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!