Less than an hour north of Rome, still undiscovered by mass tourism, lies a green and fertile region called the Sabine Hills. Here, wine (as well as olive oil) has been produced for millennia and greatly appreciated in ancient Rome. The River Tiber, which eventually reaches the Capital, provides the perfect soil composition for wine making. Today, a small number of boutique wineries have emerged, thanks to the passion and creativity of their owners.
Some grapes that are grown here may be unusual, but they are the result of a process which involves reviving ancient traditional Italian varieties.
The Italian Government has ruled that Sabine Hills 'D.O.C.' (Controlled designation of origin) wine should be a blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano grapes for red wine and Malvasia and Trebbiano for white. The local wineries also produce other blends of predominantly Central Italian grapes and also a range of single-grape wines. Visiting these Sabine Hills wineries is a wonderful experience and an opportunity to witness how wine is made naturally on a small scale, in a beautiful environment. All wines can be purchased at the wineries.
Tenuta Santa Lucia
Via di Santa Lucia, Poggio Mirteto
High quality wines are produced at Tenuta Santa Lucia on 111 Acres of land. Apart from DOC Sabine Hills wines, this winery also produces excellent single-grape wines, including Syraz, Sangiovese and Falanghina, a traditional white grape from the south.
In the cellar, there are about 400 barriques (small french oak barrels) and a number of large, traditional Italian oak barrels. There's even a mini-museum where ancient wine making tools such as timber presses, vats and barrels from at least 100 years ago are displayed.
Via Madonna Grande 18, Magliano Sabina
This winery is in fact a cooperative of small local wine producers. At Colli Sabini they are dedicated to produce excellent quality Sabine Hills DOC wines, and they have been the first wine makers in the area to be granted this 'stamp of quality', already by the 1970's. More recently, the Colli Sabini winery has launched an interesting range of grappa, based on the distillation of grapes that are already used to produce wine. The grappa production has proven very successful and now some varieties are aged in oak barrels for a smoother taste.
Via del Pereto 16, Rocca Sinibalda
Back in 1974, a Scottish agronomist named Colin Fraser fell in love with the region and started a vineyard near the Village of Rocca Sinibalda. Today, the vineyard has been left in the hands of an Italian family of wine makers. Their passion is to produce slightly unusual wines, including Verzellino which is white wine made out of the Sangiovese red grape and Cardellino rosé. Of course, the more traditional varieties, such as Sangiovese and Montepulciano, are also present.
Sabine Hills Winery Tours
Wine Tours Rome runs Sabine Hills winery tours in English, which include pick-up and return service to Fara Sabina Train Station (39 minutes from Rome Tiburtina train station).
How to get to Sabine Hills from Rome
Fara Sabina is the main railway station for exploring the Sabine Hills wineries. A direct train departs every 15 minutes from several stations in Rome (Ostiense, Trastevere and Tiburtina) to Fara Sabina-Montelibretti station. At the Fara Sabina station there are buses to Magliano Sabina and Rocca Sinibalda. For Tenuta Santa Lucia only, the nearest station is Poggio Mirteto.
By car, take the Rome-Florence (A1) highway to Fiano Romano exit, then follow signs to Rieti and Via Salaria, and then to Poggio Mirteto and Rocca Sinibalda. For Magliano Sabina, there is a dedicated exit on the Rome-Florence highway.
This article was written by Guido Santi of Wine Tours Rome, winery tours in the Sabine hills, near Rome.