Cesanese is a red skinned grape variety hailing from Lazio, or Latium as it is known in English. This is the central Italian province that is home to the 'eternal city,' Rome. Cesanese's ubiquity across the easy-drinking table wines that sop up the rich foods of the region, make it intrinsic to the pulse of local gastronomy. Given the anonymity of Lazio's wines from an international perspective, however, Cesanese remains relatively unknown outside of this zone. While it is recognized loosely by this single moniker, there are actually two varieties of Cesanese, with one being distinctly superior to the other.
The first is Cesanese Commune, also known as Bonvino Nero. This is the variety on which Lazio's very first DOCG was established in 2008, Cesanese del Piglio. It is grown largely in the communes of Serrone, Acuto, Anagni, Paliano and Piglio, all of which abut the western slopes of the Appenines, allowing for truly elevated vineyards to almost 700 metres. This area looms over the Sacco and Aniene river valleys, while glimpsing the plains around Rome beyond. The cool climate, punctuated by considerable diurnal temperature shifts, imbues the resulting with currant and herbaceous undertones, melded by Italy's telltale dry structural focus. What the wines lack in generosity is more than made up for by their inherent freshness and drinkability.
The second strain, Cesanese di Affile, is generally considered superior although ironically, it is not found in any DOCG wines. This suggests the whimsy behind the classification scheme more than the variety's lack of intrigue. Nevertheless, Casanese di Affile actually has its own dedicated Cesanese di Affile DOC, created as long ago as 1973, in the nascent years of the DOC system. The Affile cited in the title of both grape variety and DOC, is a commune in the hills just the southeast of Rome, a mere hop skip and a jump from Piglio, albeit, without the altitudinal vineyards of the latter.
Sensitivity to fungal disease has seen Casanese di Affile's plantings decrease, despite the quality of the wines. Conversely, hectarage of Cesanese Commune has risen due to its robustness, but also because of the publicity inherent to being granted a DOCG, the supposed pinnacle of Italian regional expressions.
Outside Lazio, Cesanese di Affile was a constituent of the heavy Parkerized Cincinnato wine, made by Tenuta di Trinoro in southern Tuscany. This wine no longer exists, be it because of a change in international tastes or otherwise.