Exploring Tuscany: Ciliegiolo

Today’s topic is an ancient, quite obscure red grape which is planted in Northern and Central Italy: Ciliegiolo. The grape has its spiritual home in the Maremma but its origins are not well-documented. Outside of Tuscany there are plantings of Ciliegiolo in Liguria as well as in Umbria. The locals believed for centuries that the grape was brought to Italy by the Spanish. However this is likely not true. In 2004 DNA profiling done at the Edmund Mach Foundation discovered that Ciliegiolo was one of the parents of Sangiovese (the other being Calabrese Montenuovo). According to the Edmund Mach Foundation, the genetically link between Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo makes it nearly impossible that the Ciliegiolo is of Spanish origin. Ciliegiolo is named after the Italian for cherry – ciliegia. The grape used to be a blending partner in many Chianti wines but because Ciliegiolo is difficult to grow more and more wineries decide not to cultivate it anymore. The wineries that take the effort to make a varietal wine out of Ciliegiolo are rewarded with a big, well-structured wine. Unfortunately the strict Tuscan wine laws have somehow forgotten about Ciliegiolo. In other words: There is not even one DOC/DOCG appellation that permits wineries to produce a Ciliegiolo varietal wine. Therefore these wines are classified as IGT.

One of the wineries that still makes such a wine is Fattoria Il Duchesco.

Fattoria Il Duchesco

Fattoria Il Duchesco is located in Alberese, a rural town in the heart of the Maremma National Park. In order to protect the environment of the Maremma National Park Il Duchesco decided to produce only organic certified wine, olive oil and cheese. The winery grows next to Ciliegiolo also Ansonica.

Tasting Notes: 2008 Fattoria Il Duchesco – Tarconte – IGT Maremma Toscana

2008 Fattoria Il Duchesco - Tarconte - IGT Maremma ToscanaTarconte is produced with 100% Ciliegiolo grapes. The wine underwent a traditional fermentation and aged 12 months in barriques of French origin. Tarconte is classified as IGT Maremma Toscana.

In the glass, a deep ruby red color with violet hues.

On the nose, very intense with aromas of raspberry jam, black cherries, toast. With some additional time toffee, vanilla and nuts joined the fruit. The label listed alcohol by volume was 13.5%.

On the palate, dry, round and full-bodied. Taraconte was well-structured and of good balance however the acidity was still a bit strong. The wine had mellow, pleasing tannins. There were notes of cocoa and berries. The finish was of medium length.

3.5 / 5 stars      

Parting Words

Tarconte tasted very different than most other Tuscan wines that I tasted so far. The wine retails in Munich for just 15€. That’s a pretty good quality-price ratio. However the wine is not widely available. Ciliegiolo is an interesting variety and I encourage you to try a Ciliegiolo varietal wine.

Want to know more about obscure Tuscan varieties? No problem! Here you find my article about Pugnitello.

Have you tried a Ciliegiolo before?  Let me know in the comment section below. That’s all for today. The glass is empty but a refill is on the way!


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21 comments on “Exploring Tuscany: Ciliegiolo”

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Wineking,
      Thanks for stopping by. Before I tasted the Tarconte I only had Ciliegiolo in parts of Chianti blends but never as a varietal wine. I’m glad I tried it 🙂

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  2. Suzanne Reply

    As always I learn something new from each of your posts, I have never, that I can remember tried that variety of wine before. It sounds like it is difficult to find but that it would be worth seeking out.

  3. Andy Andy Reply

    Nice post, Julian. Learned something new today. Ijust looked for this wine on wine searcher and found no retailers. Any others you can suggest?

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Andy,
      Thank you so much! The only Ciliegiolo varietal wine that I tried is the Tarconte. I can’t suggest you any other but I’m sure other Ciliegiolo will be good, too.

  4. foodwine88 Reply

    This sounds like an interesting variety. Not sure if I tried it yet. Would love to do so. The variety is on my to-buy list now.

  5. hannah-theis hannah-theis Reply

    IMHO Pugnitello sounds much more interesting than Ciliegiolo. Haven’t tried either but I don’t think I would like a Ciliegiolo. Not sure why though

  6. Eat with Namie Reply

    I’ve heard of neither of the mentioned grapes. There seems to be so many ancient varietals we don’t know. Every time I read your post, I feel like going back to Italy and doing the food tours all over again. My experience with Italian food and wine back in 2007 wasn’t so good, probably because I didn’t have enough info. If I go back there again, I know I will have a great time thanks to all the info I get from you.
    I am drooling now looking at Italian dishes on Saveur.

    Cheers!

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Namie,
      Thanks for commenting. Italy has quite a lot obscure varieties. However the “big market” doesn’t demand these wines. Most of these varieties are difficult to grow and therefore the wine from them tends to be more expensive than the average Joe is willing to spend on for a bottle of super market wine.
      I’m sorry to hear that you haven’t had a good experience with Italian food and wine. In areas with lots of tourists the food and wine tends to be of lower quality and more expensive. But I guess that’s the same everywhere in the world..

  7. winetalks winetalks Reply

    If I had known about this varietal a few weeks ago then I would have tried it. I was in Tuscany until mid September.
    Every time I visit your blog I learn something new. So much great info 🙂

  8. theducksong Reply

    i’ve never heard of ciliegiolo before and certainly did not expect it to be in chianti oO

  9. Francesco Reply

    Despite being Tuscan, I did not know that there are also “Ciliegiolo in purity” wines; always thought it is grown only for that 5-10% in the Chianti blend.
    I’m glad I met you at Weininseln today and picked your business card, this blog is very interesting and will come here regularly!

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Francesco,
      Thank you for stopping by! I’m glad to hear that you find my blog interesting. If you like you can subscribe to new posts via e-mail (of course that’s completely free). I hope you’ve enjoyed our wines at the Weininseln wine tasting.

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