Wine Culture Magazine

Italy’s ‘Everything Old is New Again’ Grape

Tim Pawsey photo

In terms of red wine varieties Cesanese is probably not among the more familiar you may have encountered. However, this distinct and characterful red from the Latium province of Frosinone, located 75 kilometres southeast of Rome in the Lazio region, has roots that date back to Julius Caesar’s time—and possibly even longer. In fact, Cesanese is regarded as a truly indigenous Italian variety. Its heritage can be traced back to vines grown by the Volsci people in the rugged, central Appenine foothills, which, being well inland, were less subject to the early influx of vines introduced by the Greeks, Phoenicians or travellers from other parts of present-day Italy.

As Rome expanded its alliances, conquests and influence over local tribes, Cesanese eventually made its way to the city. Known for its low yields and late ripening, as well as its ability to thrive in unforgiving surroundings, it’s thought in time to have become a familiar part—the vino de tavola—of Roman life.

Following a revival in the Middle Ages, Cesanese almost disappeared. However, in recent years, while production is still relatively small, the variety has bounced back thanks in part to renewed interest in autochthonous grapes—as well as an overall push for better quality. The variety sports two main species: Cesanese Comune and the smaller-berried, more intensely flavoured Cesanese d’Affile. Both species are used with percentages varying from year to year at the winemaker’s discretion.

Cesanese can be a good substitute for Sangiovese, Nero d’Avola or Montepulciano, and fall is the perfect time to discover its bold flavours. It pairs nicely with rustic flavours reminiscent of classical Roman fare. Lazio regional cuisine’s more celebrated staples include wild boar, pork—especially for panchetta—as well as artichokes, wild mushrooms and chestnuts in season, of course. The amatriciana pasta dish is a classic to try—braised pork jowl in olive oil, chili and wine, add tomatoes, and top with pecorino cheese. Not to mention roast turkey—especially with the dark meat!

Casale del Giglio Cesanese 2018 (Lazio IGT) is a fruit-driven but nicely savoury and edgy drop with vibrant aromas of red berries leading to an intensely juicy palate with mulberry, raspeberry, pepper, spice and mineral notes, wrapped in medium to firm, well-integrated tannins through the finish. (BCLS $24.99)


Casale del Giglio | Contact local import agency: World Wine Synergy,

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