I Ciacca Winery of Picinisco: The Success Story From Scotland to Italy with an Ancient Grape Called Maturano

We all follow the paths that life has led us through, but sometimes, when we have reached the apex of the voyage, we wonder about the past, the things that we didn’t pass through while staying on the route we routinely followed. It’s a gnawing feeling called nostalgia. Sentimentality can lead to a whole world of possibilities. Consider it another calling for living the dream and with this strong longing for his past, the story of Cesidio Di Ciacca needs to be recounted.  

Cesidio Di Ciacca

The story of the Di Ciaccas is that of many poor Italian families, who at the beginning of the 20th century lived in abandoned places, with uncertainty in their future. In the early 1900s, Cesidio Di Ciacca’s grandparents, Cesidio and Marietta, left their native town Picinisco in the province of Frosinone in Lazio, to emigrate to Scotland and find their fortune, first selling fish and chips and later opening an ice cream shop. Cesidio was born in Cockenzie, a fishing village near Edinburgh, Scotland. He studied, made a fortune and became a successful lawyer and businessman. But his best memories always remained linked to the ancient village Picinisco whenever he was on vacation with his grandparents. From its high altitude on the hilltop, he was enchanted with the picture-perfect panorama overlooking Valle di Comino, and the times in the countryside when he followed the adults to collect grapes and olives and to make wine and oil. Nostalgia overcame him. So when his retirement arrived, he decided to go back to his origins and buy, piece by piece, properties in his grandparents’ hometown.

Sotto le Stelle Albergo Diffuso

Cesidio embarked on his project of buying properties in Picinisco. He bought houses one after the other and lastly, a four-storey building that he restored to create an albergo diffuso (dispersed hotel), a form of hotel where the apartments or rooms are spread out in various buildings within a small town which are usually of historical significance. The 6 self-contained suites of Sotto le Stelle are located at the heart of the historical center of Picinisco, each one equipped with maximum comfort and where every window offers a breathtaking view of the picturesque valley below the town. The eco-friendly hotel has a collection of comfortable suites in their original structures having one, two and three bedrooms, sitting areas and small kitchens. Two rooms are also available which are overlooking the vineyards.

I Ciacca Wine Estate

But Cesidio had another bigger and more challenging project in mind. In a span of about 3 years, between 2010 to 2013, he bought 220 small plots of land in Picinisco from 140 different owners belonging to over 11 families. His acquisition of patchwork of land become whole and in 2013, he created I Ciacca, a wine estate just outside the town. Here, the organically-cultivated vineyards are surrounded by natural woods, vegetable plots, olive groves, fruit trees and beekeeping, creating a good biodioversity in the area. Diligence in research and work led to the production of wine focused on a white grape variety indigenous to the territory.

Maturano is an ancient grape variety that doesn’t have any known parentage and doesn’t have so much information about it. The berries are big with deep yellow, waxy firm skin growing in compact, sometimes winged bunches. Officially listed in the Registro Nazionale delle Varietà di Vite (National Registry of Grapevine Varieties) in 2010, Maturano originated from Val di Comino, which had been widely grown in Picinisco and the surrounding areas for centuries. In fact, there was a book published in the mid-15th century which states that the Italian wines of this region were “among the best in the country and aged exceptionally well”. Unfortunately, over the past 50 years, its cultivation had diminished and was almost completely abandoned if not for the persistence and hard work of Cesidio and just a handful of wine producers in the area who put it back in cultivation. At the instigation of Cesidio, Arsial (Regional Agency for the Development and Innovation of Agriculture in Lazio) conducted a comprehensive research on the grape, which determined that Maturano, the native prince of this territory, is a unique vine on a genetic level, with no link to any other cultivars.

Hence the great challenge of I Ciacca, since in this area cultivating Maturano is, at the same time, “historical and new”, as Cesidio says. Determination paved way to a production of three lines of white wine based purely on Maturano in collaboration with I Ciacca’s award-winning consultant oenologist, Alberto Antonini. He was ranked among the “Top 5 Wine Consultants in the World in 2013″ by The Drink Business Magazine, and again among the “Top 5 Wine Consultants of the World” by Decanter Magazine in 2015. From the first plantings in guyot training system to the first harvest in 2017, everything was based on experimentation and empirical observation: from pruning, to thinning out and harvesting the ancient variety that’s no longer cultivated in modern times. Contrary to the other international varieties that are widely cultivated in the area, the method for producing optimal Maturano wine was, in large part, forgotten, therefore, in practice, unknown.

The oenological approach in the cellar is natural, where only indigenous yeasts are used, combined with a use of sulfur dioxide quantifiably less than half the percentage permitted by organic regimes. With the utilization of the latest generation of unlined egg-shaped cement tanks, the Maturano by I Ciacca, that come in three lines and a passito shows the great qualities of longevity and very different expressions. The three lines and passito are: Sotto le Stelle, spends 10 months in the cement tanks; Nostalgia, wherein skin contact was limited to about four days; Filosofia, wherein the maceration lasts for four months with 1/3 of the stalks; and Passito Essenza, from dried grapes.

Maturano wine develops a straw yellow color with golden reflections, and as it gets more skin contact and with ageing, it takes a darker and fuller hue. The nose is intense and has an interesting complexity with fruity aromas from mature exotic fruits like pineapple, bananas, orange blossoms, lemon zest, dried yellow flowers, spices, balsamic nuances and sometimes notes of saltiness. On the palate, it becomes more interesting and that’s what I absolutely like about Maturano. It gives you a perception of fullness, heartiness, good balance and structure of acidity, pleasant sapidity, with the ripe tropical fruit and spices coming out at times, always ending with persistence, at times accompanied by a veil of acidity. Its particular characteristic is that it complements such a wide spectrum of food with a vast variation of flavors and components. Its chameleon-like quality makes it an optimum wine that can accompany a full meal from appetizer until the end, when you drink it with a platter of cheese.

I Ciacca

Address: Via Giustino Ferri 7, 03040 Picinisco (FR), Italy
Tel: +39 342 9465890
Website: https://iciacca.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ICiacca

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