It’s really rewarding to pull wines from regions with incredible history. Often this history is unknown to us here in the states but even to Italians themselves. Take a village like Sezze, home to Marco Tomei and his five year old winery. Sezze was located along the Appian Way, just like the Falerno, and wines produced here over 2000 years ago travelled across the Roman Empire. In fact, anfora have been discovered in Pompeii with wine from Sezze in them and “Vino Setinum” was a hot commodity back in the day.

Marco Tomei is basically a numbers guy who has a full time job telling italian companies how they can spend certain tax dollars that get kicked back to them via a government program..

He became passionate in wine by beginning to taste, visiting producers and decided after visiting Masciarelli and seeing the incredible fall foliage in the vineyards that he would set out to make wine on his own.

Of course his family had a tradition of making wine for their own consumption and his grandfather was really one who kept this ancient tradition alive, often to his surprise making “rifermentati”.

Today in Sezze however, Marco of Tomei is the only producer of wine. A huge fan of his hometown’s history he’s out to revive an ancient tradition by focusing on native grapes to this corner of Lazio that may even have been produced a few millennia ago. Grapes like Ottonese, Bellone and Abbuoto are hyper local varietals Marco worked tirelessly to find planted around Sezze. With plenty of research he was able to find a few old local vineyards from which he was able to do massale selection from. In Marco’s mind this is preferred 100 times over from asking for plants at the nursery as it helps keep these biotypes native to Sezze alive. Think about it as maintaining a blood line in the times of kings.

There is a tradition for grape growing in Sezze that has been passed down for generations. Marco recalls his grandfather having a tiny cantina at their family home and producing a white wine for their home consumption. Thus, micro plots are scattered through the village and in the surrounding hills of Sezze. It’s not as easy as finding a vineyard however. Growers make mistakes all the time and believe they might be growing one particular grape when in reality they are growing another. Taking that time to analyze this raw material is what Marco had to do to be sure of what he was going to plant on his property.

To have the foresight to do this type of research is impressive when starting out. Marco is essentially an accountant by trade. His family has a history of making wine for themselves but admittedly Marco says they just threw the grapes in a vat and hoped for the best. His grandfather didn’t have any particular technical skills. Nor was it passed down to Marco, he went on this quest all on his own. He caught the wine bug by tasting wines and visiting producers more and more often with a close group of friends. He recalls a visit to a few vineyards in the fall with the incredible foliage on the vines where he said to himself that he would make a go at this.

And thus, his journey began. He began planting these vines in 2017 and his first wines were produced in 2020. Today, he has about 4 hectares of vineyards all of which he planted himself. These vineyards are located on family land where his dad would have grown kiwi’s, artichokes etc. This is an agricultural hotbed here so historically many families either lived or supplemented their income by working the land.

Marco is as hardworking as they come and his aim is to farm organically/biodynamically and produce natural wines. He has a capacity to make about 30,000 bottles total production which he may get to with his 2023 harvest.

Currently Marco is the only producer of Cesanese in Sezze and the only monovarietal bottler of Ottonese in Lazio. His first vintage was in 2020 and he made somewhere around 8,000 bottles total over 3 labels. He has about 4 hectares planted to vine currently. Marco aspires to produce 20,000 to 30,000 bottles annually, tops.

Bottle of Ritournato wine from Tomei in front of vineyard rocks


Varietal : Ottonese 100%

This is currently the only monovarietal bottling of Ottonese in Lazio. It’s a local varietal but to this point you can only find it blended by other local producers. I mentioned the wine Marco’s grandfather used to make. Locally it would be called “Ritornato” and generally would have been a white wine that spent 8 days on skins ( and stems!). Every family had their own recipe, but it was always white wine and always skin contact. This wine is made in ode to that style.
In Sezze you have a diet that is both mountain and coastal. I like this wine to really bridge that gap. It has enough weight to pair with chicken on the grill or even lamb but also has the marine vibe for one you pair it with lobster.
This wine sees 4 days on skins with the idea of “exalting” the characteristics of the Ottonese varietal as opposed to producing an orange wine. Marco describes the varietal as aromatically shy and thus this time spent on skins is really meant to bring out the characteristics of the fruit.

Bottle of Veniero wine from Temei with splashing water


Lazio IGT

Varietal : Cesanese 100%

This Cesanese is a testament of a terroir driven grape as it drinks much differently that the wines from the Olevano Romano, where you find the highest concentration of production for this grape in the region.

The Veniero is lighter in color, has a mineral driven backbone and much less density than usual. This wine is refined and absolutely gorgeous. It’s truly a pleasure to drink.

Again, here you can use this with fare from both land and sea.
Marco’s first vintage, the 2020 is a wine that saw 10 days on skins and aging in anfora. The 2021 on the other hand sees more stainless steel than anfora. One way or another this wine is released in April the year after harvest.

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