Sangiovese - Lambrusco, tortellini - cappelletti, even Bologna - Cesena, a match that the Italian pro league has not seen since the 2011-2012 season. As you may have already noticed, local derbies – or a showdown, if you will – are a household matter in Emilia-Romagna, both for the people of Emilia as well as for those from Romagna (and if you look more closely, it’s all about the dash and what comes before and after it). There seem to be no point in adding further detail to this centuries-old bout between the two souls of the region. That’s why we want to talk about another infighting that divides Romagna winemaking: Sangiovese - Trebbiano, or better, cultivating on the hills versus cultivating on the plains. We have already written much about this land’s most famous red grape, and we will speak of it some more, but we must also say something about a vine and a wine that has accompanied the history and evolution of Romagna cuisine more than any other: Romagna Trebbiano DOC.
Trebbiano: an elusive etymology for a vine with a unique identity
Let’s start from the origins and the evolution of the word Trebbiano. For many authors, the word that refers to both the vine and the wine derives from the Latin term Trebulanum: Pliny, in his Historia Naturalis (book XIV), mentions a “vinum trebulanum”, the same name of a population that lived in the Campania Felix, the Trebula Balliensis. For Bacci, Trebbiano originates from a small town of the same name, located near La Spezia. Other theories refer to the Trebbia River, which descends from the Ligurian Apennines to join the Po in the area of Piacenza, or to the term “Trebbio” which, in ancient Italian, indicated a crossing where three roads meet. But the first definite mention regarding the cultivation of Trebbiano between the regions of Emilia-Romagna and Marche dates back to 1304 and is by Pier de Crescenzi:
“And there is another type of grape, called trebbiana, it is white and round, small with a lot of bunches: it is sterile when young, but with time, it becomes fruitful, producing a noble and well-preserved wine: and this variety is highly recommended for the entire Marca”.
Fast forward to a few centuries later, we discover that the numerous varieties of Trebbiano di Romagna listed in various ampelographic documents during the late 19th century, have been cut down to 3 by Dott. Bazzocchi of the Cattedra ambulante di Forlì in 1923: Trebbiano della fiamma, Trebbiano di Solarolo and Trebbiano montanaro.
There may be one, no one or one hundred thousand varieties of Trebbiano from Romagna, but there was certainly a growing appreciation for this vine, as demonstrated by the inclusion of Trebbiano wines from Lugo and its surrounding areas in the first Italian gastronomic guide published by the Italian Touring Club in 1931. This first important recognition chipped the crystallized image of this wine as a drink for the masses of osterie, or as a mere base wine for the vinification of Vermouth or the long-forgotten sparkling wines of Romagna.
The future of Trebbiano is spelled Novebolle
Only a few may know it, but at the beginning of the 20th century, Romagna experienced a very short period of fame thanks to its sparkling wines: well-known and highly appreciated both in Italy and abroad, these wines could almost compete with the legendary French champagnes in terms of quality and prestige. Some examples were Francesco Baldi's Champagne Sarna, produced in the area of Faenza, and Champagne La Tour, made by the princes of the Torlonia family from San Mauro Pascoli. Aiming at bringing back this forgotten Romagna wine tradition, in 2018, Consorzio Vini di Romagna, together with some producers, created a collective brand: Novebolle.
The name recalls the splendor of the early 20th century, the golden age of local sparkling wine; but it also refers to the nine hills of Romagna, the setting for the homonymous cycling marathon that retraces the wine routes of the area. But Novebolle is also a new idea of sparkling wine – one that reaches out to a glorious past while looking forward to the future of Romagna winemaking – founded on the two iconic varieties of this land: Sangiovese and Trebbiano, used to make Romagna Rosato DOC Spumante and Romagna Bianco DOC Spumante.
But Novebolle is also a new idea of sparkling wine – one that reaches out to a glorious past while looking forward to the future of Romagna winemaking
Romagna Trebbiano DOC: fresh, savory, Romagna
But what are we talking about when we drink Romagna Trebbiano DOC? This is a wine with a more or less intense straw yellow color, revealing nuances that vary depending on the ripeness of the grapes harvested. The nose releases floral aromas, but there is no lack of fruity notes ranging from green apple to exotic fruit; while the palate unveils good structure, as well as great freshness and sapidity.
We are talking about a wine that has gone beyond tradition and reinvented it: a wine that offers a glimpse of the Romagna people’s creative power and courage through its greenish and yellow reflections.