…a grape, a wine, or both from Umbria
Ciliegiolo is a grape variety native to Maremma in southern Tuscany and central Italy but it is cultivated in several Italian regions. Ian D’Agatha defines it as “…one of the country’s greatest but most underappreciated grape varieties.” This is because it produces vertical wines with “pure aromas and flavors.”
It is indeed a grape with a long history but many of you might not have tasted it yet, or you have tasted it without knowing it. I say this because it has traditionally often been used in blends with Sangiovese to give color, alcohol, and sweetness, and smoothen out the Sangiovese. It is a variety that can be used in many appellations — IGT, DOC, and DOCG — from Emilia-Romagna down to Abruzzo and Campania.
Did you know there is also a wine named Ciliegiolo di Narni located in Umbria?
A Historical Overview of Ciliegiolo
There have been many interpretations of the origin and the parentage of the Ciliegiolo grape. It was assumed for quite some time that Ciliegiolo was brought to Italy by pilgrims wandering back from Santiago de Compostela, but Ian D’Agatha instead believes that Ciliegiolo first was mentioned in a written document by the Tuscan agronomist Giovan Vettorio Soderini around 1600. Ciliegiolo has often been confused with several different grapes such as Sangiovese, Grenache, and Aleatico.
In 2002, researchers argued it to be identical to Aglianicone that is grown in Campania, but later studies have refuted that idea. In 2007, further research argued that Ciliegiolo together with the Calabrese di Montenuovo (from the Campi Flegrei area) were the parents of Sangiovese. This theory was overruled already the same year after in-depth studies were carried out in France where Sangiovese was identified as the parent of Ciliegolo together with the Muscat rouge de Madère. Ciliegiolo has also been found together with Sangiovese in old vineyards on Etna in a DNA study carried out in 2014. (See Attilio Scienza and Serena Imazio, La Stirpe del Vino, 2018.)