Discovering Cantina Imperatori Viognier on a Vineyard Lunch with Chef Max Marioli

Chef Max Mariola, the Italian chef famous for his TV cooking program on Sky Gambero Rosso and Executive Chef of the Boscolo Group of Hotels in Italy and Europe, finds the optimum pairing for Cantina Imperatori Viognier IGP Lazio with his summer dishes. For starters, he prepared a fresh and tasty version of Panzanella, a typical Tuscan tomato and bread summer dish, wherein he added some baccalĂ  (salted cod) then served them in individual jars. Continuing with the same wine, he cooked an aromatic and simple Pasta with Garlic, Mint and Pecorino Cheese. The lunch ended with Maritozzo filled with Ricotta, Peaches and Vanilla. Max is known for his clean and linear kitchen made of seasonal ingredients with little elaboration and straightforward cooking techniques that are within everyone's reach. A native of a town close to Rome, he reinterprets well the traditional regional dishes that he knows by heart to his original versions.

The young straw yellow wine from a semi-aromatic variety gave pleasant floral and fruity aromas with the prevalence of exotic fruits, yellow stone fruits, and citrus fruits while in the mouth, the sapidity was quite distinctive with medium acidity, medium body and good persistence. Aging was done in stainless steel containers for 3 months with continuous batonnage. It was the excellent choice with characteristics that complemented well the hot weather dishes concocted for the vineyard lunch.

The lunch was scheduled at the end of June during the summer pruning period of the vines, an important phase in the vineyards before harvest. It the time when the canopy of foliage is controlled to allow the sunlight to penetrate the vines and when the unnecessary secondary and tertiary buds are removed to allow the primary shoots to use the available water and nutrients in a healthy growth before harvest.

However, at Cantina Imperatori, they have started to refrain from cutting the shoots in one part of the vineyards, specifically in some of the rows of the Viognier grape variety because with this vine, the apices contain a concentration of aromatic elements. As a result of an experiment carried out in 2017, explained Enrico Carli, the company's agronomist, wherein they rolled back the apices of the Viognier vines in one plot while the other plot went through the regular summer pruning. The result of the rolled apices where the tips where not trimmed, produced wine with greater complexity and aromatic intensity than the wine obtained from the vines that went through summer pruning. This is because a part of the aromatic substances of the grapes are synthesized by the vegetative apices which subsequently move to the grape bunches then to the wine. The "cocciatura" is old method from the pre-machinery period that is carried between the first to the fourth week of June, wherein the apices of the vines are rolled back on the last thread. This method has been long abandoned and replaced with summer pruning which wine producers resort to. At Cantina Imperatori, the cocciatura of one Viognier plot is carried out by four specialized women because this process requires delicate and precise movements so as not to damage the branches.

Cantina Imperatori is a winery established by Lorenzo Imperatori who runs it together with his family and a team of expert collaborators. Functioning as the agronomist is Enrico Carli while the enologist is Angelo Giovannini. In its total area of 8 hectares, 5 of which are owned and 3 are rented (used only for the best vintages), the first vines were planted in 2011 and work progressed in the winery until the final completion of the cellar in 2016. Cantina Imperatori is certified organic for its production of extra virgin olive oil and currently in conversion for the production of grapes. It is located in Frascati, a city in Lazio on the Alban Hills that's around twenty five kilometers southeast of Rome. With a terrain of volcanic origin originating from the eruption of the Lazio volcanoes from 500,000 years ago, the terrain is suitable for the cultivation of vines that in fact, has a two thousand year old history of wine production way back to the Ancient Roman period.

The particularity of the area of the vineyards of Cantina Imperatori is the presence of basalt, a hard dark gray stone that's rich in minerals which, through time and natural elements, are released into the soil, giving the wines unique complex personalities and characteristics that are unique to the specific zone. "The minerality and acidity of the wines is due in particular to the presence of phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and calcium which also give our wines a good longevity. The soils are also very rich in skeleton (stones) which guarantee excellent drainage of the water, allowing the vine a balanced growth and optimal maturation of the grapes," specifies Enrico Carli, the agronomist of Cantina Imperatori.

Cantina Imperatori works with close link to its territory of Frascati. For this reason, they grow two indigenous varieties, the Cesanese di Affile and the Trebbiano Verde while on the other hand, they also introduced Viognier and Cabernet Sauvignon, two international varieties to convey the peculiarities of the territory. The annual production is 35,000 bottles. 

The Cesanese di Affile is aged for 12 months in large Slavonian oak barrels while giving it the floral and fruity characteristics that stand out in the nose and palate. The Cabernet Sauvignon instead are aged in French oak tonneaux for 24 months and the resulting wine has a deep ruby red color with more complex characteristics with pronounced sweet spices and red fruits in the nose. Segreto Verde Trebbiano Verde Anfora, a 2016 project of Lorenzo, together with the winery's enologist, Angelo Giovannini, is the other white wine in the production with marked sapidity and acidity, leaves a clean trail in the mouth, full body and long finish, fermented and aged in terracotta amphorae for 6 months, frequent batonnage in stainless steel for a month. A new wine label that's to be released in June of 2022 is a small production of about one thousand bottles is the Cesanese di Affile classic method sparkling wine. At the moment of the winery visit, they are in the bottles, going through the second 36-month fermentation until their release in 2022.

Cantina Imperatori

Via di Pietra Porzia, 14

00044 Frascati (RM), Italy

Tel: +39 06 94015058 / +39 339 4586822