Monday, June 26, 2023

Cesanese: The Native Red Grape of Lazio

The Lazio wine region in Central Italy isn't one wine consumers discuss too often.  Did you know that Rome is located in Lazio?  So if you thought you had never heard of it or visited Lazio, you have been if you've visited Italy's capital.  This is a white wine dominated region with wines I've shared in the past, including Est Est Est di Montefiascone and Frascati, made primarily from Malvasia and Trebbiano grapes.  Merlot is one of the leading red grapes produced in Lazio, but today we will highlight a native red grape, Cesanese.

Cesanese grapes of Lazio
Cesanese is named after the town of Cesano located in the Castelli Romani south and southeast of Rome.  Most of the Cesanese vineyards are grown in this area in the high hill towns of Affile and Piglio overlooking the Sacco and Aniene river valleys.  Lazio has a few appellations based on the Cesanese grape including two DOC's, Cesanese di Olevano Romano and Cesanese di Affile.  These DOC's make up a large portion of the vineyards for the region.  There is also one DOCG, Cesanese del Piglio, that was established in 2008 and is the only DOCG of Lazio based on red grapes.  For those more technical and interested in clones, a few Cesanese clones are used in producing these wines, including Cesanese Comune, Cesanese d'Affile, and the latest clone, Cesanese Nostrano.  Cesanese d'Affile is known to be the better clone of the bunch.

Cesanese wine appellations in Lazio
Lazio wine regions copyright of Federdoc
Cesanese, pronounced chay-sah-nay-say, is a grape that produces low yields and is known to ripen late into the season, well into October.  This can be one of the challenges for this grape based on the climate, as it may not fully reach ripeness in certain vintages.  It produces medium-bodied wines with fruity and floral aromas, lively acidity, and softer tannins.  The fruit tends to be rich and ripe cherry with spice and some earthly characteristics.  It's best enjoyed in its youth.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Leading the way for Sagrantino with Arnaldo Caprai

When we talk about Italian wine, we talk about some of the respected wines of Italy and those more prevalent in the market.  Surprisingly, the Sagrantino grape doesn't get widespread recognition amongst Italian wines.  Sagrantino is a grape native to the wine region of Umbria and does very well in the terroir in and around the town of Montefalco.  It's a thick-skinned grape that contains high levels of polyphenols creating wines that are rich in antioxidants.  The Sagrantino grape lends a deep, densely ruby color with violet highlights.  It produces full-bodied, robust wines high in tannin, allowing them to be aged for 10-15+ years.  Darker fruits are displayed on the nose and palate, including blackberries, black cherries, plums, spice, and maybe some earthiness.

Sagrantino grapes
Sagrantino grapes sourced from Arnaldo Caprai
A few designations in Umbria contain the Sagrantino grape, including Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG, Montefalco Rosso DOC, and Montefalco Sagrantino Passito DOC.  The Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG wines, created in 1992, are dry-style wines made from 100% Sagrantino.   These wines require 37+ months of age, including 12 months spent in oak with 4+ months in the bottle. The wines of the Montefalco Rosso DOC, established in 1979, are dry wines that blend Sangiovese, a minimum of 60%, along with Sagrantino primarily.  With the Montefalco Sagrantino Passito DOC, the 100% Sagrantino grapes are dried for 2+ months concentrating the juice requiring 37+ months of aging without the requirement of oak usage.

One of the pioneers for Sagrantino and a producer that continues to lead the way for this grape and the appellation is the Arnaldo Caprai winery—established in 1971 by textile entrepreneur Arnaldo Caprai, who first began by purchasing about 7.5 acres.  His son, Marco Caprai, took over in 1988 and has been a massive advocate for the Sagrantino grape, paving the way for worldwide recognition of the capabilities and quality of the Sagrantino grape.  In 1991 he acquired new vineyards, which today stand at 370 acres with about 220 acres in production in Montefalco, Bevagna, and Gualdo Cattaneo.  

Marco Caprai
Marco Caprai sourced from Arnaldo Caprai

Marco has put tremendous work into multiple projects to promote Sagrantino and to help develop the grape, techniques used to produce these wines and the territory in which it grows.  He has focused on modernizing technology, finding the optimal wood for aging, the best methods for fermentation, trellising systems, pruning methods, and finding the best clonal selections.  

This week I enjoyed the 2009 Arnaldo Caprai Collepiano Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG.  This wine was first produced in 1979.  Collepiano represents the gentle hills in which the vineyards are located.  Per the requirements of the appellation, this wine is made from 100% Sagrantino.  It is aged 24-26 months in French barrique with 6+ months in the bottle. 

2009 Arnaldo Caprai Collepiano Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG

I wanted to sit on this vintage for some time to see how a Sagrantino evolves in the bottle with team.  A deep brick color in the glass with enticing aromas layered with savoriness, earthy with a hint of mushrooms, chocolate, licorice, dried cherries and baking spice to name a few.  Every smell brought different elements to the glass.  With the 20+ years of age on this wine the tannins were still moderate to firm along with nice acidity, but smoothed out on the finish leaving behind a silky mouthfeel combined with blackberries and spice.  You can find more recent vintages with an SRP around $45-50.  ABV 14.5% 

I enjoyed this wine with some bacon wrapped filet on the grill last night.  Perfetto!

If you're interested in taking a look at Arnaldo Caprai wines or other Sagrantino try a search on

*I may receive commissions if any wines are purchased directly from this buyer to support the operations of Vino Travels.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Orvieto: Umbria's Leading White Wines

The region of Umbria is often overlooked by its neighbor Tuscany.  Located just north of Rome is one of the majestic medieval towns of Umbria, Orvieto.  Set atop a hilltop made of volcanic tufo rock, this town was founded by the Etruscans.  I traveled to Orvieto many years back and adored its quaintness.  The quiet medieval side streets with a bustling center filled with unique shops from local craftsmen.  Plus, the eye-catching Duomo alone is worth the visit in itself.  Don’t forget to check out the hand carved underground caves by the Etruscans that were used to preserve wine and food along with the rock that was used to construct the buildings. 

Orvieto wine region in Umbria
Sourced from Consorzio Vino Orvieto

When it comes to wine what I find fascinating about Orvieto is that it contains about 80% of Umbria’s vineyardsIn recent years from several tastings of Orvieto wines, I have come to really enjoy and appreciate the wines produced thereIt has a unique microclimate created by the Paglia river that flows through the valley along with its proximity to two lakes, Lake Bolsena in the nearby Lazio region and Lake Corbara within UmbriaLake Bolsena is in the eastern part of Lazio and is one of the oldest and biggest volcanic lakes in Europe and the largest volcanic lake in Italy 

The wines of Orvieto have long been appreciated by nobility of the Middle AgesOrvieto is best known for its dry style wines, but there are also sweeter styles as well as late harvest winesThe typical dry wines are known to be floral, crisp and delicate with lively acidity, citrus and lingering salinity on the palateThe soils of this area are rich in the volcanic tufo rock and limestone with marine sediment that lend minerality to much of the wines. 

Soils of Orvieto wine region
Sourced from Consorzio Vino Orvieto

Wines of the Orvieto DOC are made of 60% of Grechetto and ProcanicoProcanico is a local name for the biotype of Trebbiano ToscanoIf you remember last week we talked about the Trebbiano Spoletino grape and this is another type of TrebbianoThe remaining 40% can include Canaiolo Bianco, Verdello, Malvasia Biana and other white grapes that are allowedThe DOC encompasses both the Terni province of Umbria and the Viterbo province into Lazio, although a larger part of the production is in UmbriaIt’s always worth seeking out those from the Classico zone, which is the historical center of wine production in Orvieto.   

Have you visited the ancient town of Orvieto or drank these wines? I'd love to hear what you think.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Trebbiano Spoletino: Not all Trebbiano are the same

Trebbiano is not one of Italy’s highly acclaimed grapes, but you will find it in many of Italy’s wine regions. There are many various kinds of Trebbiano grapes found throughout Italy that are mostly unrelated. Trebbiano Abruzzese that you will find in the known Trebbiano d’Abruzzo wines of Abruzzo in central Italy. There is also Trebbiano di Soave that you will sometimes find blended into Soave wines in the Veneto region of northern Italy. Trebbiano Toscano is a more neutral grape found in some of the wines of Tuscany. One of the other Trebbiano to experience is Trebbiano Spoletino that is native to the Umbria region in central Italy located around the area of Spoleto. That is what we will be exploring today. 

The Grape – Trebbiano Spoletino 

Trebbiano Spoletino is a low yielding grape that is late ripening harvested mid to late October. It’s highly resistant to disease including downy mildew and botrytis. It has intense aromatic with a rather high acidity that makes it ideal for sparkling wines. There can be a variety of styles of this grape depending on the producer and terroir in which it is grown, but you may get wines that are fresh with notes of citrus and herbs or more towards the tropical note side. There are producers that also make these wines in an oxidative style, which isn’t always for everyone. These wines can be produced in dry version, passito due to its ability ripen late and still retain high acidity, as a vin santo or as a sparkling wine. 

Traditionally the Trebbiano Spoletino vines are tied between either maple or elm trees known as “maritata” vines, which mean married vines. This arrangement was created by the Etruscans. In connecting with Madrevite's oenologist, Emiliano Flasini, he shared that by using the plants as supports it allowed the vine to express its climbing nature, but also to be sheltered from animal snares and was an excellent way to protect it from morning mists and damp soil. Although you may still find producers using this style today it is not the norm.

Trebbiano Spoletino grapes on maritata vines
Trebbiano Spoletino on Maritata vines copyright of Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco

Emiliano added that Trebbiano Spoletino is an ancient vine that risked extinction in the post-war period.  Due to the tenacity of a few producers in the Spoleto area about 20 years ago it ensured the grapes survival.  It is a grape that has always been present in the Spoleto and Montefalco area, and while up until twenty years ago it was almost impossible to find, today almost all the producers in the area have planted it. Interest in this variety is constantly growing because of its agronomic characteristics but also because of its ability to produce wines with great personality, ductile and capable of evolving over time in an excellent manner.

In 2011 the Spoleto DOC was created to protect and promote the wines of this area. There is a Spoleto Bianco DOC that requires at least 50% of the Trebbiano Spoletino grape with additional white grapes of Umbria allowed. There is also a Spoleto Trebbiano Spoletino DOC that requires a minimum of 85% of Trebbiano Spoletino. 

The aging potential of these wines is still to be discovered, but it is said that these wines will tend to develop more richness and complex characteristics with notes of balsamic, smokiness, truffles and anise. 

The Wine 

I’ve previously written a piece on Madrevite when I attended a virtual tasting last year so you can read more about this winery at the link provided. Nicola Chiucchiurlotto of Madrevite shared that the winery had always been a red wine company, but decided in 2005 to plan white grapes. Madrevite planted the Trebbiano Spoletino vines in 2009 and today has about 3.7 acres planted with another 1.5 acres to be planted next year. According to Nicola it is a rustic grape that is disease resistant, elastic with great longevity. It shows notes of flint, exotic fruit and citrus.

I recently received a bottle of the 2021 Madrevite “il Reminore” Umbria IGP. The grapes are manually harvested the end of September into mid-October and sometimes later. The grapes go through cryomaceration for 36-48 hours. The wine spends 6 months in stainless steel on fine lees with an additional 6 months in the bottle.

The il Reminore was deep yellow leaning towards a golden color in the glass. A ripe nose of tropical fruits including pineapple and stone fruits with a slight touch of honey. Light bodied, but textured with tropical notes on the palate with a light tingly acidity throughout the finish with a touch of salinity. ABV 13%. 

2021 Madrevite “il Reminore” Umbria IGP
Since Trebbiano Spoletino isn’t produced in large quantities it is not highly exported so if you have the opportunity to experience this grape take your chance.  

Join our fellow Italian food and wine lovers live on Twitter this Saturday at 11am EST at #ItalianFWT for a live chat to discuss the wines of Umbria and Lazio. Here are some more exciting wines to learn about this month.

Andrea from The Quirky Cork shares “Arnaldo Caprai Grecante with Grilled Shrimp and Avocado Salad"

Camilla from Culinary Cam focuses on “From Lazio with Love – Bellone and Bruschette – an Ancient Grape & a Simple Appetizer

Our host, Katarina from Grapevine Adventures, features Rekindling Tradition: Five Producers Unite to Revive Orvieto DOC’s Native Grapes"

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Enjoying the Food and Wine of Umbria"

Susannah from Avvinare features Cesanese del Piglio- A Bright Future

Gwendolyn from Wine Predator shares “When In Rome, Do As The Romans: Enjoy Lazio’s Thin Crust Pizza, Cacio de Pepe plus Wine

*This wine was received as a sample, but opinions are all my own.