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Under the Tuscan Sun: 2009 Sassotondo Ciliegiolo Maremma Toscana IGT

When most folks hear the word, “Tuscany” many things come to mind, olive oil, wines and great culinary treasures, and of course for many "romance" figures nicely into the equation. A thought which has no doubt been perpetuated and punctuated by this region's rich history, endless rolling hills, its many cypress-lined country roads and a language chock full romantic ideas and notions.

For me, I immediately think of all the great wines produced in this fabulous region, which has so much to offer the wandering wino and even the garden variety vino-sapien thirsting for wines that burst with layers of flavor and structure, wines that compliment your meal, instead of getting in the way.

To me wines from this region represent idea in wine that far too many folks look past these days, that don't say, "hey, look at me". It was funny a question was posited the other day, "what region would you choose, if it was the only region you were allowed to drink from", I didn't even hesitate for a second, I immediately answered Montalcino, my favorite region in Tuscany, hello Brunello.

For those looking for a fruit forward, sappy, soulless California style of wine, sorry to say, “forget about it”. For the rest of you looking for an earthy, though mouth watering Tuscan gem meant to go with a great meal; this is your ticket to ride.

After a swirl and fat slurp, wow a boat-load of layered complexity. The bouquet is fascinating and deep with focused blackberry and dark cherry notes, enriched by leather, sweet oak, tobacco, a hint of chocolate and coffee scents. The mineral character comes through nicely with sensation of rich earth flavors. This full-bodied wine shows a wonderful core of ripe fruit right up front, a silky mouth feel and a soft texture with a notable length.

For those of you not familiar with Ciliegiolo; [I wasn't] it’s a red wine grape variety normally found in central and north-western Italy. Frankly, it’s something of an obscurity, but with over 800 different grapes, not a surprise. Until recently is has been said to be, “undergoing something of a renaissance in Liguria and in the heart of Tuscany.” And according to my WSET book, "the grape's name comes from an Italian word for 'cherry', a fruit which Ciliegiolo wines resemble both in color and aroma".

This is the type of wine in my opinion that is surely poised for unique harmony with many varied food pairing opportunities. Look for this wine to compliment your next meal; as they say in Italy, wine should be non impegnativo, meaning it should not demand too much attention.
If it were me, I’d suggest maybe going with something like organic pasta of your choice; smother it in Italian sausage, cooked-down fresh garden tomatoes and sautéed mushrooms. Another great choice for something off-the-grill; lamb shanks with fresh herbs or if you prefer to go the meatless route, I’d go with mozzarella stuffed Portobello’s. Getting hungry and thirsty yet? I know I am just thinking about it. By the way, Steven Tanzer gave this wine 90 points and it sells for average SRP of $16, I secured this bottle from my friends at The 3rd Corner. I really liked this wine and gave it score of 88 points, it's a best buy.


Sassotondo Ciliegiolo is a favorite of mine. Some restaurant in North Beach had it by the glass when I was visiting SF back in 2005, but I couldn't find it in retail. Fortunately, I visited Pitigliano in 2006 and met the woman who makes it, and then bought 6 bottles back with me when I visited Rome in 2009. (No one has ever more joyfully carried a half-case of wine on public transportation!) Around Pitigliano, it's served with wild boar ragu--delicious. I'm thrilled to hear that it's available in retail now, because my remaining four bottles of 2005 seem too dear to drink!
Bill Eyer said…
Ha Gilanah, that sounds like a great story. I was really impressed with this wine and can't wait to get more myself. oh-my, I really fell in love with wild boar ragu myself during my first trip to Tuscany, just can't seem to find it here in San Diego.

Those 05's must be drinking fab, right now, Ciliegiolo is a fantastic wine-bearing grape, here's to the wine-glass staying half-full, cheers!

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