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The Ciliegiolo Grape


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About Ciliegiolo

(Synonyms: Aleatico di Spagna, Brunellone, Ciliegino, Ciliegiolo di Spagna, Ciliegiuolo, Ciriegiuolo Dolce, Criminese, Riminese, Sangiovese Polveroso Bonechi)

Background

Map showing the Tuscany and Umbria regions of Italy

Ciliegiolo is a red-wine grape originating in Italy (occasional suggestions of an ultimate Spanish origin seem erroneous, based on DNA analyses). Nowadays it is grown mainly in the provinces of Tuscany and Umbria, though Sicily also has nontrivial plantings. There is a definte relation between Ciliegiolo and Sangiovese, but which is an offspring of the other is not yet settled.

(The pronunciation is, roughly, cheeli-oh-JOL-oh; you can hear it at this page of Forvo.)

The single word most often heard in connection with Ciliegiolo is "cherry", as to look, smell, and taste (and even grape size and shape); indeed, the Italian word for cherry is ciliegio, whence the wine's name. It can be (and is) vinified is quite a range of styles, from light and easy to big and complex. Because it is a somewhat low-acid wine (and low-alcohol as well), it does not need or want much in the way of bottle aging; but, even though drinkable young, it has strength of character and real interest. The type is also sometimes made as a rosé, and is said to present very well.

Opinion seems to be that the best modern Ciliegiolo comes from the Maremma region of Tuscany, and those are the wines worth looking for.

Factoid: the disoute over whether Sangiovese is parent or offspring remains rather hot; the Fringe Wine blog has a good summary.


Some Descriptions of Ciliegiolo Wines


Some Ciliegiolos to Try

(About this list.)

For monovarietal Ciliegiolos, the choices (in the U.S.) are few. Two are reasonably well distributed, while another half dozen or so have very limited availability. For simplicity, we only list the two you are likely to see.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Rascioni & Cecconello Rotulaia Ciliegiolo
(A Maremma Toscana wine; do not confuse the "Rotulaia" bottling with their "Poggio" or their "Maremmino" blend.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Made entirely from the native Tuscan grape Ciliegiolo, this charming wine has a delicate floral bouquet of violet, iris, rose and pepper. The silky palate delivers bright, ripe cherry and raspberry notes accompanied by mineral and white pepper accents. It’s polished, smooth and incredibly enjoyable. 90 points

The 2008 Ciliegiolo Rotulaia is a fresh, vinous wine with an attractive weight and richness to its dark fruit. This dense, generous red is best enjoyed over the next few years.
The 2009 Ciliegiolo Rotulaia is a pretty red ideal for drinking over the next year or two. Juicy cherries and flowers flow effortlessly through to the soft, caressing finish. The Rotulaia is aged in cement tanks, an approach that works beautifully here.


This grape is not often made as a varietal wine; it is usually blended with Sangiovese and other local friends in Tuscany. The dedicated team at Rascioni & Cecconello show just how much vinous happiness can be sussed out of this grape. Their Rotulaia bottling teems with red cherries and raspberries topped off with light hints of fresh herbs.

[This] is a fresh, vinous wine with an attractive weight and richness to its dark fruit. This dense, generous red is best enjoyed over the next few years. 88 points. [Wine Advocate, August 2009]

The dedicated team at Rascioni & Cecconello show just how much vinous happiness can be sussed out of this grape. Their Rotulaia bottling teems with red cherries and raspberries topped off with light hints of fresh herbs.

[Google-translated from Italian:] Enjoyable in its bad and rustic design. She does not wear designer clothes, she wears her simple with a prosperous and uncomfortable helplessness. Cherry jam, lard, humus, macerated herbs and iron. On the palate there is a diffused but not excessive caloric sensation, infused into matter, freshness under the trace and sharp notes of taste. A big wine. And yet it moves. [See here.]



Sassotondo Ciliegiolo
(A Maremma Toscana wine; it is blended with 10% Grenache, called locally "Alicante".)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

For those looking for a fruit forward, sappy, soulless California style of wine, sorry to say, “forget about it”. For the rest of you looking for an earthy, though mouth watering Tuscan gem meant to go with a great meal; this is your ticket to ride. After a swirl and fat slurp, wow a boat-load of layered complexity. The bouquet is fascinating and deep with focused blackberry and dark cherry notes, enriched by leather, sweet oak, tobacco, a hint of chocolate and coffee scents. The mineral character comes through nicely with sensation of rich earth flavors. This full-bodied wine shows a wonderful core of ripe fruit right up front, a silky mouth feel and a soft texture with a notable length.


♣ International Wine Cellar (date unknown), 90 points.
♣ Wine Advocate (date unknown), 89 points.
Ruby-red. Very sexy aromas of floral raspberry, red cherry and strawberry, not unlike a lightly alcoholic fruit punch. Then more red fruits and minerals on the palate but a bit youthfully unforthcoming, with a strong spine of acids and tannins currently subduing the wine's underlying sweetness. With its long, pure finish, this ought to be very flexible at the dinner table, where it can be served lightly chilled. This may not have quite the complexity for an outstanding score, but it's so delicious I can't help myself.

The 2010 Ciliegiolo Maremma Toscana shows good up-front juiciness in its red fruit, grilled herbs, tobacco and licorice. Some rough edges remain, but this rustic red should drink well at the dinner table. Another few months will do this recently-bottled red [2010 vintage tasted in 2011] a world of good.

The 2009 Ciliegiolo is a flat-out joyous bottle of wine. Juicy red berries, strawberries, flowers and spices are framed by ripe, silky tannins. A soft, caressing finish rounds things out in style. This delicious, hugely rewarding wine is a steal for the money.

From the beautiful countryside around Pitigliano and Sovana in Tuscany’s southern Maremma, this expression of organically farmed Ciliegiolo shows complex notes of dark cherry, spice, humus and rosemary. Elegance and soft tannins define the finish. 90 points.

Grown in coastal Tuscany, it makes a wine with a sour cranberry burst of acidity, a ruffled, rustic texture, raspberry-seed bite and a savoury edge.

In the glass this was a deep, opaque purple ruby color with a narrow violet rim. The nose was moderately intense with very meaty, savory flavor notes that reminded me of the smell of dry-aged beef steaks. There were also dried black fruits (fig and prune) along with some flat cola, baking spice and chocolate. On the palate the wine was on the fuller side of medium with medium acidity and fairly substantial tannins. There were flavors of dried black fruits, black cherry and fig, along with a distinctive meaty, beefy kind of flavor and something like flat cola and imitation chocolate. The wine tasted a little sweet, but it could have been the 15% alcohol giving that illusion. The meatiness did eventually blow off but in its place that fake chocolate taste came on stronger and stronger. I just flat out did not like this wine and was unable to finish the bottle. The sweet taste and the fake chocolate were just too much for me and I only made it through one glass before I discarded the rest.

[It] is aged briefly in stainless steel and has great primary fruit flavours. In the glass it has a good deep ruby red with purple tinges, a great nose of cherries and plums – and smell of bacon according to my culinary son – rich sweet fruit on the palate, balanced tannins and acidity, quite a long finish. In short a red wine of great character.

APPEARANCE: Deep garnet, with pale purple highlights. NOSE: Lovely black fruits and berries, particularly cherries and black currants. TASTE: There’s a sour berry and spice on the palate, with savoury white pepper in the middle. The smooth tannins help refine this elegant red, which reminds me of a New World Pinot Noir.



For a Splurge

Pretty much Hobson's Choice here: the Leonardo Bussoletti Ciliegiolo Narni Brecciaro bottling (100% Ciliegiolo).

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.

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