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Damiano Ciolli Silene 2017

Damiano Ciolli Silene 2017

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"Deep ruby. Concentrated aromas and flavors of dark plum, black cherry, botanical herbs and minerals. Suave, rich and dense, with a multilayered ripe quality that lingers impressively on the long smooth finish. Rather big and luscious for Silene, which is usually characterized by fresher red cherry, berry and floral notes, this big, opulent wine is a remarkable success in the difficult 2017 vintage. In fact, because of the extreme heat that characterized the 2017 growing season, the grapes were harvested in early September instead of the end of September/beginning of October as is customary in the area. Winemaker Letizia Rocchi’s ninety years old grandmother Fiorina remembers this was by far the earliest Cesanese grapes were ever picked at the estate. Depending on the vintage, about 16,000-25,000 bottles are made a year. One of the most atypical but also best Silene ever. Drinking window: 2019-2024. 93 points

The big news at Ciolli this year is the launch of the estate’s first-ever white wine, a blend of 70% Trebbiano Verde (a Lazio biotype of Verdicchio) and 30% Ottonese (a local biotype of Bombino Bianco). This new wine is the brainchild of ultra-talented Letizia Rocchi, longtime significant other of Damiano Ciolli. Rocchi is an extremely gifted young winemaker who studied in Bordeaux, South Africa, Rioja and Washington (she did her research thesis at Washington State University) and had always wanted to make a white wine that speaks of the Olevano Romano area. The Trebbiano Verde vines are 50 years old, while the Ottonese vines are 40 years old (the latter were planted by Ciolli’s father). The Trebbiano Verde supplies a round, almost oily mouthfeel, while the Ottonese provides acidity and tannin. The wine is already outstanding and very promising, but still a work in progress: the first vintage was vinified in a brand-new 20HL oak barrel, and the oak is a little overbearing at present. Next year, the same barrel, now once-used, ought to deliver a more balanced and even better wine. That said, all this talk about the new white wine risks taking attention away from the estate’s two outstanding reds. The entry-level Silene is most likely the best Ciolli has ever made, while the Cirsium (the estate’s top wine), though less luscious and rich than past vintages, is the most perfumed and graceful I have ever tasted (and I’ve tasted all of them from the first year this wine was made)."

Ian D'Agata, Vinous (06/19)