Don’t tell anyone, but I have a secret crush on Casale del Giglio. A nostalgic, romantic soft-spot for the wines I first came to know as affordable local Lazio wines sold at Lo Zio d’America, my local wine store when I lived in Rome. In the following years I’d come to learn that these are not regular Italian table wines but wild wines with a rebel heart from an inventive, brilliant (definitely not crazy) producer.
The Italian wine landscape is as complex as it is diverse. There are 74 DOCGs to memorise, plus 329 DOCs and over 3000 Italian grape varieties. With all this choice, you’d think there was little need to push the boundaries and experiment with growing international grape varieties in untested terroir? Not a chance!
Step forth then Casale del Giglio. These Lazio vineyards sit 50kms due south of Rome, a few miles inland from the once quaint fishing village, then world war II battle site, now kiss-me-quick Roman day trip destination, Anzio. Hoping perhaps to find the same acclaim as Tenuta San Guido who bucked the tradition of planting local grape varieties to great international acclaim in neighbouring Tuscany, Casale del Giglio went about planting vines that had simply never been laid down in Lazio soil. Spanish grapes like Tempranillo, and the Basque, Petit Manseng, have found particularly interesting expression in their new Roman soil and are among the best versions of these varietal wines grown in Italy.
Casale del Giglio now produce an impressive 18 wines. Their entry level wines starting from a, frankly silly, 6€ and their flagship wine, the 85% Syrah/15% Petit Verdot blend Mater Matuta is available under 30€. The Mater Matuta is consistently winning awards and receiving an impressive 93 points from Italian wine mega-critic James Suckling. The best value wine in the range though, continues to be the excellent value Petit Verdot, which retails for just 8.80€. The full range is available from Web di Vino who deliver to the UK at a reasonable price.
Most recently though the producer seems to have turned a corner back toward local varietals and has been roundly rewarded by Gambero Rosso. Very few producers from Lazio make it into the Gambero Rosso guide but in 2018 Casale del Giglio scored a Tre Bicchiere award for their white, Biancolella Faro della Guardia 2016.
Casale del Giglio have also bottled good single variety and blended French grape wines, some hit (the Viognier and Petit Verdot) and some miss (the Sauvignon gets a fair pass!). To view the full range of wines and awards, the producers own website is one of the more professional and informative Italian wine producer websites.
The wines below best showcase Casale del Giglio’s ability to match international varieties to their unique terroir and offer more than enough geek points to warrant a swirl from any serious wino.
Casale del Giglio – Wine Review
Casale del Giglio – Petit Verdot IGT – 2015
A dark, deep crimson colour in the glass and in possession of a powerful and intense nose full of cherries, spice and red berries. The wine is a mouth-filler with sweet silky tannins, both full bodied and elegant, the spice continues on the palate and the rounded dark fruit is present in the mid palate but dissipates on the finish. A tasty, fun, everyday wine that’s well worth the £12 paid. 88 Points/£12/13.5% abv – Buy
Casale del Giglio – Petite Manseng IGT – 2016
A vibrant lemon in the glass, this tangy, aromatic wine has notes of dried apricots, apple and spice. Mid bodied, with a fine structure, the wine is alive with crisp dried yellow fruit flavours. The finish is long with the fruit flavours persisting. 90 Points/£19/13.5% abv – Buy
Casale del Giglio – Mater Matuta IGT – 2014
A deep ruby red, nudging on purple, the Mater Matuta opens up quickly and generously presents notes of black cherries, violets, black pepper, eucalyptus and clear French oak. A bold, tannic wine, the fruit doesn’t struggle to press past the structure and you’re rewarded with dark, delicious red fruits and a big, bold, silky mouth feel. 85% Cab/15% PV. 92 Points/£30/14% abv – Buy