Cheese, Charcuterie, Ciabatta & Praesidium Cerasuolo #ItalianFWT


Sometimes you want to walk the line right between lighthearted and serious substance.

In wine terms, this might mean looking for a refreshing bottle, but still delivers lots of flavor as well as some structure and complexity. A Cerasuolo fits just this kind of situation perfectly.
Cerasuolo (pronounced “Chair-AH-swolo,” or hear it here)  is a type of Italian rosato found in central and southern Italy, most notably in Abruzzo and in Sicily. The word cerasulo means “cherry” in Italian and it refers to the beautiful, deep ruby tones of the wine. Rather than the pale, salmony pink tones most of expect from our rosés, these wines are more like light, translucent reds.

Cerasuolo wines are made by leaving the grape juice in contact with the skins longer than you’d expect for most rosés, but less than for most red wine production. They have the flavor and structure to match, with more intensity and tannins than most rosés, while being brighter, fruitier, and less tannic than your average red. Ultimately, that makes these wines perfect for warm summer evenings!

Abruzzo has a dedicated appellation for these wines – Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo – which achieved DOC status in 2010. The wines must be made of at least 85% Montepulciano. This is the star grape of the region and it typically makes deeply colored, intense wines. (Not to be mixed up with the city of Montepulciano and it’s wine Vino Nobile de Montepulciano. We’ve previously explored the grape here.) While delicious, that power and intensity is not typically what I’m looking for during the summer. It makes perfect sense to me that the people of Abruzzo would feel the same way, especially given the intensity of Italian summers. 


 Map courtesy of WineFolly.com

If you’re interested in learning more about Abruzzo, please see these previous posts:

 


THE WINE


We opened up a bottle of Praesidium Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo Superiore 2018 (average price $25; purchased at Whole Foods) for a cheese and charcuterie night at home – a perfect summer dinner.  (Let’s be honest, I’d be happy to have that any day.)

Praesidium is a family-run winery founded in 1988 by Enzo and Lucia Pasquale. Enzo was born in Prezza and grew up working in his grandparent’s vines. Their children, Antonia and Ottaviano have joined the family winery as well.



Image borrowed from the winery's website.

It’s clear that the family and winery take a lot of pride in their city and their land. The winery takes its name from Prezza’s name during Roman times – “Praesidium” – when the city was a defensive fortress. The town is perched up on a rocky mountainside that overlooks the surrounding Apennine range. The winery’s logo features three towers and was inspired by an image on a bronze portal in the Abbey of San Clemente a Casauria which has become the insignia of Prezza.

The winery farms using organic practices, native yeast fermentations, and minimal intervention in the cellar. It’s not clear to me if they’re certified, but the winery lays out their practices in-depth on their website. My favorite detail is that the vines are fed fava beans in addition to manure as fertilizer. Lucky vines.

They make their Cerasuolo from 100% Montepulciano using the same grapes that go into their Riserva but simply limit the amount of time it spends in contact with the skins.

On the nose, this Cerasuolo showed notes of sour cherries that were just a little dusty, raspberries, blood oranges, and orange flowers. They all make a comeback on the palate and are joined by pomegranates, a touch of white pepper, light smoke, and dusty earth. There was tons of freshness to back up the fruit, with a little tannic grip at the very end. 



THE PAIRING


Like I said, we enjoyed this as part of a cheese and charcuterie night. (I should say salumi since we’re talking about Italy, but salumi doesn’t have the same perfect alliteration for the title as charcuterie.) We had a big a round of Humboldt Fog – one of my favorite cheeses – as well as dry salami and prosciutto that just needed eating. We felt up to the task. I also made a side of roasted radishes with olive oil, salt, and Parmersan, so as to have at least one veggie on the table.


 

Here is how everything worked with the wine:
  • Humboldt Fog - Good. The cheese brought out a smoky, meaty quality in the wine, and the wine enhanced the ashy aspect of the cheese.
  • Journeyman Meat Co. Italian Salame with Red Wine and Garlic – Very good to excellent. The salame brought out the fruitier side of the wine and the match brought out depth in the salame.
  • Prosciutto – Good to very good. An easy-going match.
  • Roasted Radishes - Solid to good. I was actually a little surprised these worked as well together as they did. Neither really highlighted anything in the other, but they also did not clash.

Bread was an absolute necessity here, of course. I’ve fallen pretty far down the sourdough rabbit hole during this zombie apocalypse, and I decided to go a little deeper yet on this particular day by trying my hand at making sourdough ciabatta. I made this recipe for Sourdough Ciabatta Sandwich Rolls from King Arthur Flour and could not have been happier with the results. I swapped in buttermilk for the milk in the recipe (not out of any desire to complicate things, but simply because I had some around and was low on milk) and it worked out quite well. The loaves we fluffy on the inside, with a nice crust, and extremely satisfying. They were quite big though, and next time I might make them some smaller ones for use as buns. 




OTHER POSSIBILITIES


The winery recommends this wine with “pasta, white meat, salami, and even fish.” I think this would be a great general-purpose wine. It might not be ideal with the most delicate fish dishes, or the most robust of meat dishes, but in general, this is a wine that you don’t have to think too much about in terms of pairing and it should work well with a very wide range of foods.


THE GEEKY DETAILS


Quick note: If you see Superiore on the label, like with this wine, the wines must meet additional standards beyond those dictated for regular DOC wines.  For example, they are required to have a half percentage point of minium alcohol over the regular DOC wines. (12.5% vs 12%.) They also have lower permitted yields.

Details taken from the tech sheet on the winery’s website.

Grapes: 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Location of the vineyards:  Western hills of Peligna Valley, Abruzzo. 1,247feet (about 400 meters) above sea level.
Soil:  Clay with very rich with white calcareous stones.
Microclimate: Very windy with low humidity and temperatures that fluctuate widely from very hot during the day to very cold at night.
Average age of vines: 25 years
Farming: Practicing organic. Manual labour. Winter pruning, green pruning. The grass at the base of the vines is removed manually, by using the hoe.
Winemaking:  Spontaneous fermentation in stainless steel barrels and maceration for about 24 hours. Unfined and unfiltered. Minimal sulphites – added much lower amount than the maximum allowed from the organic certification.
Maturation: At least 5 months in stainless steel barrels.

Alcohol: 14%





*****

The rest of the Italian Food, Wine, Travel Bloggin Group (#ItalianFWT) is exploring the rosé wines of Italy, hosted by Lauren of Swirling Dervish. Check out their posts here:




  • David from Cooking Chat writes about Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo: Pairings with My Favorite Italian Rosé
  • Pinny from Chinese Food and Wine Pairings writes about Pairing Bibi Graetz Casamatta Toscana Rosato with Drunken Cold Chicken Wings and Pork Knuckle, Sautéed Julienne Leeks #ItalianFWT
  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla tempts us with Italian Pinks, Sardinian Native Grapes, and Gamberi all’Aglio
  • Terri from Our Good Life shares her pairing for Roasted Chicken Flatbread with Spumante Rosato
  • Linda from My Full Wine Glass says Summer Won’t Last: and Neither Will this Charming Chiaretto in Your Glass
  • Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog is Dreaming of Sicily with a Graci Rosato
  • Gwendolyn from Wine Predator offers Summer Dinner with Rosato from Tuscany and Sicily
  • Marcia from Joy of Wine chats about Rosato d’Aglianico Vulture: More than Just a Red Wine
  • Lynn from Savor the Harvest suggests Rosato: Drinking Pink Italian Style, from the Mountains to the Sea
  • Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles offers Pallotte Cac e Ove & Orecchiette with Two Brilliant Cherry Red Rosatos from Southeast Italy
  • Katrina from The Corkscrew Concierge advises us to Get to Know Lambrusco Rosato
  • Susannah from Avvinare tells us that Italy’s Chiaretto from Lake Garda Makes Waves
  • Jennifer from Vino Travels shares Rosato from the Veneto with Pasqua
  • Katarina from Grapevine Adventures shares An Italian Rosé Wine that Makes You Sparkle
  • Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares Cantele Negroamaro Rosato: Summer Wine from the Heart of Puglia



  • Additional Sources Used For This Post: 


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    8 comments

    1. As I read through all #ItalianFWT group rosato articles it kills me that I've had less than a handful of pink wine this summer! You're lucky to be close to a big city and great wine stores with selections other than large, high volume producers. Yes to cheese and charcuterie nights with rosato- simple, tasty and good when it's hot.

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      1. Thanks Lynn, although I'm also a bit jealous of your location!

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    2. I've developed an affinity for the Montepulciano grape, and really enjoyed a Cerasuolo I tried recently. Love that kiss of tannin! Your pairing makes the perfect weeknight meal - lots of enjoyment for not a lot of hassle. Maybe my Whole Foods carries this wine - gonna find out, then hit the cheese department. :-)

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    3. I could eat like that every night of the week! And good to know this rosato is available at Whole Foods. There's one about a half mile from my house!

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    4. Great pairing...:-) even though I haven't had this precise rosé wine I do love Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo, it has a lovely color and so rich on flavors.

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