Feudi di San Gregorio in Campania is an estate that is continually at the forefront of this region’s ever-changing wine scene. The wines are first-rate and the company’s president, Antonio Capaldo and his team are always looking at new ways of expressing the local terroir and traditions. Their newest wine, from a centuries-old variety, is Sirica, a sublime and dynamic red.
I sat down with Capaldo for a recent lunch at their breathtaking Marennà Restaurant at the winery in Sorbo Serpico (the dining room is located a few floors above the cellar) and was able to sample the wine and learn of its history. The winery’s agronomists found three enormous plants that were two centuries old growing in the Taurasi area and determined that they were not Aglianico (the principal variety in Taurasi). DNA research was undertaken and according to Capaldo, they found some elements of Refosco, Teroldego (both from the northeast of Italy) as well as Syrah, “so nothing like Aglianico,” in his words.
The origin of the name Sirica (pronounced seer-e-ca) is not entirely clear, but the best reasoning is that is comes from the word syricum, used to describe a red dye used in the first century before Christ. Pliny the Elder refers to Sirica in his writings, so the name is clearly Roman, though the grape may be of either Roman or Greek origin. The writer Catone specified that the introduction of this variety into Italy occurred many years before the founding of the city of Rome.
Upon rediscovering this variety, the viticultural team reporoduced the plant and the winery now has a little more than one and one-half hectares of Sirica vines. The wine is aged in tonneau (mid-sized barrels) for six months and then for the remainder of the time in the bottle. The wine is a blend of the new vines planted about six years ago along with the two hundred year-old vines.
I tasted the 2007, of which only a few hundred bottles were produced. The 2009 will be the first commercial release, with the wine available to the market in 2011. My notes on the 2007 are as follows:
Bright purple with rich aromas of black raspberry, boysenberry, black cherry and hints of menthol. Very good to excellent concentration – rich mid-palate, excellent ripeness; beautifully balanced with polished tannins and very good acidity. This should be at is best in 7-10 years.
Best of all, this wine is quite elegant and approachable, a quality Capaldo is looking to emphasize more and more with all of his wines. He also believes in using less oak on his red wines these days and has even made a small lot of Sirica aged only in stainless steel. It’s a lovely food wine – and I think that’s important, as this gives the wine an appeal greater than just its curiosity factor.
If you can wait until 2011, you will be able to try the first commercial release of this wine from the 2009 vintage (according to Capaldo, the wine will only be sold in Italy, unless there is a demand for it in the United States – as approximately 2000 bottles of the 2009 were produced, a small amount may be offered for export). Until then, we should thank Capaldo and his team for their work in reintroducing this centuries-old variety into the modern world.