My first wine trip of the decade went to Lazio, and it turned to be the perfect visit for this month’s theme in the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel (#ItalianFWT) group, namely Quality Cooperatives.
My visit in January brought me to Cincinnato winery in Cori in the Latina area in Lazio.
Quality wine and cooperatives – can it go hand in hand?
Often, we think that wine produced by cooperatives are synonymous with low quality and mass production. The “cantine sociali” have and do play an important part in the Italian wine world, from north to south.
Well, if we think about the recent disaster with the fraud in the Oltrepó Pavese area, where they have been counterfeiting IGP and DOP denominations, we might be less keen on talking about quality. The local cooperative of Canneto Pavese is the main “criminal” here.
However, let us get back to focus on Italian cooperatives and the production of quality wine.
The cooperatives are indeed an important part of Italian history. They are a place where people, local history and territory, rural economy are closely related to concepts such as local economy, ethics, sustainability, climate, and much more. A cooperative often employs people in rural and isolated areas allowing them to remain in their home region. Some cooperatives give possibilities to immigrants and socially unfavoured groups. (See Cooperative del vino, l’obiettivo è la sostenibilità ambientale, sociale, economica ed etica in Wine News and Il vino delle cooperative, un tesoretto da 4,3 miliardi in Il Sole 24 Ore)
A cooperative becomes an ecosystem all of its own.
Another interesting and important aspect of cooperatives is how they are made up of many small and very passionate growers who together can reach much further than they would have been able to on their own. By pulling their forces together, they can invest in equipment, carry out research, market their products abroad, etc. Lately, more and more cooperatives are also focusing on seeing that their growers are organically certified.
We will discover more about this at Cincinnato winery in this article.
February WITH #ITALIANFWT
The theme this month, February 2020, is Quality Cooperatives in the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel (#ItalianFWT) group. As briefly mentioned above, I will be focusing on Cincinnati winery that is located in Cori in Lazio. I will talk about a couple of their wines in this article.
How To Participate in the Twitter Chat
On Saturday, 1 February, at 11 am ET / 17.00 CEST the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel group will explore Quality Cooperatives in the #ItalianFWT chat on Twitter. All those of you who are interested in wine, food, and travel regarding Quality Cooperatives are very welcome to participate in the chat on Saturday. It is always great to have new fellow Italian wine and food enthusiasts to join and add new perspectives to the discussion.
Join us on Twitter on 1 February, by typing in the hashtag #ItalianFWT in the search field on Twitter and click Enter, thereafter, you click Latest which will show you all the live tweets. In that way, you can take part in the live discussion. After the chat, you can also head over to read and comment on the article writers’ blog posts. It’s always nice to get feedback on the articles.
Cincinnato winery – A cooperative focused on native grapes
When I got an email from Giovanna Trisorio from Cincinnato winery where she asked me if I would be interested in visiting them, I was really hooked straight away. So far, I have not really visited many wineries in Lazio and I am really interested in learning more.
Lazio is a region with a rich history where the Romans continued the viticultural tradition of the Etruscans to develop it further. Still, wine production in Lazio has been in the shadow of other Italian regions and still is to a certain extent. Everyone travels to Rome and knows Rome but very few ventures outside of the capital to explore other parts of this beautiful region.
Therefore, I was excited to have this opportunity to learn more about wine production in Cori, the Latina area of Lazio. It turned into a lovely day where Giovanna had arranged for me to first visit Omina Romana winery close to Velletri and to then continue to Cincinnato winery for a tour and tasting.
Cincinnato winery was founded in 1947 when a group of grape growers and farmers decided to go together to start a winery. The winery has been named after Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, the Roman politician and military leader in the early Roman Republic. He was a figure and spokesperson for civic virtue.
The winery says they were named after Cincinnato because he, according to the legend, had an estate in Cori where he established himself in the fifth century B.C. To, even more, give value to the local town and its history, the winery has named their wines after historical persons, monuments, or events relating to Cori.
Cincinnato winery is really a cooperative that fits the theme here like a glove because it is indeed focused on producing high-quality wines. Their focus is on being sustainable and having care of the environment. The Cincinnato cooperative is of the belief that high-quality production benefits the member growers making them earn more.
Let us dig a bit deeper…
Cincinnato winery is a cooperative
- very dedicated to safeguarding the environment
- focused on being sustainable (using a photovoltaic system, using natural gas for their vehicles and machines, etc)
- Focused on the cultivation of native grapes
- with 107 member growers that are cultivating 100 hectares in total, all in organic
- that pays its member growers according to quality parameters
- is investing in research and innovation since about 20 years with the aim of improving quality
- whose wines contain lower sulfite levels than the standard
- that, in general, is focused on producing white wines, even though they now also produce high-quality red wines.
Cincinnato winery has, in fact, worked hard on valorizing the native grapes in the area such as Bellone, Nero Buono, and Cesanese, as well as Malvasia del Lazio and Greco (a sub-variety that is only cultivated in Lazio). Let us find out a bit more about these native grapes.
Native grapes to Lazio
Bellone is a grape that was mentioned already by Pliny the Elder as a special grape for making high-quality wine and is cultivated mainly in the provinces of Rome and Latina. Bellone is a fairly productive grape though irregular in its productivity, and it gives fresh, mineral, and fruity white wines.
According to Ian D’Agatha, there is a scarcity of Bellone plants in areas such as Castelli Romani to produce monovarietal Bellone wines while this is not the case around Cori in the Latina area. There, producers such as Cincinnato winery and Marco Carpienti are producing very interesting Bellone wines.
It has been believed that Bellone stems from Uva Pantastica that also was mentioned by Pliny the Elder though there, furthermore, seems to have been a group of grapes denominated Belli in ancient Rome to which Bellone might have belonged. All these are suppositions only.
Moreover, just as the Bombino Bianco in Emilia Romagna, Bellone has also been referred to as Pagadebit due to its high productivity. Other names for Bellone are Arciprete, Cacchione, and Pampanaro.
Nero Buono is considered to have been brought to the area around Cori by Cincinnato when he settled at an estate there. This is part of the legend and there is no concrete evidence of this. After genetic analyses made it has been found that Nero Buono is not related to any of the main cultivars. Furthermore, according to Ian D’Agatha, Nero Buono is a very productive grape even though quite irregular in its yield, just as Bellone it seems. (See Ian D’Agatha, Native Wine Grapes of Italy, pp.371-373)
Nero Buono is a local grape that is especially close to the heart at Cincinnato winery and they have put a lot of research and effort into revalorize this grape variety. They were the first winery to produce a monovarietal Nero Buono wine. In fact, this grape is generally called Nero Buono di Cori or was so until the EU decided against using place names for grape varieties and wines. Today there is a small group of producers that produce Nero Buono wines, for example, Marco Carpineti.
Both Bellone and Nero Buono thrive in volcanic soil. Did you know that Cori rests on volcanic soil from the Vulcano Albano that is now what makes up the Colli Albani in Lazio? And, in fact, it stretches from the Castelli Romani towards the Velletri and Cori area.
Of course, Cincinnato winery also produces a Cesanese wine. Cesanese is the red grape that somehow defines Lazio and that just as Bellone was mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his writings. Cesanese is grown all over Lazio though its core area is around Castelli Romani, especially in the communes of Cesanese and d’Affile.
Wines from Cincinnato Winery
Here I will talk about two of the wines that Cincinnato winery produces, the others I will write more in detail about further on.
Enyo Lazio IGP 2017
Enyo is a 100% Bellone wine and a selection of their best Bellone grapes. The Bellone grapes here are also a bit overripe. It does a maceration on the skins for about 12 hours and malolactic fermentation. The juice matures in steel tanks for one year. It is a fresh, mineral and beautiful wine with mainly fruity and citrusy notes. On the palate, it is very smooth and elegant. A lovely expression of the local territory.
The name comes from Enyo who was a goddess in Greek mythology as well as the sister and companion of the god of war, Ares. The equivalent in Roman mythology was Bellona, the goddess of war.
Below a video from the tasting with Giovanna and Tanja.
Ercole Lazio IGP
Giovanna told me that Nero Buono can have notes that seem a bit ‘selvaggio’, i.e. savage, meaty, that makes you think of earth, blood, wilderness. Also, the fresh and mineral notes are very typical for the Nero Buono. Rather than fruity, it has more a touch of darker fruits, undergrowth, forest. Though I really liked the Polluce Lazio IGP 2017 that is a 100% Nero Buono matured only in steel for its clean notes, I am going to talk about the Ercole Lazio IGP here.
Ercole Lazio IGP (I believe it was 2015) is a selection of the best grapes from 10 vineyard plots belonging to 10 different member growers. It is aged for one year in both tonneaux and barrique. It is a structured and mineral wine with fruity, spicy, herby notes as well as a touch of undergrowth, rose petals. It also has a sweeter note of chocolate or cocoa. A very enjoyable red wine.
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