Ciliegiolo | Red wine grape variety native to Italy. The name translate as ‘small cherry’. This refers to both the appearance of the grape’s berries and the finished wine, both of which are reminiscent of cherries. Ciliegiolo appears to be either the parent or offspring of Sangiovese. Both varieties are often mistaken for each other in inter-planted vineyards. Maurizio Castelli (Enogea) describes Ciliegiolo as giving ‘musts of good fruit and immediate, direct wines; it tends, however, to show excessive vigour in the vineyard, and therefore it is necessary to have old vines to keep productivity at bay.’
Synonyms | Erroneous synonyms for Ciliegiolo include Alicante di Spagna and Aleatico di Spagna, as well as Brunellone and Sangiovese Forte, both of which are separate varieties (Sanforte in the case of Sangiovese Forte).
Where grown | Tuscany. Also found in Lazio, Liguria, Marche (‘Morettone’), Puglia and Umbria.
Characteristics | It can handle warmer areas, such as the Tuscan Maremma (see Maremma Toscana DOC), it is even better slightly further inland where it is cooler. It is also found in, but generally less adapted to Chianti Classico. Liguria is said to provide slightly more herbal examples.
Wine style | The variety’s hallmark is its bright, red cherry flavours and aromas, often with notes of raspberry and especially violet. Medium bodied. Early bottled ‘novello’ examples are seen to be less successful.
Certified organic | La Selva (Maremma, Tuscany).
Bill Nesto MW & Frances Di Savino, Chianti Classico, the Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine, (University of California Press, 2016).
Italian Wine Unplugged (Positive Press, 2017), p.92-3.
Maurizio Castelli, Enogea, ‘Maurizio Castelli, il sangiovese e il Chianti Classico. Intevista vintage,’ interview 21 January 2014 by Francesco Falcone for Enogea (enogea.it).
Oxford Companion to Wine 4th edition ed. Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW (Oxford University Press, 2015).