hidden, but highly appreciated local treats. And from the hills south of Imola, Forli, and Rimini come many zesty semisweets.
Reds range from the Barbera and Bonarda with their distinctive regional intensity all the way to the pungent Pinots and Merlots of Colli Piacentini and Colli Bolognesi.
For those preferring something lighter on the tongue there are the dry whites of Ortrugo, Albana and Malvasia. The latter, thought to be of Greek origin, is among the most cultivated in all Italy. The native Albana, which produced Italy's first DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) quality white, has high acidity and produces a wonderful dry Albana Passito with hints of apricot.
For the cognoscenti, there's even the excellent Primitivo di Manduria from Puglia with medium to medium-high alcohol content, perfect for pairing with chocolate.
Best of all is to visit in the fall, after the hot and humid summer and sample from one of the many fine, traditional wineries set among the glorious green flat plains of Emilia-Romagna. And be sure to ask to pair with the local cheese. Not to be missed.