Rome’s Finest Red Grape: Cesanese di Affile

December 22, 2007

There are over 800 distinctly different varietals in Italy, most of which are completely unknown to us mortal wine drinkers. Apart from the sheer number, one potential reason for many people not knowing even important varietals is that in most cases they do not appear on the label. This is the case in many old world appellations across Italy, Spain, France and even other countries. Appellations in Europe carry a much heavier “brand name”, partially because not only do they enforce what grapes the wine makers must use, but in many cases also the style of wine making is regulated. DOCs, and DOCGs in Italy are fairly strict and if you want to put “Barolo” or “Chianti” on a label, it better adhere to the local rules or else…

Today’s wine is from the Cesanese del Piglio DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata). The predominant grape in Cesanese del Piglio is not surprisingly the Cesanese di Affile, a fairly obscure Italian varietal virtually exclusively grown in this small appellation right outside of Rome. The varietal is said to be just as hard to cultivate as Pinot Noir, which makes these wines quite expensive, I would say a bit overpriced for what they are. Giovanni Terenzi‘s Vajoscuro is one of the best examples of this region, of course outside of the Torre Ercolana, the cult wine I described in an earlier entry. Unlike the Torre Ercolana, this wine is 100% Cesanese di Affile, so if you want to find out this grape’s potential, I would recommend this wine.

When you open the bottle the first thing you notice is that it smells like an old wine cellar. I am pretty sure my bottle is not corked, it is the natural aroma this wine exudes. As many Italian reds, this Cesanese is quite high in acid, but you taste a load of blueberry with a tobacco and leather undertone. For the first hour or so after opening you get a massive amount of tannins, which tend to subside after it has been open for several hours. I think it is too heavy on the tannins and it is better to open it up and decant it a few hours before consumption. You will taste the characteristics of the wine much better this way. The body is on the lighter side of medium and you barely notice the oak, which makes sense as it only spends about 10 months in French oak. It is best to drink with game dishes, or if you insist on pasta, definitely pick something with a meat sauce. I could also see it well paired with strong hard cheeses.

Name: Vajoscuro, Cesanese del Piglio, 2003

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Body: Light to Medium

Price: ~ 20 euros

Got it at: Enoteca Lo Schiaffo Di Tagliaboschi, Anagni, Italy

Vajoscuro, Cesanese del Piglio, 2003

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