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A Tuscan Discovery that Evokes Cherries

Sassotondo Cigliegiolo Maremma 2009
Harvey Steiman
Posted: December 28, 2010

I have been fascinated with the Tuscan grape variety Cigliegiolo (Ciliegiolo being the most common spelling) ever since tasting a sample from an experimental plot in Chianti Classico way back in the 1980s. “Ciliegio” is the Italian word for cherries, and the wine really did taste like cherries. I wondered then why we didn’t see more of it.

The grape has been used in Chianti blends but seldom stars on its own. So, when I saw a varietal version on the list at Cotogna, Quince’s new casual restaurant in San Francisco, I jumped at the chance to try it. Sassotondo makes it from its own 29 acres of vineyards on tufo-filled soils in the Maremma, in southwestern Tuscany.

A perfect lunch wine, the Sassotondo Cigliegiolo Maremma 2009 offered richness and more angles than simply the yummy cherry flavor. It hinted at chalk and spice while remaining light enough in the mouth to demand another sip, and another. What impressed me most was the purity of the fruit. 88 points, non-blind.

This was obviously from a well-tended vineyard. The winery’s website says that agronomist Carla Benini and Italian documentary film director Edoardo Ventimiglia started Sassotondo in 1990 to focus on Cigliegiolo. They also make a high-end riserva-style wine from the grape variety.

All the wines on Cotogna’s list sell for $40; a little research found the varietal Cigliegiolo bottling (which has about 10 percent Alicante in the blend) retailing for $18 to $19. members: Get scores and tasting notes for recently rated Top Values among Italian reds.

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