Again this year the producers of the Cesanese of Piglio meet to celebrate St Martin’s festival on the November 11 and try the new wine of a very special season. It repeats the tradition that aims for this day to be dedicated to the ‘fruits’ of autumn: wine, chestnuts and polenta – to connect San Martino with Cesanese.
In Piglio, this event is celebrated at Antica Casa Massimi, the beautiful home of the family Massimi Berucci, at the centre of the town where once stood the mill and the cistern to conserve water for the town and distribute it in times of need.
In the house, which actually is one of the few houses to have survived the fire of 1799, you can admire one of the rare examples of wallpaper from the eighteenth-nineteenth century. The wallpaper basically comprised printed panels depicting mythological stories in landscapes with a characteristic neoclassical style.
But how does the tradition of 11 November and of the Indian summer of San Martino come about?
The story of St. Martin is very special, a martyr of Hungarian origin sent to evangelize Gaul and who has since become the protector of France. He was so revered that his day was a national holiday and today Hungary and France have resurrected his old way.
In Italy the Saint was forgotten and someone remembers him for new wine or because some playing cards contain the phrase ‘For a point Martin lost his cape’. That recalls the episode in which in 335 Martin divided his mantle to give it to a wanderer who was cold and half-naked. This hiker was Jesus in disguise, who repaid him returning his mantle repaired.
The cape (mantle) became an important relic placed directly under the control of the Merovingian kings of the Franks and gave rise to the words ‘chaplain’ and ‘chapel’ which originally indicated the keepers of the relic and the private church of the Kings where the ‘cape’ was kept.
The 11th November was the day of the burial of the saint and once the festival began to become known it also became pagan and was related to the rhythm of nature. In Sweden it is celebrated with a soup made from Goose, Venice prepares a special sweet and in many cities this day is dedicated to new wine.
All these traditions were well known to the producers of the Cesanese wine who meet together to taste their wine in a get-together that has been repeated for nearly twenty years. The Cesanese del Piglio is the only DOCG red grape of Lazio and is a delight for connoisseurs. There are two varieties depending on soil where it is grown: that with aromas and flavours of red fruit (cherry and black cherry) and that with scent reminiscent of herbs (liquorice roots, wild berries).
The Cesanese Road winds through the villages and towns of Acuto, Paliano, Piglio, Serrone, Affile, Anagni and borders Subiaco, and has become a destination for tourists looking for unique connections between nature and culture.
According to Antonio di Cosimo, Cesanese Corte dei Papi producer and President of Cesanese Road:
We are in one of the most beautiful areas of Lazio where the hills meet the mountains and where you can experience history by strolling around the beautiful old towns; the cathedral of Anagni and the Subiaco Monastery are just two famous examples. The Cesanese is one of the oldest grape varieties and is part of our identity. We have partnered to raise awareness of these special places, the love of our wine growers and the quality of our wines.
Among the ‘notes of prestige’, the Romanesque wine produced by Coletti Conti of Anagni was awarded with ‘three glasses’ by Gambero Rosso while the company Pileum Piglio had extraordinary success at Vinitaly.’
The experiential tourism scene of the territories of Piglio is emerging thanks to the work of the wine-growers and in the days around the festival of St. Martin there is an interesting seminar dedicated to homeopathic techniques related to the cultivation of vines and olive trees – and to San Martino with Cesanese