Monday, August 25, 2008

An Italian Wine for Beaujolais Lovers

Do you like wines from the Beaujolais made from Gamay?

If you do, have you tried an Italian variety called Cesanese? When I tasted it all I could think of was that it was Italy's indigenous analogue to that better-known French grape.

Cesanese grapes are a particular point of pride for the Pallavicini family, who have been growing grapes in the Lazio region since the late 1600s. They have been working to preserve indigenous varieties such as Malvasia del Lazio, Ciliegiolo, and Bonvino as well as planting international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot.

Their 2005 Pallavicini Tirso was a light bodied-red wine made with 100% Cesanese that is ideal for serving slightly chilled just as you would a Beaujolais. ($7.99, Weimax; available elsewhere for around $14) It was dark eggplant in color with grapey and plummy aromas and a touch of deep earthiness. The flavors continued along in this vein, with the earth coming farther forward to meet up with the plums. The wine had 12% alc/vol and there was a juicy aftertaste. This simple wine was pleasant and refreshing and at well under $10, it represented good QPR so long as you aren't expecting a robust Italian red.

Cesanese is an ideal partner for simple, rustic bistro or trattoria food. We had it with a quick version of Pollo alla Romana, where chicken is cooked with peppers, tomatoes, capers, and prosciutto. With some crusty bread and a big salad, you've got a perfect meal. The wine's earthiness and fruit flavors went well with the acidity of the dish and the sweetness of the sauteed peppers. With all the fresh tomatoes in local farmer's markets and ripening on backyard vines, this is a grape to remember when you're looking for something to pair with late summer tomato sauces and salads.

So try Cesanese if you get the chance. But beweare: the increased demand for Italian wines may have led to a reorganization of Pallavicini labels. The Tirso label is no more as best I can discover, replaced by wine labeled "Cesanese" and a different picture. The label for the 2005 Tirso is now being used for a Sangiovese wine called "Tiaso." So if you see this wine in the store, make sure that you're getting Tirso and not Tiaso if you're trying to secure some of this rare Italian grape.



Anonymous said...

Excellent review! Thanks for the info, will try to seek it out!

Dr. Debs said...

I think you'll like it--very good, very different. And of course, very cheap!