Ciliegiolo: Italian grape name pronunciation project (and a fun post about Lambrusco)


Before I left for Greece, Wine Parkour requested an episode of the Italian Grape Name and Appellation Pronunciation Project devoted to the ampelonym Ciliegiolo.

So I reached out to my friend and excellent producer of Morellino di Scansano Gianpaolo Paglia, who graciously agreed to video himself pronouncing the grape name. (You may remember Gianapolo for the excellent meal he and I shared last year in Maremma and for my posts about his decision to sell his barriques and his declaration that he would no longer age his wines in new small French oak cask; click here for the thread.)

I wouldn’t exactly call Gianpaolo the “Dustin Hoffman” of Italian wine but you will definitely walk away from this video knowing how to pronounce Ciliegiolo (not an easy one for Anglophones)!

In other news…

However jetlagged today, I managed to churn out a fun post this morning for the Houston Press on Lambrusco. My editor there has been very generous in letting me create my “wine as exegetic tool” posts (read “wine as a pretext and excuse to study culture”). Have you ever visited Emilia-Romagna? Then you’ll know what I’m talking about!

2001 Grattamacco and why Sangiovese makes all the difference

Speaking Italian well has its perks: when Italian bigwig producers and enologists come to Texas, I generally get an invitation to dinner and am always seated next to said bigwigs.

Last night, I was the guest of Tunisian-born pharmaceutical giant Claudio Tipa and his enologist, Milanese-born Maurizio Castelli, called a “Tuscan legend” by my friend, top wine dude and author, David Lynch in his Vino Italiano.

I’ve never been a big fan of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grown in Tuscany, but I’ve always had a weak spot for Grattamacco. Despite the fact that it’s way out of my price range, I’ve had the good fortune to taste many older vintages over the course of the years.

Contrary to what one might expect, Claudio and Maurizio were very much alla mano, as the Italians say, easy-going and fun to talk to and I thoroughly relished Claudio’s account of the day he told erstwhile Okie oilman and fascist importer Bob Chadderdon to go to quel paese. I was also fascinated by what Maurizio had to say about his work in Georgia, the obstacles of making wine in a war-torn country, and the grand potential of that region to become a world-class producer of fine wine.

Grattamacco has remained true to its roots, as conceived by its founder Milanese industrialist Piermario Meletti Cavallari, in 1977: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese aged in large recycled cask.

While other Bolgheri producers have ripped out their Sangiovese, Claudio stood by the original owner’s vision when he purchased the estate’s hill-side vineyards in 2002. It’s the Sangiovese that gives the wine its trademark acidity and in my view, what makes it taste like Tuscany.

The 2001 was stunning, with earthy tones and bright, nervy acidity. The 03, 04, and 05 were honest expressions of the vintages (far from spectacular IMHO) and the 2006 showed immense promise for its future. (From what I’ve tasted so far, a lot of people made great wine in Tuscany in 06.)

I also really liked Claudio’s 2008 Montecucco Rigoletto, an entry-level wine from his flagship Colle Massari. It was everything I want a Montecucco to be: juicy and grapey, with bright, bright acidity and balanced alcohol. The Ciliegiolo was the star of this blend with Sangiovese and Montepulciano, giving the wine that classic cherry note on the nose that reminds you that Montecucco is a sibling of Morellino and not Montalcino.

The Colle Massari Vermentino was also very good, unctuous and aromatic, honest and real. Chef Todd Duplechan’s foie gras Boudin wasn’t bad either.

Did I mention that Italian majors have all the fun?

In other news…

TGIF: Thank G-ja it’s Friday! I’m so tired of working and am very much looking forward to the weekend with that super fine lady of mine.

Buon weekend, ya’ll!

Best Tuscan wines? Life beyond Tignanello…

In the wake of BrooklynGuy’s post on 1990 Tignanello and my subsequent response, a couple of readers wrote me asking me to create a list of currently available, interesting wines from Tuscany. In turn, I asked you to submit some top recommendations. Here’s what you had to say…


Top wine blogger (and dude whose musical and literary tastes always turn me on) David McDuff’s pics were “nothing cutting edge; all are just old friends.”

Isole e Olena Chianti Classico: Always a pure and elegant expression of Chianti (and Sangiovese.

Fattoria di Palazzo Vecchio Vino Nobile di Montepulciano: Honest vintage expression of the sun-baked Tuscan hills. (They also produce an excellent Riserva.)

Corzano e Paterno Chianti Colli Fiorentini: Proof that great farming can elevate mediocre terroir.


Sommelier to the stars David Rosoff didn’t “have a bunch of time to rack my brain on this today but…”

Castell’in Villa: Has to be there.

Caprili: I’m loving Caprili a lot these days.

Salvioni: Is it trite to say Salvioni?


Wine writer and veteran Italian wine traveler and educator Tom Hyland got right to the point.

Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino: Classic, elegant, great ageworthiness.

Rocca di Montegrossi Vin Santo: Incredibly concentrated, remarkable.

Ornellaia: Superb fruit, superb winemaking.

And he added, “3 exciting new wines from Tuscany.”

Enrico Santini Montepergoli: Bolgheri red, one of that zone’s best.

Castelvecchio Numero Otto:100% Ciliegiolo, very sexy!

Guado al Melo Jassarte: Blend of 30 varieties combining Italian and Eastern viticulture.


Elaine Trigiani took time out from tasting and teaching olive oil in Tuscany to pen this dispatch.

Fattoria Ispoli Chianti Classico: Well-mannered combo of clarity and mighty persistence.

Podere Le Boncie Le Trame: Quiet yet profound as Giovanna herself.

Santa Maria Rosso di Castiglione d’Orcia: Fermenty.


Guitar player extraordinaire and owner of the coolest wine shop in Central Texas, John Roenigk took time out from the Christmas rush to weigh in.

Selvapiana Chianti Rufina: All the textural suppleness and tenderness I might ever have expected of Sangiovese all the while being completely flavorful and satisfying.

Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva: Fine and complex, always been a personal fave.

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia: Superb Tuscan estate, really dedicated to Sangiovese. Superb wine.

Tuscan dirt

Brit wine educator and Tuscanophile, author of a newly minted wine blog, David Way loves “the Sangiovese of Chianti and Montalcino as much as anyone, but rather more off the beaten track are…”

Sassotondo Maremma Toscana San Lorenzo: Sassotondo’s top Ciliegiolo, aromas of cherries and pepper, distinctive cru from the Maremma’s deep south.

Rocca di Frassinello Rosso Maremma Toscana: Elegant product of French-Italian collaboration, 60% Sangiovese, beefed up with 20% each Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, finely judged new oak above super ripe fruit. Rothschild collaboration.

Massa Vecchia Vermentino di Maremma Toscana: Hyper-natural “white” wine made as a red, i.e. 20 days maceration on the skins, orange tinge, dense herby fruit smells, orange peel, extraordinary.


The Italian Wine Guy by antonomasia Alfonso likes winemakers who are “small and live in as well as on their land and are fully grounded.”

Querciavalle Chianti Classico Riserva: They age beautifully, are fabulous values and have given me as much pleasure as Brunello or Super Tuscan wines have.

Capezzana Carmignano: The blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet (part of the appellation) make for a mouthwatering and delicious lip-smacking red.

Angelo Sassetti Brunello di Montalcino: Yes, his brother Livio is next door and has gotten better press and p.r. But my heart and soul is with Angelo, whose wine is still simple and direct and not obfuscated by modernity of success.


I was really excited to see Massa Vecchia in David Way’s contribution. I love those wines and they stink to holy heaven. I don’t think they’re available yet in this country.

I have to second David Rosoff’s pick, Castell’in Villa. As Franco likes to say, it’s one of those wines in which I always find “emotion” and “poetry.”

I’m also dying to try Tom Hyland’s “very sexy” 100% Ciliegiolo by Castelvecchio.

There are a lot of others I would add, like Sanguineto in Montepulciano, also one of Elaine’s favorites. And I was was thrilled to see her include a wine from the Orcia River Valley. I have tasted some great wines from the Orcia river valley (outside of Montalcino), and, in my view, Orcia will be the next appellation to emerge as a producer of great wine from Tuscany (nothing I’ve tasted from Montecucco has really knocked my socks off).

Thanks, everyone, for weighing in. There are so many interesting wines from Tuscany to reach for these days. This polyglot hypertextual list is rife and ripe with trusted classics, a few surprises, and the heart and soul of Tuscany when you scrape off the patina of marketese. Nothing wrong with Tignanello, of course (BrooklynGuy’s post has inspired Alfonso to “stand upright” a bottle of 1990 Tignanello to taste with me and Tracie B when we get together next weekend). So many great bottles and so little time…