Celebrating the Rediscovery of a Native Vine, The Ciliegiolo of Maremma and Other Parts of Italy

Having a past of just being a blending grape, Ciliegiolo has proven to be a grape much worthy of taking a leading role in being vinified alone. In celebration of the grape’s proven outstanding capacity in its monovarietal vinification in some DOC and IGT wines, the consortium, Consorzio Tutela Vini della Maremma Toscana, has organized the first edition of highlighting the variety that took place at the Orsini Fortress in Sorano last 7 – 8 May aimed at the professionals of the wine sector and wine enthusiasts.

"We are proud to be able to host this event in such an important cultural place for our territory, which arises from the desire to highlight a selection from all over Italy of pure Ciliegioli, a vine on which our denomination places great emphasis," explains Francesco Mazzei , president of the Consorzio Tutela Vini della Maremma Toscana. "We produce a total of 7 million bottles, of which - based on the latest data - about 400,000 belong to this typology."

What is Ciliegiolo?

Ciliegiolo is a native black grape variety that is mainly cultivated in central Tuscany and Maremma in particular where it has found a good habitat in the hilly areas with dry and not so fertile soils, warm dry climate and good ventilation. Its cultivation has also expanded up to Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Marche, Lazio, Abruzzo and Umbria, especially the area of Narni. This also includes five other regions of Italy with a lesser production. The greatest diffusion of this vine is in Maremma, Tuscany where there are about 525 hectares of cultivation, almost 60% of which are concentrated in the province of Grosseto where they give life to numerous labels of the Maremma Toscana Ciliegiolo DOC.

Historically, one of the theories of origin is that it is believed to have been imported from Spain (specifically Tuscany) in 1870 by pilgrims who have gone to Santiago de Compostela and it used to be called Ciliegiolo di Spagna. However, already in 1590, it was already described as a sweet Ciriegiuolo by the Florentine agronomist Soderini which actually refers to one of the Ciliegiolo’s characteristics. It takes its name from the color and characteristic aroma that recalls cherries. Interestingly, the studies published in 2002 by Crespan and other ampelographers concludes that Ciliegiolo and Aglianicone are the same vines and have a direct parent-child relationship with Sangiovese.

A Blending Grape to Purity

In the past, Ciliegiolo always has functioned as the dependable support to Sangiovese as a blending grape because o the sweet cherry flavor, softness and structure that it gives. But some producers, especially in Maremma, have discovered the considerable qualitative depth of its characteristics. Its cultivation had a sharp decline in the past but with the monovarietal production, there has been an increase in its cultivation. Now with just over a thousand hectares of vineyards scattered across the peninsula, Ciliegiolo has definitively risen to its new role as a a vine vinified in purity especially in Maremma, as well as Marche, Umbria, Liguria and Lazio, not forgetting the small valuable productions in Emilia-Romagna, Molise, Sicily and Abruzzo.

In general, when vinified pure, it gives rise to an intensely-colored bright ruby red wine with purple highlights, a full body, softness and aromas of fruit and notes of spices and little acidity. It is usually drunk young because of the low acidity which makes them soft on the palate, but some producers have managed to vinify them for aging very well wherein they obtain more intense complexity aromas and flavors. Whereas when they are vinified in white or rosé, it lends fresh fragrant wines.

The Event
The event was opened by: Sorano Pierandrea Vanni, Mayor of Sorano; Francesco Mazzei, President of the Consorzio Tutela Vini della Maremma Toscana; Pierandrea Vanni, Mayor of Sorano; and Luca Pollini, Director of the Consorzio Tutela Vini della Maremma Toscana. It was born from the collaboration between the Consorzio di Tutela Vini della Maremma Toscana, Ciliegiolo Academy, Ciliegiolo d’Italia and FISAR Colline Maremmane. The initiative was sponsored by the Municipality of Sorano while the organizing secretariat is managed by MExTE Eventi. There were 42 wineries present with 68 of their pure Ciliegiolo wines which includes 54 with the Maremma Toscana DOC denomination and 14 outside the Maremma area including Umbria, Marche, Lazio and Liguria. 

There were also two thematic masterclasses in understanding the variety with more depth. The “Ciliegiolo: Gastronomic Wine”organized by the FISAR Colline Maremmane led by Antonio Mazzitelli with a presentation of 5 wines paired with 5 appetizers prepared by Chef Valeria Piccini of the two Michelin-starred Ristorante da Caino at Montemerano. 

Another interesting perspective of the Ciliegiolo is the “Ciliegiolo as a Faithful Translator of Territorial Identities in Maremma and Not Only” wherein Francesco Saverio Russo of Wine Blog Roll presented 10 wines dedicated to the viticultural territories of Tuscany, Umbria and Marche, underlining the potential aging of the wine with further aging in wood and the fresher counterparts much fresher counterparts aged in steel.

Consorzio Tutela Vini della Maremma Toscana

Address: Via Giordania, 227 – 58100 Grosseto (GR), Italy
Website: https://www.consorziovinimaremma.it/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ConsorzioViniMaremmaToscana