Column: A wine revolution near Rome

If you ask any fan of Italian wine to name some good examples, Chianti, Barolo and Prosecco will probably come to their mind. But that’s not the case with Lazio. This region near Rome has been known for inexpensive and unimpressive wines!

That was, until Antonio Santarelli became the winemaker in 1985 at his father’s winery, Casale del Giglio.

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He set out with, Paolo Tiefenthaler to bring back varietals to the winery that do well near the coast. They were inspired by the models of cultivation practiced in Bordeaux, Australia and California that benefit greatly by proximity to the sea.

They were fortunate that there were no vineyards planted in their part of Lazio and there were no traditional rules that must be followed. Innovation flourished!

After planting 57 varietals, they quickly met with success and their wines received critical acclaim in both the Italian and international markets.

A delicious red that resulted from this research is the Casale del Giglio 2018 Cesanese ($24), a fruit driven smooth red with instant appeal. Cesanese is an indigenous grape from Lazio. It's a late ripening grape, which usually guarantees longevity in a wine. Dark red in colour, its nose reveals dark fruit, violets, spice, forest floor, as well as licorice.

On the palate, there’s a prominent flavour of ripe marasca cherries, which are also used to make maraschino cherries. There’s also the taste of blackberries and plums with a rich, smooth mouth-feel and a long cherry finish that ends on a dry crescendo.

I’ve enjoyed it with mild Italian sausages and fava beans together with papparedelle in a spicy tomato sauce. On a subsequent occasion, the Cesanese was a big hit with grilled rib eye steaks. It’s available at the Richmond-Brighouse BCLS.

Also in the Casale del Giglio portfolio is the white Bellone ($20.99 Spec), which was known in Roman times. The grape is planted near the coast and is vigorous and drought resistant because of its thick skins. The sea breeze contributes to the over-ripening of grapes while a high concentration of both sugar and acidity leads to early maturation and highlighting of the mineral notes.

This is a white wine with lots of personality. The bouquet is full of ripe nectarines and the flavour exudes rich tropical fruit like papaya and mangos with some grassy notes and good acidity making it bright and lively with a rich texture. Well balanced with stone-fruit finishing on a dry note. This Speculative Item is available by the case of 12. Order at any BC Liquor Store.

There’s also the Casale del Giglio 2019 Anthium ($25.99 Spec). This single vineyard is their breeziest vineyard, which allowed it to resist the disastrous phylloxera epidemic that destroyed most of the European vineyards in the 19th century.

Comparing the Anthium Bellone with the regular Bellone, I found the Anthium had a greater aroma and depth of flavour of nectarines, mangos and lemons plus more complexity with greater acid and minerals.

Enjoy with a fish stew like Bouillabaisse or grilled tuna. This Speculative wine is available by the case of six at any BC Liquor Store.

World Wine Synergy, the agent for today’s wines has three exciting Spring into Summer Packages where you can order online and they will deliver the wines to you:

6-Pack Sparkling Wines, ($165): five lively Proseccos from Italy made in diverse styles, complemented with a French bubbly Rosé.

6-Pack White Wines, ($165): six crisp and refreshing Whites wines from the Old World made with indigenous grapes.

4-Pack Rose Wines, ($115): four award-winning Rosés for your summer patio enjoyment.

Eric Hanson is a life-long Richmond resident, retired teacher and wine educator. Eric has also taught wine appreciation courses in Richmond and throughout Metro Vancouver for many years. He continues to be a journalistic ambassador for the enchanting world of wine through his weekly column.

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