Mosaico di Vita | Consorzio Vini di Romagna
October 2021 | Wine

Romagna Cagnina DOC: the wine of the autumn hearth

A wine from afar that has always warmed the evenings of Romagna with its sweet and sharp flavor. Sit back and relax, for the history of Romagna Cagnina DOC is about to unfold.

If Epiphany marks the “end” of Christmas holidays, then October is definitely the month that tenderly and warmly bids the summer season goodbye. A time in which days are getting shorter and the memories of summer are still lingering in the air: the nights of October are perfect to make room for the sweetest and most aromatic glass of Romagna, a wine that can be greatly appreciated in its “youth”: Romagna Cagnina DOC. With an intense red color and aromas of cherries soaked in alcohol and exotic spices, presenting an elegant balance between sweet and sour, “la Cagnina” – as it is known in Romagna – has a special place in the hearts of the locals and its sharp name recalls the final acidity that, with playful boldness, caresses the palates of those who enjoy it with a slice of brazadèla – the traditional Romagna donut – or a basket of roasted chestnuts.

Pucino: a renowned ancestor at the court of Empress Julia Augusta

“Iulia Augusta LXXXII annos vitae Pucino vino rettulit acceptos, non alio usa. Gignitur in sinu Hadriatici maris non procul Timavo fonte, saxoso colle, maritimo adflatu paucas coquente amphoras, nec aliud aptius medicamentis iudicatur. Hoc esse crediderim quod Graeci celebrantes miris laudibus Praetetianum appellaverint ex Hadriatico sinu”

Plinio, NH = C. Plini Secundi, Naturalis historia libri XXXVII, B.G. Teubneri, Lipsiae, vol. II (1875), XIV.6.60

High school is a distant memory for most people, and this short passage from the Naturalis Historia is not an invitation to brush up your translating chops, but to mark an important date in the history of Romagna Cagnina DOC. The text was written by Gaius Plinius Secundus, widely known as Pliny the Elder, the legendary Roman author who died during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D., which also buried the ancient cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii. In this passage, Pliny the Elder – whose works have only survived as fragments or transcriptions – speaks of Julia Augusta, who, after drinking a wine called Pucino, reached the amazing age of 82 (she actually lived until she was 86, but we believe that Pliny may have met her earlier). This Julia is none other than Livia Drusilla Claudia, second wife of emperor Augustus: after her husband’s death, she took on the name “Julia” and acquired the title “Augusta”.

Being one of the most powerful and influential women of the Empire, it is not surprising that Julia Augusta had brought Pucino to Rome. It is a wine produced in small quantities in an inlet of the Adriatic Sea near the spring of the Timavo (a river that flows between present Italy, Croatia and Slovenia) from vines grown on a hill with a particularly rocky soil and caressed by the sea breeze, which gave it particular characteristics that made it suitable for medicinal use. For the time, it was indeed a rare product. We can affirm that the place to which Pliny the Elder refers is none other than the modern region of the Karst, famous for its spectacular landscapes and outstanding wines made with Terrano, a variety that belongs to the Refosco grape family.

A long tradition etched in stone

Let’s now try to clarify some things: we have a passage from the Naturalis Historia that speaks of an excellent and miraculous wine, Pucino, produced in a cove of the Adriatic that almost certainly corresponds to an area of the present Karst where a native vine known as Terrano is still cultivated today. But what does all this have to do with Romagna Cagnina DOC?

Simple: according to the disciplinary, Romagna Cagnina DOC is produced with Terrano grapes (minimum 85%), and up to a maximum of 15% of grapes from other black grape varieties from the regional list of Emilia-Romagna can also be utilized. If you are now wondering how an ancient vine from Eastern Europe arrived on the hills of Forlì-Cesena and Ravenna, we are more than ready to satisfy your curiosity.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Ravenna and the rest of Italy became part of the Byzantine Empire headed by Emperor Justinian. The beginning of the Byzantine Empire and the end of the war with the Goths witnessed the construction of many important buildings and churches in what will later be the capital of the Exarchate of Italy, the Byzantine Empire overseas. We must certainly mention the Basilica di San Vitale or the Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo: it is said that stonecutters and laborers from Istria were hired for the construction of both churches. If this is true, we can assume that they were the ones who have brought Terrano in Romagna: a variety that has found favorable soil and climatic conditions as well as people who were ready to welcome and take care of it.

The wine of the autumn hearth

Terrano has certainly spread in Romagna since the 13th century: but despite being present in the territory well before – as documented above – the variety has never been widely planted due to its low yield. Although it did not earn vast areas on the hills of Romagna, it has definitely won the hearts of the locals: Romagna Cagnina DOC, which has been awarded with the prestigious Denominazione di Origine Controllata recognition since 1988, is what the Romagna people drink during the long and temperate autumns of this land.

Right after harvest, which takes place in October, Cagnina can fully express its potential as a wine for meditation, a drink to be enjoyed by the hearth. Distinguished by a bright vermilion color and rich in aromas that recall ripe grapes, Marasca cherries and red fruit, Romagna Cagnina DOC caresses the palate with its full and sweet flavor, accompanied by its typically astringent finish.

So, remember: enjoy a glass of Romagna Cagnina DOC with brazadèla, your favorite sweets or with freshly roasted chestnuts and gift yourself a moment of joy for the palate and the heart. Believe us: you will never get enough of it.