Italian Indigenous Varieties: Cesanese Comune & Cesanese Affile from Lazio

Cesanese Comune and Cesanese Affile are red grape varieties that are grown in Lazio. The wines they produce are usually full bodied and somewhat spicy with nice tannins. The first time I had ever heard of Cesanese was in 2005 when I had the occasion to interview the Princess Maria Camilla Pallavicini from the Principe Pallavicini winery. She very kindly spoke with me on the phone about some of her impressions of the business and invited me to her property some 30 minutes on the train outside of Rome. I jumped at the chance to go and soon found myself in a jeep with her agronomist Mauro De Angelis on a very large property with what seemed to me to be acres and acres of vines.

The Pallavicini have a number of different properties, two of which they use to make wine. I went to visit the Tenuta di Colonna, the property is located in an area formerly known as Labicum that lies between the towns of Colonna and Frascati in Lazio. The family bought 1600 hectares of land in 1670. The Princess and her two sons, Sigieri and Moroello, are on the board of directors. The winery also counts among its considerable resources, the enologist Carlo Roveda, a well-known figure on the Italian winemaking scene and Mauro De Angelis, the agronomist responsible for implementing all of the changes in the vineyards. Carlo Ferrini is also a consulting enologist for the wines.

The Pallavicini family grows the grapes that are indigenous to Lazio, including Cesanese. I really enjoyed their Amarasco, a blend of grapes from different Cesanese clones. The grapes are left to slightly raisin on the vine giving extra strength and flavor. Red fruits and the spicy nature of the Cesanese grape burst through and lead to an enveloping round, velvety mouthfeel and a long finish.
This wine calls for a delicious meal and although it was the beginning of Summer, my thoughts went to Christmases I had spent in Rome and a truly delicious dish that always reminds me of Italy, Baby Lamb Chops Roman Style (Abbacchio alla Romana).

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