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The German poet Goethe, who spent a couple of years traveling around Italy, once said, “Life is too short to drink bad wine.” It’s certainly a motto Italians live by. And though you might think that to have an authentic oenological experience in Italy you need to go to Tuscany, wine lovers will find plenty to satisfy them right in and around Rome. The Eternal City is rife with excellent wine bars, restaurants with enviable wine lists, and hotels with incredibly well-stocked wine cellars. Of course, the Lazio region in which Rome is located produces wine too. The next time you’re in Italy’s capital, here’s where go to.
The wine lover’s hotel par excellence is none other than Hotel de’ Ricci, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World tucked away on a quiet side street in the heart of Rome. With just eight suites, its diminutive size is belied by its extensive wine cellar boasting 1,500 labels, including rare bottles like a 1990 Barbaresco by Gaja, a 1988 Sassicaia, a 1988 Petrus, and a 1988 Château Latour. Each suite comes with a wine fridge that can be personalized upon request, and most of the staff members are sommeliers, including the general manager. A nightly aperitivo in the hotel’s Charade Bar is included in the room rate, and the staff will happily arrange a private wine tasting led by one of the sommeliers.
“There is something for all tastes, apart from the great Italian and French wines, up to the small producers in the smallest Italian regions, but the main theme is undoubtedly the quality. Of course, we are in Italy and therefore 80% of our wine list is made up of our wines, but we touch all parts of the world, passing through France, Chile, Israel, Napa, Australia, New Zealand, and Spain,” says the hotel’s General Manager and Sommelier, Flavio Scannavino. “Our cellar also reflects our personal tastes. Everyone can have fun with this wine list and always discover new emotions.”
Another boutique hotel with an impressive collection is Corso 281, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property that resides in a former palazzo-turned-bank on bustling Via del Corso. In what used to be the vault, owner Natalino Gisonna keeps his personal collection of wine, estimated to be worth €150,000. Though he studied law at the University of Parma, he pivoted to hospitality in 2014. “The culture of collecting was transmitted to me by my family, who for decades have been collecting rare antique art objects,” Gisonna says. “For me, collecting wine is a way to share my passion for wine with my guests who come from all over the world.”
Rome is full of enotecas, which can either be a wine shop that sells bottles to take home, a wine bar that serves wine by the glass, or both. In an old warehouse built in the 1920s in Prati, the industrial-chic enoteca Magazzino Scipioni serves an ample selection of wines, with a particularly strong selection of organic and biodynamic wines. Want to taste a few different wines? They’ll pour three half glasses for just €14. Pair them with a selection of Italian cheeses and salumi or something heartier, like a plate of pasta or risotto alla milanese. Find a wine you love? You can buy a bottle to take home for the same price as opening it there.
A more rustic option is Ai Tre Scalini in the charming neighborhood of Monti. Founded in 1895, it serves more than 300 wines and a selection of craft beers on tap. Pull up a wooden chair and order the eggplant parmigiana, meatballs in tomato sauce, or other homestyle Italian fare or join the crowds standing around the bar for a glass of Chianti. On warm evenings, this lively place gets so packed that people overflow out onto the cobblestone street in front of the entrance.
Rome’s venerable Roscioli family has been baking bread for four generations and nearly a century. Along the way, they opened Ristorante Salumeria Roscioli, which sells wine, cheese, salumi, olive oil, and other pantry items in the front and serves some of Rome’s best carbonara in the back. They also offer daily wine tastings and special wine tasting dinners as well as a light lunch with a wine tasting and cooking demo. Bring the experience home by joining the Roscioli Wine Club and they’ll send you two shipments per year plus video tasting notes from sommelier Alessandro Pepe and the winemakers.
When you want to impress—whether for that important business lunch or a romantic dinner—book a table at Achilli al Parlamento. The Michelin-starred restaurant has a talented young chef who cut his teeth in Paris working with Pierre Gagnaire and a wine cellar boasting thousands of bottles. With bottles stacked on wooden shelves and elegant red banquettes, the restaurant’s Old World ambiance seduces from the moment you walk in. During lunch, you can choose three or eight dishes, while dinner is an eight-course tasting menu of haute cuisine with wine pairings.
Of course, you’d be remiss not to take a day trip to the Castelli Romani to tour a winery or two. The best one to visit is Poggio Le Volpi, which recently took home a prize for its Roma DOC Rosso Edizione Limitata 2016 at “I Migliori Vini di Luca Maroni,” a wine fair organized by wine critic and author Luca Maroni. Family run since 1920, the winery is home to Barrique by Oliver Glowig, a restaurant by the renowned German chef who has mastered Italian cuisine.