La Visciola's Cesanese vines near Piglio, Lazio. These old vines are interspersed with pear, apricot, and cherry trees.

La Visciola Proves That It's Possible: Great Wine from Lazio!

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When your clientele changes every day it must be easy to lose the incentive to maintain standards; there are very few customers who are going to be back ever again, which is why the food in Taormina, Como, or Amalfi is almost never as good as the food in a town just off the beaten path. A variation on this theory is frequently offered to explain why the wine of Lazio (the region where Rome is located) is generally just ok, or worse: all of those millions of tourists soak up whatever’s poured in their glasses. Of course the Romans drink a lot of local wine (and eat in their many excellent restaurants too) but there’s no disputing the average-at-best quality of most Lazio wine. A lot of effort has been made to improve the standard (and image) of the famous white called Frascati; we would love to taste one that wasn’t yeasted or otherwise manipulated in what seems to be an attempt to arrive at a New Zealand white. Let me know if you find one…

I went to school in Rome for junior year, and then I kept going back for extended stays; we happily drank a lot of house wine, but one of the first wines I really took note of was a Cesanese del Piglio, supplied by a Roman friend, and surely costing more than the Chianti in fiasco which we sometimes bought as a special treat. Dinner at a favorite restaurant, with wine, was about $5; we ate out all the time (the food at school was not very tempting) and their house wine in carafe turned out to be Cesanese.  My memory of those bright and energetic Cesaneses I drank in Rome has always been out of sync with those I’ve tried in recent years, which by contrast are heavy and dull, and are trying to be taken very seriously.

Piero Macciocca in the cellar at La Visciola. Formerly a garage, you can see about half of the cellar in these two photos.                                                                                                                                                                     
 

For a few years now, John Rankin and I have visited the natural wine fair at Cerea (near Verona); it’s a great event, where you can taste Bea, Cappellano, G. Rinaldi, and many other luminaries, but we agree that we particularly look forward to tasting the wine from La Visciola. This is a tiny property in Piglio, just south of Rome, where the special local wine is Cesanese. We both love their wine – it has become an anticipated highlight of the day, if not the trip. And every year the news has been the same – “sold-out” – and we talk about it and think about how much we’d like to have some until the next time. Thus it was a real surprise when we got home and received an offer to buy a few cases of the wine. I don’t think the limited availability of these wines has boosted our enthusiasm for them (although that availability is further limited by our real need to have some for our own cellars) – these are really compelling wines, very natural and unforced. They are energetic and expressive in a way that reminds us of their spiritual cousins in the Loire – Puzelat, Clos Roche Blanche – but they’ll go better with your spaghetti carbonara.

 

La Visciola’s first bottles for sale were released in 2008; prior to that, the fruit was either sold or was used to make wine for the family. The vines were planted in the 1960s and have always been organic by default as no chemicals were ever used (except copper and sulfur), but since 2005 the farming has been biodynamic. Indigenous yeast fermentations are in cement and stainless steel, with aging in used barrels up to 750 liters; sulfur levels are very low. There are four reds from different plots, and one white wine, making an annual total production of less than 5000 bottles, of which we feel very lucky to have received a grand 280 bottles! It’s not surprising that Rosa and Piero Macciocca have kept their day jobs; I imagine that you need a bit more volume to support a family. Fortunately some older relatives are on hand to help with the day-to-day in the vines. As the winery is in a garage, I think we have our first Italian garage wine!

A pear tree cohabitating with grape vines.
 

 

 

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La Visciola 2013 Cesanese del Piglio DOCG Vicinale

Vicinale is a vineyard with both Passerina and Cesanese; the Cesanese is more than 60 years old and chemicals have never been used in the vines.  The wine is light-medium bodied and has bright acidity, blackberry-like fruit, and lots of attractive savory and herbal aspects. It’s intensely pure and focused, cleansing on the palate and very energetic. Christine Manula and Jamie Wolff

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $26.99

  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

La Visciola 2013 Cesanese del Piglio DOCG Mozzata

The 60+ year-old vines for Mozzatta are at higher elevation than Vicinale, but the soils have less sand and the wine is fuller, with darker fruit and a darker palate character. “Bello morbido," says Piero, meaning (I think) a beautiful softness and / or richness, but the wine is also very lifted, shows lovely fruit, earthy complexity, and great length. A very fine wine – it’s doubtful that Cesanese reaches this level very often. Christine Manula and Jamie Wolff

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $34.99

  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur