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Ju Quarto: Piero Macciocca’s winsome, genuine Cesanese varietal

by Claudio Celio

Piero Macciocca and wife Rosa not only produce some decidedly good wines; they have quite a few merits besides. Like having sparked an interest in natural winemaking in the Cesanese del Piglio appellation, an area southeast of Rome – in the Frosinone province – that’s long been capable of producing quality reds.

I visited Piero and Rosa a few days ago, and when I got to the property, found them exactly where grape-growers should be: with the grapes, in the vineyards, thinning the vine shoots and preparing the ground for the coming tillage. Piero and his wife, together with some of their closest relatives, manage several vineyards and produce a range of diverse Cesanese del Piglio labels and one Passerina varietal.

The winery has grown over the past few years, but vineyard management and winemaking has remained the same: biodynamic in the vineyard, natural in the winery. That’s because, as Piero says, “there are no shortcuts” if you want to stay true to a given terroir and its wine.

Piero started off in 2005 and sold his first bottles in 2008, but winemaking runs deep in his family, from his grandfather to his father-in-law, who made wine to be sold in bulk. I am personally very fond of one wine in particular, in Piero Macciocca’s range: it’s called ‘Ju Quarto’ and hails from a small plot of land (less than half a hectare) under old Cesanese vine that goes back to the 1960s.

Ju Quarto is an extremely elegant version of the variety, showing decided finesse and a floral bouquet; it is generally a little more forward than its ‘siblings,’ which are more tight-knit and slower to open up. Piero sees Ju Quarto as an entry-level version of Cesanese, and he appreciates the other crus more, like Mozzatta, which is twice as structured as Ju Quarto, and needs lengthy cellar age before it rounds off and mellows.

For me, Ju Quarto (I tasted both the 2015 and 2016 vintages at the winery) is the closest to my heart, the one that sets off a spark in me the moment I bring the glass to my nose. I’m struck by its sincere, almost timid welcome, devoid of affectation, the subtle floral notes that permeate every sip. On the palate, you find the same elegance, albeit sustained by juicy fruit that recalls marasca cherries. In older vintages, it’s easy to uncover balsamic and brushwood nuances. “We’re a small winery – Piero says – and realize that making good wines is a nice accomplishment, yet it’s no use unless we never lose sight of our goal: getting the entire territory of Cesanese to grow.” There you go: another quality that’s not lacking in this wine. Humility.