Posts tagged ‘amalfi coast’
Winemaking is special in every part of Italy. The weather varies, as do the soils and vineyard exposures. Then there are the grapes themselves. No one knows exactly how many varieties are found throughout the country, but the best guesses are somewhere between 2000 and 3000.
All of those factors combine to make regional viticulture quite distinctive anywhere you go in Italy. Then there is the Amalfi Coast. Known as one of the most beautiful locations on the planet, this is an area of extreme viticulture, where vintners fashion some of the most unique wines anywhere in the world from remarkable hillside plots that are often buffeted by high winds. The work is difficult, but the results are always notable and often spectacular; it is in this zone where Marisa Cuomo and her winemaker/husband Andrea Ferraioli are producing some of the most singular wines in all of Italy.
The winery and vineyards are located in the small town of Furore, located between the postcard-famous hamlets of Positano and Amalfi. Furore is not as well known as those two locations, mainly because the town is not on the coastal road, but slightly off that thoroughfare. This is, for lack of a better term, a vertical town, as the main road that winds its way through the town begins several hundred feet above vineyards and homes as it tumbles down to just a few meters above the sea. Standing on the road about halfway down in Furore offers a dazzling view; as you glance skyward, you see cars that look tiny heading down the road, while the view down to the sea is breathtaking, especially when early morning or late afternoon fog creeps into the area.
As in other zones in Campania, indigenous varieties are planted throughout the Amalfi Coast; here in Furore, Ferraioli works with white varieties such as Biancolella, Ginestra and Fenile, while Aglianico and Piedirosso are the featured red grapes. The reds from Marisa Cuomo are excellent (along with a beautiful dry rosato), but it is the collection of white wines that make this estate so renowned.
The Furore Bianco, a blend of Falanghina and Biancolella, is aged solely in stainless steel and offers lemon and grapefruit notes with the vibrant acidity of the local whites; the Ravello Bianco, made from a similar bend from the nearby town of Ravello, is similarly styled, though less concentrated than the wine from Furore.
The most complete wine made at the estate is a Furore Bianco named Fior’duva, a blend of Fenile, Ginestra and Ripoli. Ferraioli ferments part of the must in barrique and then ages the wine in similar barrels; the result is a superb white of deep concentration. There are the usual tropical and citrus flavors as well as notes of lemon custard, giving this wine a uniqueness among Amalfi whites. This is a white that is impressive upon release, but displays greater complexities over five to seven years. The newly released 2008 is one the finest examples I’ve tasted to date with impressive texture and the structure to age for perhaps seven to ten years.
One note about the vines in Furore; because of the strong winds off the sea, the pergola (overhead) training system is used. This viticultural practice, also used in other Italian regions such as Alto Adige and Veneto (especially in Soave and to a lesser degree in Valpolicella), also provides shade and lessens the amount of sunshine, which is an especially important factor in Campania. The look of these vines on these steep slopes perched above the sea is truly stunning.
If you have the opportunity to visit Furore, make sure you visit the estate of Marisa Cuomo and stop in for lunch or dinner at the Bacco Ristorante, where you can enjoy grilled seafood (octopus, shrimp et al) with these delicious whites; the earthiness of the fish providing a perfect foil for the striking acidity of the wines. You might just get a chance to enjoy a glass of wine with Marisa or Andrea, but even if you don’t, I guarantee you’ll never forget the experience, as you celebrate the beauty of the Amalfi Coast through its landscapes, food and glorious white wines!
This is part two of my discussion of white wines from Campania. The last post dealt with Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino. This time around, I will discuss Falanghina as well as white wines from the Amalfi Coast.
Falanghina is another of the great ancient white varieties of Campania. The name comes from the word falerna, meaning “poles,” a reference to the system used by the Greeks more than a thousand years ago of attaching the vines to stakes, rather than having the vine directly in the ground. In the province of Caserta in northern Campania, Falerna is the local name of Falanghina.
The signature of Falanghina is its vibrant acidity; this is enhanced when the grapes are planted near the coast, as with the Villa Matilde estate in Caserta (Falerno del Massico DOC) or the Campi Flegrei DOC that hugs the shoreline just north of Napoli. Yet even inland in Benevento (Sannio DOC) and in Avellino, Falanghina maintains its healthy acidity.
This is a wine with lovely aromatics; apple and pear are most common, but today, the best bottlings offer greater complexity in their perfumes, including notes of quince, acacia, white peaches and even some tropical fruits such as kiwi or guava. As the aromatics are so special, most offerings are aged in stainless steel; an exception is the “Caracci” bottling from Villa Matilde.
The best examples of Falanghina available in the United States today include:
- Mastroberardino “Morabianca”
- Feudi di San Gregorio “Serrocielo”
- Villa Matilde “Caracci”
- La Sibilla “Cruna deLago”
These cru bottlings are priced in the $22-28 range. However there are many fine examples of Falanghina labeled as Sannio DOC or Beneventano IGT that are less expensive, well-made wines (often priced in the mid-teens); these include bottlings from Mastroberardino and Vinosia.
Feudi di San Gregorio also produces a lovely sparkling Falanghina as part of its DUBL series, which is co-produced with the French Champagne firm Selosse. As you might guess from the natural acidity of Falanghina, this is a nicely structured wine; the aromatics of pear and lemon along with a light yeastiness makes for a lovely wine.
Given its high acidity, Falanghina is ideal with shellfish.
Everyone knows about the gorgeous seaside setting of the Amalfi Coast, but few realize this is an excellent wine zone as well (Costa d’Amalfi DOC). Here growers use the traditional pergola system of training the vines; in this system, the overhead canopy protects the grapes from too much sun.
Vintners along the Amalfi Coast work with several white varieties not found elsewher; these incude Fenile, Ginestra and Biancolella. Most of the whites produced here are blends, offering lovely aromatics (most notably citrus, pear and melon) with vibrant acidity. Usually non-oak aged, most of the bottlings are meant for consumption within 2-3 years of the vintage date; they are perfect with local shellfish such as vongole, the tiny clams from the sea.
Among the best producers of white wine from the Amalfi Coast are:
- Marisa Cuomo
- Giuseppe Apicella
- Tenuta San Francesco
Marisa Cuomo, along with her husband/winemaker Andrea Ferraioli, is recognnized as one of Italy’s finest white wine producers. Their most famous wine, Fiorduva, is a powerful Amalfi blend fermented in barrique.
OTHER CAMPANIAN WHITES
There are a few other excellent areas for white wine in Campania, including the island of Ischia, off the coast of Napoli. Here producers struggle with high winds and other conditions to make white blends from varieties such as Forestera and Biancolella. Top producers from Ischia include Pietratorcia and Casa d’Ambra.
In the province of Caserta, there are a few producers working with Pallagrello Bianco; this variety is quite unique in that the aromatics are not fresh melon and pear, but more along the lines of dried herbs, flowers (such as acacia) and a distinct nuttiness. These wines remind one of Campania’s past! Look for producers such as Alois and Terre del Principe.
Finally, a white variety named Aspirinio is grown in Caserta in northern Campania. The vines of Aspirinio in the Aspirinio di Aversa DOC are trained to poles and reach as high as 30 feet off the ground, meaning pickers must climb ladders to harvest the grapes. While a dry white and sparkling version of Aspirinio di Aversa is produced, the most famous version is the passito bottling.