Vino, Arte dell Uomo
Translated as wine, the art of man, this is a proclamation of Marcello Zaccagnini wine lover, art enthusiast and impassioned, incorrigible philosopher of all things culture and all things good.
Marcello is the son of Ciccio Zaccagnini and together the two Abruzzesi viticulturists created Sallis Castrum Winery in 1977.
Before their oenological endeavor, Ciccio and Marcello sold grapes to wine makers throughout Italy’s Abruzzo region. As the grape vending business slowed in the late 70s, Marcello began to direct his efforts to the slow art of making wine. Thus Sallis Castrum Winery was born and since, they have crafted wines of remarkable quality and value.
Of course, we would have never known this were it not for Marcello’s urge in 1984 to begin exporting the nectars of Abruzzo. Sallis Castrum is nestled near the Italian National Park of Abruzzo and surrounded by the foothills of the Apennine Mountains. Its existence is a picturesque juxtaposition of the old and new, the ancient and modern, the romantic and commercial. In fact, much of the property sits on sloping hillsides, dotted with strategically with sculptures that are visible for miles, or kilometri, of course.
The art on the grounds is undoubtedly modern and holds a particular significance to Marcello for a multitude of reasons. One being his love of nature and respect for the Abruzzi region, however, his heart is especially belongs to those pieces created by his beloved son
The Cultivator’s Mindset
Marcello is not a winemaker, but rather a thinker and cultivator of goodness. His mindset was simple, but not very common: Give to that which you want to grow. Cultivate, and you will reap.
His desire was pure as the lands surrounding him: Create and provide wonderful and attainable wines of character, history, and lineage for those who may not be as fortunate as he, those who haven’t been blessed by Abruzzo, her crisp, clean air, her fertile ground, and her organic and unspoiled yield.
Many Italians feel a connection to their terrain; however, Abruzzians have a particularly strong attachment to the regions bountiful lands. This bond holds a level of comfort and oneness with the land that all nativi appear to possess. Sure, you’ve probably heard similar remarks about European life before, but to witness its existence in Abruzzo, where Italians find their livelihood in the land is another matter.
Were he to attempt wine making himself, Marcello knew he could not do the grapes growing about him any justice despite his passion and determination as a farmer. Instead, he sought out the natural abilities of his cousin Concezio, who helped Marcello and his father refine their talents as oenologists through education and practice.
Eventually, the respect and diligence that Ciccio, Marcello and Concezio showed madre terra began to pay off. Not only were the grapes coming to fruition, but the winemaking process was also yielding reasonable wines. Young Marcello, however, refused to settle. He wanted to ensure that the greatness coming forth from the vines translated into the bottle. Unafraid, he invested greatly into the equipment necessary to guaranty his homage to the montepulciano and trebbiano grapes for which Abruzzo is known.
That was over 30 years ago and with Concezio at his right hand, Marcello has consistently been producing wines of dignity and distinction and, as he likes to say, they get better and more affordable all the time.
Wines of Distinction
Together, Marcello and Concezio have created a mark of oenological greatness in virtually every price category, particularly among $10 to $15 wines. Imported by Massachusetts’s distributor Rudi & Son Wine Importers, Sallis Castrum wines are available in many cities and towns from Lenox to Boston.
2007 La Botte dell Abate
Looking back on many Zaccagnini creations, one of particular interest comes to mind. The 2007 La Botte dell Abate, a marvelous Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva boasting the Papal seal of the Vatican, although what really matters is inside the bottle. It’s nothing short of liquid luxury and only sets you back $12.
At first taste, it shows an abundance of full, rich, dried cherry fruit, followed by leathery notes and nuances of smoky cured meat at the mid-palate. A subtly sweet herb quality lingers into the softly tannic finish, which is accented by more dried cherry and berry fruits. La Botte is a Riserva wine, which means it is barrel-aged for a little over a year in large oak casks, which give it that nice, spicy fragrance and softer tannic profile.
Its dryness may be typical of the regions other Montepulciano wines, but La Botte is most certainly in a class by itself. Perfect for any red wine lover.
If you’re after a pricier venture, try San Clemente, Zaccagnini’s flagship red. Concezio offers San Clemente in a Burgundy style bottle, which accurately reflects the wine’s French Rhone characteristicsâ€”spicier, brighter fruit, longer finish, crisper acidity and more food-friendly than many other big reds.
To its credit, San Clemente Riserva is a fabulous, jammy, focused, and balanced Italian red that rivals the likes of Piedmont’s Barolo and Tuscany’s Brunello di Montalcino . This make may not be for everyone, but if you like richness and complexity with ample fruit, San Clemente is for you. And at only $30, you can bowl everyone over without over spending.
Written by Domenic Mercurio, Jr.
Domenic Mercurio, AKA The Wine Guy, is a broadly experienced sommelier, having traveled far and wide for his experience. Known for being able to carefully craft a taste experience precisely to the taster, Domenic is a wine expert, and entertainer.