~ Decades old Cork tree on the Val delle Rose estate, Maremma Tuscany ~

Do you know Ciliegiolo?  Say it with me: Chill-ay-JOE-low…..

Ciliegiolo has been around for centuries.  Previously thought to have originated from Spain, DNA tasting over the past 10 years has shown that the grape has its origins in Italy and may be an offspring of Sangiovese.  The name refers to “cherry” and until recently Ciliegiolo has been blended into wines such as Chianti, Torgiano Rosso Riserva and in Umbria, made into a light fizzy wine.  Mainly in Tuscany, producers have initiated a revival of this threatened grape.  Today, about 5,000 hectares of Ciliegiolo exist in Italy. The Cecchi family have been on the forefront in reviving Ciliegiolo and have crafted a lovely example at their estate in Maremma where the variety finds a welcoming home.

~ Part of the sprawling Val delle Rose estate in Maremma ~

2015 is the first vintage that Val delle Rose chose to bottle Ciliegiolo as a stand alone wine. Previously the grapes were blended into the estate’s other reds.  While touring the estate last year,  I barrel tasted the 2015 with Andrea Cecchi and his cellar manager and it was then that he told me of his plans to release the 2015 as a stand alone wine.  Why?  “Because the grapes were perfect Giovanni.”   Indeed they were.  The barrel sample left an indelible impression on me that night and I was determined to taste the finished wine.  My exploits of that evening will be the subject of a future feature length article that you won’t want to miss.

The 2015 Val delle Rose Ciliegiolo has lived up to the reputation its barrel sample provided.  Deep purple in the glass, with only a slight fade to violet at the rim of the bowl, this 100% Ciliegiolo wine was vinified in stainless steel.  Ciliegiolo is very aromatic by nature and is known to be intensely floral.  Not surprisingly the 2015 displayed boisterous aromas of black cherry, intense floral tones, lavender and spicy plums.  On the palate, the wine is silky smooth and already drinking exceptionally well.  Medium to full bodied crushed cherry flavors are accented with wild savory herbs, Maremma underbrush and dusty seabed minerals.  Fresh, lively and nimble on the palate, the wine does display notable but elegant tannins toward the finish.  Balanced and delicious, we paired this with grilled skirt steak marinated in garlic, rosemary and lemon.  The match was wonderful.  Beginning this summer, the Val delle Rose wines will once again be imported to the US.  Seek this one out for a unique and exceptional experience. Bravo!  93 points. Should be about $20.  Find this wine.

~ An indigenous gem; 100% Ciliegiolo from Maremma ~

Salute!

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