A trip to Irpinia: ancient grape varieties in the glass!

The ancient grape varieties of Irpinia

The majority of the autochthonous grape varieties grown in Campania and in Irpinia all date back to the ancient Greek and Roman times. Luckily the wines made from these varieties are having a great success in Italy and abroad, thanks to the work and dedication of many producers and to the research work carried out at universities and at schools of viticulture and oenology.

Greco: this variety was called Aminea Gemina (Gemina meaning twin) by the ancient Romans  as the vines produce many double clusters . This grape was probably imported by the Greeks from Thessaly. The high quality of the grapes and of the wines were praised by many Roman writers such as Cato, Pliny the Elder, Virgil, Varro and others.

Fiano: this ancient grape variety was grown by the Romans and praised by the poets of the time. It is deemed to be an indigenous grape of the area of Lapio, called Apia in the Roman times. Therefore, the name “Fiano” probably originates from “Apiano”. The wine made with Fiano was very much appreciated throughout the centuries as also testified by documents of the XII and XIII centuries.

Aglianico: this variety was probably imported from Greece to southern Italy in the VII-VI century B.C. It is likely that the name “Aglianico” is a distortion of “Hellenico” (“Greek”) during the Aragonese domination in the XV century. In fact “ll” is pronounced in Spanish as the Italian “gl”.

AZIENDA AGRICOLA BENITO FERRARA – SAN PAOLO, TUFO

The 2014 vintage
The grape yield was lower in comparison to previous vintages. The Ferrara family worked very hard in the vineyards: the vines were deleafed, fruit was dropped, the grass on the aisles was mowed two or three times in order to air the soil. This area is high (500 meters above sea level) and airy, so that there are very little problems with disease. In September there was a very wide day/night temperature range (3 degrees Celsius at night and up to 30 degrees Celsius during the day) and this greatly favoured the flavour of the wines. The harvest of the Greco wines started on the 10th of October. The vineyards for the production of Greco di Tufo DOCG were harvested first, followed by the Vigna Cicogna vineyard. 2014 is an excellent vintage for whites.

Greco di Tufo DOCG 2014
This Greco di Tufo (100% Greco) is made from blending the wine produced from various plots (7 hectares in total). The Ferrara family recently bought a vineyard in order to add aroma to the wine.
The clusters are pressed softly and in absence of oxygen either whole or destemmed (depending on the vintage). The must is then clarified at a low temperature. The alcoholic fermentation takes place in steel vats at 15-18 degrees Celsius. After the fermentation is completed, the wine is racked off and it matures on the lees for 7 months. Bâtonnages are carried out. The wine is then filtered and bottled. Finishing in the bottle for 1-2 months.
The colour is straw yellow tending to golden yellow. The nose is persistent, with notes of yellow and white flowers, dried fruit, bitter almond and with mineral notes. In the mouth it is fresh, persistent, supple, there is a note of bitter almond in the finish which is typical of the Greco grape variety.
Suggested food matches: this wine, due to its acidity and to its structure, is versatile. It is excellent with fish, vegetables, white meat dishes, cheese. It is also excellent with oriental cuisine and as an aperitif.
Average production/year: 26,000 bottles

Greco di Tufo DOCG “Cicogna” 2014
This wine is made from the Vigna Cicogna (“cicogna” means stork in Italian) vineyard of an extension of 1.5 hectares. It is also 100% Greco.
The vinification and maturing of this wine is the same as for the Greco di Tufo DOCG (see above).
The colour is straw yellow tending to golden yellow. On the nose it is persistent, complex, with notes of white and yellow flowers, chamomile tea, citrus fruit, peach, yellow fruit. In the mouth it is persistent , with a good acidity, it is mineral, flavourful and elegant. There is a note of bitter almond in the finish.
Suggested food matches: elaborate dishes, fried fish and vegetables, cheese. It is wonderful with international cuisine.
Due to its structure, come clients of the estate said that this wine is “a Taurasi in disguise”!
Average production/year: 13,000 bottles

 

CANTINE ANTONIO CAGGIANO

The 2011 vintage
The weather was not very cold in the winter and it was rainy. The springtime was rainy. It was quite warm during the summer. In September there was some rain which was very positive for the vines. The weather was good in October and in November.
The harvest was 15-20 days early. The harvest started on the 10th of October and was completed at the end of October/beginning of November. The grapes were perfectly ripe. 2011 is a great vintage especially for the reds.

Taurasi Vigna Macchia dei Goti DOCG 2011
This Taurasi is 100% Aglianico. Although this wine can age for over 20 years, it is extremely pleasant to drink when it is just released. It is made from a cru,  “Vigna Macchia dei Goti”,  meaning “woodland of the Ostrogoths”, as this Germanic tribe stopped here in ancient times. The vineyard extension is 5 hectares, the vine training system is cordon spur and guyot. The grape yield is low, just 5 tons/hectare. One bottle of wine is obtained from the grapes of 1 vine. 40-50% of the clusters are dropped at veraison (the phase when the berries change colour). The harvest is carried out by hand. The clusters are carefully selected and placed in 18 kilogram boxes. The grapes are destemmed and crushed. The alcoholic fermentation and the maceration with the skins takes place in stainless steel tanks without temperature control (bear in mind that Aglianico is harvested at the end of October, beginning of November). The wine is then racked into French oak barriques (70% new, Allier, Vosges, Centre and Berry oak, medium and medium plus toasting) where malolactic takes place and where the wine matures for 15-16 months.
The colour is ruby red. Red fruit, spices (cloves, green pepper), goudron, sweet tobacco on the nose. In the mouth this wine is supple, with evident and vibrant tannins (they give the wine a long life) and with a good acidity, the finish is long.
Suggested food matches: grilled beef, game, game sauces with pasta, seasoned cheese.
Average production/year: 11,000 bottles

The 2014 vintage
The winter was mild. There was rain in the springtime and in the summer. Luckily the weather was beautiful in September and in October.
The white varieties were harvested from the 5th till the 12th of October and the red varieties from the 20th till the end of October. In 2014 there was a lot of work in the vineyards. Fruit was dropped 15 days before the harvest and the vineyards were harvested more than once in the lower areas.

Fiano di Avellino Béchar DOCG 2014
Béchar is a locality in the Sahara desert where Antonio Caggiano carried out a photo reportage.
This wine is 100% Fiano: the vineyards stand in Lapio and in Montefalcione (two small towns within the Fiano di Avellino DOCG appellation). The soil is clayey/calcareous, the altitude is 400-500 meters above sea level. The vine training system is guyot and the grape yield is 6.5 tons/hectare. The altitude favours freshness and flavour in the wines.
Vinification and fining: the whole clusters (they are not destemmed) are pressed softly in the pneumatic press. The must is then clarified at 12 degrees Celsius for two days. The alcoholic fermentation lasts for 15-18 days at 15 degrees Celsius. The wine then rests on the lees and is filtered before bottling. The wine is bottled a first time before the Vinitaly fair, a second bottling then takes place in June and a third in September (of the year following the harvest).
The colour is a crystal clear light straw yellow. The nose is floral, fruity with notes of pineapple, tropical fruit and aromatic herbs. In the mouth it is fresh, supple, persistent with a slight aftertaste of almonds.
This Fiano is excellent even after 10-15 years. After 3-4 years notes of almond, hazelnut, mint and flint develop.
Suggested food matches: pasta dishes with vegetables, hors d’oeuvres, pasta and rice dishes with fish, fish and vegetable soups. When the wine is aged it is excellent with risotto with porcino mushrooms or with truffle.
Average production/year: 25,000 bottles.

 

AZIENDA VITIVINICOLA SALVATORE MOLETTIERI

The 2009 vintage
It was rainy during the month of October, but the weather was good during the harvest that started on the 10th and ended on the 18th of November. In fact it was a beautiful Indian summer with temperatures up to 20 degrees Celsius during the day. It was an excellent harvest. At the estate of Molettieri the grape yield was kept low, an average of 5.5 tons/hectare.

Taurasi DOCG 2009
This wine, which is 100% Aglianico, is produced from the central-high part of Vigneto Cinque Querce (the cru of the estate).
The clusters are harvested and placed in boxes. A slightly higher quantity of fruit is dropped before the harvest (the grape yield is 7 tons/hectare). The clusters are destemmed and crushed softly. The alcoholic fermentation and maceration with the skins lasts for 12-14 days at 24-25 degrees Celsius. 50% of the wine matures in new and second use barriques, 50% in large oak casks ((capacity 50-60-70-80 hectolitres). The casks of a capacity of 50-80 hectolitre are made of Slavonian oak. The casks of a capacity of 60-70 hectolitres are made of both Slavonian and French oak. Every six months the wine in the barriques gets racked into the large oak casks and vice versa. The wine matures for 40 months in total. It is then blended and it rests in steel. Finishing in the bottle for 6 months.
The colour is an intense ruby red.
The nose is complex, with red fruit, leather, goudron, spices and prune notes.
In the mouth it is supple, with silky tannins, it is well balanced and with a long finish.
Suggested food matches: game, wild boar dishes, aged cheese, stews, grilled meat.
Average production/year: 12,000 bottles.

The 2011 vintage
The weather was not very cold in the winter and it was rainy. The springtime was rainy. It was quite warm during the summer. In September there was some rain that was very positive for the vines. The weather was good in October and in November. Aglianico grapes were picked from the beginning of November till the 11th of the month. The weather was good throughout the harvest. The clusters were flawless and the ripening was good. “2011 is an excellent vintage, the wines have the power of 2003 and the elegance of 2001”. Giovanni Molettieri (the oenologist of the estate and Salvatore’s son) told us.

Irpinia Aglianico DOC Cinque Querce 2011
This wine is made from the lower part of the Cinque Querce vineyard and is 100% Aglianico.  The clusters are harvested and placed in boxes. The clusters are destemmed and crushed softly. Alcoholic fermentation and maceration with the skins for at least 12 days with temperature control at 24-25 degrees Celsius. The wine is racked in steel where it clarifies naturally. 50% of the wine matures in second and third use barriques, 50% in large oak casks (capacity 50-60-70-80 hectolitres). Every five months the wine in the barriques gets racked into the large oak casks and vice versa. The wine matures for 24 months in total. Finishing in the bottle for 5 months.
The colour is an intense ruby red. The nose is complex with red fruit and spicy notes. It is full in the mouth, persistent and with evident and velvety tannins.
Suggested food matches: game, red meat dishes, elaborate pasta and rice dishes, salame, seasoned cheese.
Average production/year: 15,000 bottles.

 

AZIENDA VITIVINICOLA COLLI DI LAPIO – CLELIA ROMANO

The 2014 vintage
The harvest was 15 days late in comparison to the previous vintages. The Fiano grapes were harvested from mid October till the 20th/21st of the month. It was a lovely harvest and the grapes were beautiful. The grape yield was slightly lower. The family of Clelia Romano worked very hard in the vineyards throughout the year.

Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2014
This wine is made exclusively with Fiano grapes.
The clusters are harvested and placed in 18 kilogram boxes. The grapes are immediately brought to the cellar where they are destemmed and pressed softly. The must is clarified at a low temperature (11-12 degrees Celsius). The alcoholic fermentation lasts for 1 month at 14 degrees Celsius. The wine matures on the lees till the end of January. During this time pumping over of the wine is carried out. Bottling takes place in February. Finishing in the bottle for 3 months.             
The colour is straw yellow. The nose is floral, fruity, with fresh fruit notes (when the wine ages the notes evolve into ripe fruit), fresh and mineral (the mineral tone is due to the soil and to the altitude). In the mouth it is fresh, fat, persistent with a floral and fruity finish.
Suggested food matches: fish, raw fish, mozzarella, white meat, vegetable, pizza, oriental cuisine.
Average production/year: 45,000-55,000 bottles.

The 2011 vintage
Aglianico for the production of Taurasi was picked on the 22nd-23rd of October (an early harvest). Although it was dry and quite warm during the summer, there were no problems for the vines because of the altitude and the wide day/night temperature range. The grapes ripened perfectly. It is a good vintage and the wines are well balanced

Taurasi “Andrea” DOCG 2011
The wine is named after the Clelia’s grandson (Carmela’s son). The first vintage to be released was 2000. This Taurasi is 100% Aglianico from a vineyard in Lapio (0.5 hectares right next to Clelia and Carmela’s house) and from vineyards (4 hectares) in Venticano (one of the towns which are within the Taurasi DOCG appellation) which are contracted. The Taurasi made in Lapio and in Venticano has the characteristic of being quite supple.
The clusters are harvested by hand, placed in 20 kilogram boxes and immediately brought to the cellar. The clusters are destemmed and crushed. The alcoholic fermentation and maceration with the skins lasts for 20 days with temperature control at 20 degrees Celsius and takes place in steel. Pumping over of the must is carried out daily. The wine is then racked in steel where it rests till January/February after which it is racked in new and second use barriques and tonneaux where it matures for 18 months. The malolactic fermentation takes place in steel and in wood. Finishing in the bottle for 12-18 months.
The colour is an intense ruby red. The nose has notes of ripe red fruit, underbrush berries, spices, hard black cherry, leather and goudron. It is full in the mouth, with well integrated and evident tannins, it is quite supple.
Suggested food matches: “robust” dishes, red meat, roasts, game, seasoned cheese.
In 2011 the production was of 4,000 bottles.