Emilia-Romagna is a rich, fertile region of northern Italy, and one of the country's most prolific wine regions – more than 136,000 acres (55,000ha) were under vine in 2010. At 150 miles (240km) wide, it spans almost the entire width of the northern Italian peninsula, sandwiched between Tuscany to the south, Lombardy and Veneto to the north and the Adriatic Sea to the east. Nine miles of Liguria is all that separates Emilia-Romagna from the Ligurian Sea, and uniqueness as the only Italian region with both an east and a west coast.
Emilia-Romagna's viticultural heritage dates back as far as the seventh century BC, ranking it among the older of Italy's wine regions. Vines were introduced here by the Etruscans and later adopted by the Romans, who used the Via Aemilia road (after which the region is named) to transport wine between its cities. The vine varieties used here for many centuries were of the Vitis labrusca species rather than the Vitis vinifera used around the world today; Emilia-Romagna's famous Lambrusco varieties are derived from the Vitis labrusca species.
Today, about 15% of wine produced in Emilia-Romagna falls under the region's 20 or so DOC titles, and only a tiny fraction under its two DOCGs (Albana di Romagna and Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto). This is much higher than Italy's prolific southern regions such as Puglia and Sicily, where that figure is closer to 4%, yet much lower than in Veneto, where 25% of all wine is DOC quality or higher.
The region's geographical diversity is significant, and plays an important part in creating the various terroirs found here. In the west the rolling hills and Apennine peaks give way to the lower-lying plains east of Parma, Modena and Bologna, and beyond that the coastal plains of the Ferrara province, where a notable portion of the land lies just below sea level. The river Po flows west to east across all these features, marking the region's northern border and linking the Apennines to the Adriatic Sea.
Emilia-Romagna's wine production is divided evenly between whites and reds, the dominant vine varieties being Malvasia and Lambrusco (both in their various forms), Trebbiano, Barbera, Bonarda and of course Sangiovese. A large percentage of these grapes are used to produce sparkling wines, either frizzante or spumante, of which the most notable are from the five Lambrusco DOCs: Salamino di Santa Croce, di Sorbara, Grasparossa di Castelvetra, Modena and Reggiano. Despite its wide portfolio of well-known Italian and international varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Blanco and Cabernet Sauvignon are used both in varietal wines and blends), Emilia-Romagna’s uniqueness comes from its rare local DOC wines. Examples of this are red Cagnina di Romagna and white Pagadebit di Romagna.