Posted by: tomciocco | January 5, 2011


This is the sort of wine that makes for a post that writes itself. There is no pretension here, but in committing FULLY to making a very high quality “vino da tavola” from a place as fantastically evocative as Italy’s Cinqueterre, the eminent Piedmontese Barolo producer Elio Altare, in conjunction with Antonio Bonanni and his family’s vineyard in Riomaggiore  , have made a wine of real character that evokes not only its sun and brine splashed home, but the spirit of gulpable tumbler wine dressed in its Sunday best.

Despite a whole lot of searching, I could not dig out from any corner of the interwebs from which grape(s) this wine is made, but I’d wager that it’s blend of (very) local varieties (if anyone out there knows for sure, send me a message) because everything about it – color, scent, flavor – spoke rarity and peculiarity. And indeed the farming practices forced upon vine-growers in this precipitously steep and rocky zone are no less rare or peculiar. Because of the natural lay of the land, as well as the general lack of it, vineyards in Cinqueterre (and much of the rest of Liguria for that matter) are deeply, dizzyingly terraced, making ANY work there – from pruning to harvest – slow, painstaking, and costly; and in a region best, if not almost exclusively known for white wine (and sweet white at that, i.e. Sciacchetra`), those choosing to make a red table wine undoubtedly have great faith in the irrepressability of their product.

This wine is just a joy, and it expresses that emotion with every sip. As I hinted at above, it doesn’t try to challenge any of the world’s great red wines, but it is just so beautifully conceived, composed, and executed, that it effortlessly transcends its (supposedly) humble aspirations.

Since I had only an inkling of what might spill from this bottle, I decided to try to keep dinner on the lighter side of seasonal and as “Ligurian” as I could without going nuts, and keep my fingers crossed… So I wound up banging out a butternut squash sauce with sage and marjoram over spinach/egg tagliatelle, a frittata with roasted red peppers, ricotta, and ham, and finished with a salad with bread… for whichever reason(s), it all came together quite well.

Azienda Agricola Campogrande Vino da Tavola Rosso (Cinqueterre) 2008

Just transparent violet- tinged ruby color. Vivid aromas of muddled raspberry,  strawberry, and red currant fruit, with caramelized sap, and lightly perfumey dried flower notes underneath. The medium-light body has a vivacious, tart acidity, but is still very soft and quaffable. It bubbles with rustic but very pretty flavors of mixed berries laced with ginger and root beer. The wine finishes with delicate but very persistent flavors of cherry, bitter almond, and a hint of coconut milk(!). A decidedly feminine wine that deftly balances easy-going charm with an exotic depth. 



  1. Dear Tom,
    The Charming Red Beauty of the Cinque Terre is made of Canaiolo, San Giovese and a small amount of Ciliegiolo, Bonamico and Fragolina. You will find more informations in some days at the new website of Campogrande
    Best wishes,

    • Thanks for the information! Wow – a bit of Fragolina too (Fragolina is actually an American, non-Vitis Vinifera variety that has found favor in Italy)

      It’a a really nice wine…Complimenti di nuovo.


  2. The red varieties that some of the new winemakers in the Cinque Terre recently plant are Canaiolo and San Giovese, others use also Grenache, Syrah or Cabernet. The small amount of grapes as Ciliegiolo or even Fragolina follows the tradition: on their small terraces the peasants had always some red vines between the normally white. Sometimes they don’t even know the variety. A few of these mostly very old plants remained and are still cared, and sometimes only one or two grapes give a touch of this tradition to the wine. Consider that Italy is the land with the highest number of grape varieties (2000) and about 300 are cultivated. You can find around 270 on 2 hectares in the vitiarium, the museum of vines at San Felice, Toscana.

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