Cesanese di Olevano Romano Riserva 'Cirsium' 2018, Damiano Ciolli


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Cesanese d'Affile


Olevano Romano, Lazio

Drinking Window

Ready now, but stunning after 10 years for those who can wait.


Amatriciana and carbonara sauce pasta are a must. Prime beef fillet with Cesanese sauce, grilled lamb ribs, wild boar stew, Melanzane alla parmigiana ( see recipe link ) or a nice board of charcuterie and aged cheese.

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Winemaker Notes

The Cirsium is the fruit of grapes from a Cesanese di Affile vineyard of about 1 hectare, planted in 1953 by Damiano's grandfather, and cultivated with sapling. This vineyard naturally produces 4 to 6 clusters per vine. The manual harvest takes place when the ripening has reached the optimum. The bunches are carefully selected and any imperfect grapes are immediately discarded.

The grapes are fermented in cement. Fermentation is spontaneous and maceration lasts about 15 days. Then the wine is decanted into large barrels, where it rests on the fine lees for the first 12 months. The second year of aging takes place in cement. After bottling, the wine remains in the cellar for at least 1 year.

The Story

Cirsium is the name of a flower which grows in their vineyards - thistle.  And just an fyi, the word 'Cirsium' derives from the Greek word kirsos meaning 'swollen vein', as thistle was used as a remedy against swollen veins.  And Cesanese has been cultivated for likely around 2,500 years in this area!  That said, a focus on quality wines has been a very recent phenomenon, led heavily by Damiano himself.  You have to understand this was mainly a region making wine destined for carafes until only two decades ago.  What they are accomplishing is absolutely mindblowing.

All the farming done by Damiano and Letizia is done in an organic, and even biodynamic, manner.  And most of the painstaking labor is often done by them specifically.  Nestled and protected by the Alban hills and on an iron rich, ancient volcanic lakebed, they have an ideal location for cultivating vines.

On the hills of Olevano Romano, a medieval village located south-east of Rome at 600 meters above sea level, stands Ciolli winery, founded in 2001 and today managed by Damiano Ciolli. The estate which has always been family-run, is based on a winemaking tradition that has lasted for at least four generations and, above all, hinges on the extraordinary quality of the Affile Cesanese grapes from its own vineyards (which are considered superior to the Cesanese Comune grapes which comprise over 90% of all Cesanese).

The small size of the company, which counts a total of about seven hectares of vineyards, means that all details are meticulously taken care of, from the work between the rows to bottling. The volcanic matrix of the soil combined with constant ventilation thanks to the winds coming from the nearby Tyrrhenian Sea and a temperate climate allow the grapes to express unique characteristics.

We tasted his 2009 in the year 2018 and were beyond stupefied by the immensity of this wine.  While it is drinkable now, try to hold onto it.  This wine aged as beautifully as a cru Burgundy.

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