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.

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