Damiano Ciolli "Silene"

As millions of tourists descend upon the Eternal City ever year, the area’s wines are often neglected. The sights of the Colosseum, Pantheon and St. Peter’s Basilica are reminders of Rome’s importance in shaping of other societies. Though the wines of Latium do not receive the same reverence, their importance is tremendous.      


As we celebrate Rome’s birthday later in April, we will look back on one of those special areas where wine has been a staple since 133 B.C.E.! The Ancient Romans discovered an area a little more than an hour southeast of Rome that was lauded for its soils and favorable location. Latium is essentially white wine country, but there are a handful of producers who are working hard with local red varietals, Cesanese being the most important and unique. Traditionally, these wines were sweet and bubbly, but lately the trend has shifted to dry wines. 


The change in style towards dry expressions of Cesanese has caused a stir. Outside of Latium, the varietal has been almost completely abandoned for easier ripening grapes.  But a few committed growers from the grape’s spiritual homeland have seen the wine’s quality trend upwards. 


Damiano Ciolli is one of the producers keeping the passion for his region and its most important red varietal. Ciolli is a fourth-generation grape grower who is finally receiving acclaim for his hard work. His dedication to Cesanese and his land has led him to become the world’s leading expert on the varietal.  With springtime comes menu changes, and there is perhaps no more suitable wine than Ciolli’s “Silene” to celebrate this new seasonal bounty.


“Silene” is made from the region’s most important red varietal, a special selection of Cesanese d’Affile that was planted as far back as 1981. The grapes are hand harvested only after optimal ripeness, and matured in cement tanks. This ancient technique–brought back into vogue– allows for the gradual oxygenation of the wine without aromas or flavors covering the terrior or deficiencies in the fruit. 


Join us at Babbo during the month of April to enjoy a glass of the 2015 Damiano Ciolli “Silene.” It’s a perfect accompaniment to Chef Frank Langello’s spring-inspired menu.  The wine’s flavors of black cherry, plum, pomegranate, flint, black pepper, and spice make it an ideal pairing with the gnocchi with braised oxtail, grilled quail and barbeque squab.