“Big Fruit” (Exploring Romagna’s Cesena… and One of the World’s Rarest Grape Varieties)

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Tales from under the floorboards in Romagna

The words that I kept hearing (during a media trip to Italy’s Romagna region in the steamy Summer of 2023) from Cesena’s winemakers were “Big Fruit.”

Located just to the south of Bertinoro, along the northern edge of the region, Cesena is dominated by clay soils with yellow sands. According to those winegrowing within Cesena, that soil combination tends to produce wines that emphasize the fruitier side of the grape varieties grown there.

As you’ll see in a moment or two, it also happens to endow Cesena with another enviable trait: it’s got to be be one of Romagna’s most diverse areas, producing several styles at high quality levels. In the short order of tasting through the region’s wines, even on a day that was hitting around 102°F, I became a fan.

Come for the Big Fruit flavor, but stay for the appearance by one of the most unique and rare grape varieties that you will ever hear about…

elegant

2019 Podere Palazzo ‘Terramossa No 03’ Blanc de Noir, $NA

This bubbly blend of Sangiovese and Barbera, produced in the classic method, is bright from start to finish, with yellow and red apple notes, a hint of red berry action, and a great mouthfeel that delivered the goods even in the Summer’s record-breaking, oppressive heat.

sexy

2019 Podere Palazzo ‘Ramato della Fiamma’ Rubicone Bianco, $NA

A rarity from the area, this white is sourced from Trebbiano, which is not widely grown in Cesena due to its difficulty to cultivate. In this case, the vines were replanted with cuttings in an attempt to save the variety from extinction in the region. White flowers, white peaches, and apricot kick things off, followed by a powerful, viscous, and heady palate feel that’s waxy, honeyed, and yet fresh with ripe exotic tropical fruit flavors.

crowd pleaser

2022 Tenuta del Gelso Braschi ‘Campo Mamante’ Albana di Romagna Secco, $NA

This producer has been working in the region for more than a century, and has been farming organically since 2016. Floral and full of apricot goodness, this long, vibrant, and citric take on Albana doesn’t skimp on delivering the flavor, minerality, or structure for which the variety is known.

elegant

2022 Tenuta Casati Famoso Mercato Saraceno, $NA

This is the geekiest portion of today’s article, and I mean that in the best senses of the word. Sourced from naturally terraced plantings that are farmed organically, this white is made from Famoso, a misnomer of a variety if there ever was one. If anything, Famoso is infamous at the moment for not even being listed in Jancis Robinson’s weighty tome Wine Grapes. According to Tenuta Casati, only four or five farms have Famoso plantings, and DNA analysis shows that it’s a unique variety with no known parentage. Lemon and herbs dominate the nose, with apricots and white figs following shortly afterward. In the mouth, you get more of the same, in a super-fresh package that’s pithy and ends with long, toasty notes. Will we see more of this little wonder? ???

crowd pleaser

2019 Tenuta del Gelso Braschi ‘Monte Sasso’ Sangiovese Romagna, $NA

Funky. Savory. Balsamic. And brimming with black cherry fruit. This red is a chewy, broad, yet energetic take on Romagna Sangio. The higher elevation plantings (hitting nearly 400 meters above sea level) undoubtedly help to liven up the texture (and amp up the friendliness) of this red.

kick-ass

2020 Tenuta Casali ‘Vigna Baruccia’ Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore, $NA

Hailing from a spot that’s produced Sangiovese vines for hundreds of years, this single vineyard red is spicy on the nose, savory and mineral in the mouth, and delivers an awesome shot of powerful, bright, and tannic black cherry fruitiness. It feels young, balanced, and a bit more balsamic than your typical Romagna Sangiovese.

kick-ass

2018 Podere Palazzo ‘Caesena’ Sangiovese Cesena, $NA

In only the third vintage from this subzone, this low production (about 1,300 bottles) red is dark, meaty, mineral, smoky, savory, concentrated, and intense. Vanilla, cherries, dried orange peel, wild herbs… it’s throwing a lot at you. Silky on entry, then fresh in the middle, it ties everything up with a hit of structure, funk, and dark plum fruit flavor on the finish.

Cheers!

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