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- GRECO DI TUFO
- MONTE DI GRAZIA, ALFONSO ARPINA, COSTIERA AMALFITANA, Campania – Organic
- LA CASADA, CALEO, Salento
The olive trees make scanty shade: they are too ferociously pruned hereabouts. The whole of the southern incline is planted
with them wherever a little soil can be scraped together, and their oil is excellent – better says Pliny, than that of Venafrum
– probably because the inhabitants know the secret of preparing it… Alas, these trees are remorselessly uprooted wherever
the soil will feed the more profitable grape; Capri has lost half its olives, Ischia all: a consummation to be deplored since the
vine, however gladsome its summer greenery, is bare for six months a year when its straggling limbs have a peculiarly
unkempt and disreputable appearance. Were the landscape alone to be considered, I could wish that some new scourge like
phylloxera might be introduced, for there is enough wine in the country already.
Norman Douglas – Uplands of Sorrento
Without doubt, the Greco di Tufo, from which the wine of the same name is made, is the oldest variety of the Avellino area. It was
imported from the Greek region of Thessaly by the Pelasgian peoples. A confirmation of the millennial origin of the wine is provided by
the discovery of a fresco at Pompeii, traced in the 1
century BC. A brief poetical inscription was added to the fresco, apparently by a
frustrated lover: “You are truly cold, Bytis, made of ice, if last night not even Greco wine could warm you up.”
Among many legends concerning wine, the province of Avellino can even boast of one miracle involving the beverage. According to the
story, San Guglielmo of Vercelli emulated the miracle of the Marriage of Cana in turning water to wine at Bonito.
The Greco variety was originally cultivated on the slopes of Vesuvius, where it was given the name Lacryma Christi. It was later planted
in the province of Avellino, where it was given the denomination Greco di Tufa.
BENITO FERRARA, TUFO, Campania
Gabriella Ferrara’s estate is small, family run and specialises in Greco di Tufo. Her vineyards are situated in the heart of Tufo
itself. There are a mere three and a half hectares of vines. The south-facing vineyards are 450-600 metres above sea level in a
hilly area, the soil rich in calcium, phosphorus, potassium and silicon as well as the volcanic sulphur that so characterises this
Planted about 30 years ago, the vines are espalier-trained with Guyot pruning. The peculiarity of the grapes is that the cluster
is divided in two, a greater and a smaller part: they are the “twin souls “or “aminae gemina “. The agronomist Columella
described it in such a way, while Cato and Giovan Battista Della Porta defined it “Graecia “and “Graecula”
Floral nuances with richer aromas of almond and hazelnut and mineral tones usher in a palate that is full with golden
apple, peach and cinnamon. The difference between the two Grecos is one of minerality – the Vigna Cicogna has terrific
length afforded by a rich smokiness. It is mineral and flavoursome – a wine which will evolve slowly and surely in the
bottle. At present the wine subtly insinuates hawthorn and lime flower as well as ginger and hazelnut. This would go
beautifully with the poetically named Mozzarella in Carrozza, Spaghetti alla Puttanesca and Polpo alla Luciana- octopus
simmered for two hours with tomatoes, garlic, chilli and parsley.
GRECO DI TUFO
CANTINA VADIAPERTI, MONTEFREDANE, AVELLINO, Campania
Classic Greco with elegant refined notes of ripe fruit, golden delicious apples lifted by floral and acacia honey
nuances. The palate is fresh and structured with good balance and length and a perceptible bitter almond finish.
This simple Greco would be lovely quaffed with simply boiled cecenielli served on a bed of lemon leaf with a few drops of
lemon and a thin film of oil. Or stuffed cuttlefish. Or tubetti con cozze. The Coda di Volpe (the name means fox tail) is straw
yellow in colour with aromas of ripe fruit, (pineapple, white peaches), as well as delicate scents of broom (or broom-broom –
aka basil brush) and liquorice.
CODA DI VOLPE
GRECO DI TUFO
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It was the ancient mariner
He stoppeth one in three
He looked me up, he looked me down
And then he said to me
I’ve scoured across the seven seas
I’ve hunted high and low
To source new grape varieties
To enter in a show
So bring forth a glass of Ischian wine
To slake my salty thirst
Quick! A tumbler of Biancolella, good fellow –
My albatross is about to burst!
ENZA LONARDO, CONTRADE DI TAURASI, AVELLINO, Campania
The family Lonardo has been producing Aglianico in Contrade di Taurasi for generations. All their vineyards have
an excellent southern exposition. Alessandro Lonardo decided at the beginning of the ‘90s to continue the activity of farmer,
and started the refurbishment of his small estate, replanting old vineyards replacing the previous vines with more modern
guyot and cordone speronato, in order to considerably reduce yields. In 1998 Alessandro’s daughter, Enza, started vinifying
and commercialising Taurasi DOCG. Lonardo is one of the leading exponents of “old-style” Taurasi.
Red in colour with shades of orange. Spicy, strong aromas of black fruit, plums, burnt black cherries, coffee and vanilla
are prevalent. Smooth, full-bodied and complex on the palate this wine displays further secondary notes of leather, game
and tobacco. Gorgeous ripe tannins make it a good accompaniment to the local salamis and cheerful rustic gatto di patate.
Or, when in Campania, assay it the rugby-ball shaped local pizza containing provolo (a fresh cow’s cheese), small sweet
tomatoes and basil; melanzane (aubergine) and zucchini (courgettes); friarielli and salsiccie; fior di latte (mozzarella).
Alfonso Arpina’s vineyard holding is tiny, a mere 2.7 ha located in the commune of Tramonti, in the heart of the Monte
Lattari and a stone’s throw away from Costa d’Amalfi while 45 km from Naples. The terraces on which the vineyards have
been planted consist of volcanic ashes, originating from former eruptions of the nearby Vesuvius as well as red clayey
soils. Although a secluded spot, well hidden from Naples, there is continuous ventilation coming from the nearby coast as
well as inland winds blowing from the north, which not only have a mitigating effect in summer as well as winter, but the
constant thermal movements provide to the special micro climate in this part
120 year old vines from ungrafted vines unaffected by phylloxera. The organic methods used at Monte di Grazia also
further limit the yields. The vines were planted in the traditional “tendone method”, their leaves trained to form a canopy
that protects the grapes from the sun. It is like a pergola with an overhead trellis from which the grapes hang down. The
poles that hold up the tendone are made of chestnut wood from trees in the nearby hills and the vine “branches” are
attached to the
November) and yields are typically low: 30 hl/ha. Different vineyards are vinified separately and, while malolactic
fermentation is hoped for it does not always occur. Sulphur is never added to the wine.
The red grape, Tintore di Tramonti (90%), (the remainder being Piedirosso) is grown almost exclusively in the Monte
Lattari Valley and belongs to the Teinturier family. The flesh and the juice of these grapes are red in colour. The
anthocyanin pigments accumulate in the grape berry itself. The free run juice is therefore red. The ageing period is brief
and takes place in big barrels followed by a further twelve months in bottle before release.
The Rosso is dark in colour, almost black-violet. The nose is very inviting with bright cherry and stalky dark fruits. Plum,
spice and lots of dark fruits, with succulent red and dark fruit palate, with hallmark freshness. The impression you get
when smelling a wine just finishing fermentation with notes of hay.
Lovely stuff – we’re back in Marcillac territory.
MONTE DI GRAZIA ROSSO
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Greeks were among the earliest settlers in this region, dominating the indigenous Messapicans, the Daunians, the Peucetians, as far back
as Mycenaean times, perhaps even earlier. Taranto on the Ionian Sea was a Greek colony from the eighth century B.C., a flourishing
capital of Magna Graecia, the great cosmopolitan Greek world beyond Greece itself. Puglia has known many conquerors since-the
Romans, of course, and then the Byzantine Greeks, Lombards, Arabs, Normans, Angevins, Aragonese, and Spanish, the armies of the
popes and of the German emperors, Bourbons who ruled from Naples, Turkish corsairs who harried the coasts, on and on, in a rich and
mercilessly cruel history of conquest, betrayal, loss, and gain. Each incursion, each struggle, left its mark on this land, from the ancient
dolmens scattered across the landscape to the baroque fantasies of cities like Lecce and Martina Franca. There are magnificent castles and
citadels, like Castel del Monte, grand and enigmatic, an octagonal monument in alabaster-coloured stone to what some say was the
cabalistic vision of Frederick II, Puglia’s greatest ruler. There are spectacular eleventh- and twelfth-century Romanesque churches like the
soaring seaside cathedrals of Trani and San Nicola at Bari, and rock-carved chapels and hidden grottoes, the walls of which were
plastered by monks, saints, and hermits with feverish and apocalyptic visions. There are clusters of white-walled villages and fortified
farms called masserie, set well back from a dangerous coast once beset by pirates and marauders. And, of course, there are the trulli, the
characteristic vernacular architecture of the Murge, the high grassy plateau of central Puglia. Stone dwellings capped by corbel-vaulted
roofs built of overlapping circles of flat stones called chiancarelle, the trulli are both disturbing and anachronistic, like the dwellings of a
race of aliens set down in our midst. Traditionally, it is said, they were built of unmortared stone so they could be quickly torn down when
the Bourbon tax-collector came around, then rebuilt just as quickly when he was gone from sight. Their roofs are often decorated with
painted symbols whose meanings have long since been lost. For all the richness of its history, however, Puglia is, has always been, a land
of poverty, a land of emigration.
“La cucina pugliese nasce come cucina povera” – the cuisine of Puglia was born as the cuisine of poverty, an observation manifestly
illustration in a myriad of ways: pasta made without eggs, bread made from the hard-grain durum wheat flour that flourishes locally, and a
diet based on vegetables, including many wild vegetables like cicorielle, wild chicory, and lampascione, the bulb of a wild tassel
hyacinth, foods that are foraged from stony fields and abandoned terraces. Meat is not much eaten and beef until a few years ago, was
almost unknown on Pugliese tables, with horsemeat being preferred. For Christmas and Easter feasting, weddings and baptisms, Pugliese
cooks look to what are called animale da cortile, farmyard animals, especially chickens and rabbits, although this rocky landscape being
sheep country, lamb is the very symbol of feasting, as it is in most of the Mediterranean.
Because it is based on home cooking, this is a cucina delle donne, created by women cooking at home rather than male chefs in
professional kitchens. It is a cuisine without rules and regulations, based solely on what’s in the family larder, which is then stretched and
expanded to feed those who may show up al 285mprovise, at the unplanned last minute. It also means that a recipe changes from one
village to another, even from one household to another, without the cooks themselves always being aware of it. It’s almost impossible to
speak of authenticity when a word like ciambotta describes two entirely different dishes-a mixture of vegetables in Monopoli, a mixture
of fish in Bari, just thirty kilometres to the north.
In this culture of sparsity, nothing is wasted. Stale bread is cut into cubes or crumbled and toasted in oil to make a garnish for pasta and
vegetable dishes. Vegetables themselves, at the height of their season, are dried, pickled, or preserved in oil to eke out the larder in the
lean months of the year. Figs are dried or boiled down to make a syrup, and grape juice, after the first pressing, is boiled to make a thick
molasses called mosto cotto, to be served at Christmas poured over the fried sweets called cartellate.
Puglian olive oil is legendary and used as a basis for the cuisine. Tomatoes, artichokes, fennel, chicory and onions are all eaten raw,
dipped in the fruity oil as a part of a fine array of antipasti. Polipetti (tiny curly octopus) are often eaten raw as well with a little oil and
lemon juice, or quickly fried. Other specialities include tarantella (salted tuna) and cheese, particularly burrata, a mozzarella stuffed with
added), dressed with a thread of olive oil and eaten with steamed bitter greens, preferably wild chicory. The presentation becomes more
elaborate with the addition of chopped red onions marinated in vinegar, fried or pickled green peppers, steamed lampascioni, fried black
or green olives, and other condiments. Ciceri e tria is another such: being homemade durum wheat pasta (no eggs) in the form of flat
tagliatelle or noodles (tria), cooked with chick-peas (285elabe) and mixed with about a third of the pasta that has been kept apart and fried
in olive oil until it is crisp and brown, with a surprisingly meat-like flavour. The Pugliese love their pasta; another classic is orecchiette
con cime di rape – again, homemade durum wheat pasta, shaped in the form of “little ears,” cooked with the bittersweet vegetable we
know as broccoli rabe or rapini, and dressed with oil, garlic, anchovies, and perhaps a little hot pepperoncino. One final dish that arouses
the kind of theological passion reserved for such classics as cassoulet and bouillabaisse is called tiella or taieddha or teglia, depending on
where you are in Puglia and what dialect is being spoken. Into the tiella goes a mixture, a carefully structured layering of several
ingredients that may or may not contain rice (this is the problematic part, as we shall see) but will almost always contain potatoes.
Another element will be a vegetable, such as artichokes, zucchini, or mushrooms, depending on the season, and the final ingredient is
sometimes bits of salt cod or more usually mussels, the Mediterranean black mussels that have been cultured for centuries in the Mar
Piccolo, Taranto’s inner sea. Food historians and writers, in Puglia and elsewhere, often suggest that this is a Pugliese version of Spanish
paella, derived from the Spanish in the centuries when they occupied Puglia along with much of the Italian south. But tiella is really very
different from paella as the latter is quickly cooked on top of the fire, while tiella is baked in the oven for quite a long time. Moreover,
paella is a dish that was associated, until quite recently, only with the rice-growing area around Valencia and not with other parts of Spain
at all. Rice is not grown in Puglia, and is not essential to the Pugliese dish.
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PUGLIA AND CALABRIA
FATALONE, PASQUALE PETRERA, GIOIA DEL COLLE, Puglia – Organic
Local viticulture in this area has a long tradition: excavations carried out in the archaeological site of Monte Sannace (to
the north-east of Gioia del Colle) revealed an extensive Peucetian settlement (VIII-III cent. BC) and led to the recovery of
numerous pieces of pottery for containing wine and olive oil. The territory is rich in historic tradition: as well as the
aforementioned site of Monte Sannace there is the Norman-Swabian Castle, the cathedral and not far away the Grotte of
Castellana, the Sassi of Matera and the Trulli of the Valle d’Itria – more cultural history than you could shake a
considerable stick at.
The geological history is no less fascinating. Once upon a time between the cretaceous plate of the Bari area and the
Southern Apennines, the saddle of Spinazzola formed a broad strait that linked the Ionian Sea to the Adriatic, where the
today’s territory of Gioia del Colle was submerged (as evidenced by the discovery of marine fossils in the local soils). The
typical Murgian hill soil is a mix of clay and limestone, rocky and packed with minerals. Thin layers of red earth mixed
with limestone and silica sit on huge fossil-rich monolithic reefs confirming the origin of this land and the name of the
locality Spinomarino recalls its original shape: coastal prominence in the strait of sea which submerged the low
The region has a marked agricultural inclination with notable cultivations of vineyards, almond and olive groves, cherry
and plum orchards. The hilly terrain confers to these lands optimum climatic conditions for viticulture, by way of a right
microclimatic balance of sun, winds and mild temperatures. At the end of the 18
century Nicola Petrera, an ancestor of
the current owner, chose the Spinomarino hill, the most aired and sunny one in the Gaudella area, to grow Primitivo
grapes. Filippo Petrera has preserved both tradition and passion for this Primitivo until this very day. The family ensures
the greatest care in every detail: organic farming, grape selection, processing and bottling. The family processes only their
own estate grown grapes under the brand name “Fatalone”, with a total production of 40,000 bottles per 6 hectares of
vineyards. The vinification process takes place in open-cycle wine tanks, without the aid of yeasts, with frequent pumping
of the must over the pomace. The must is kept in contact with grape skins for three to five days at 28°C; a gentle pressing
and a slow fermentation then completes the process.
Fancy some laid-back Primitivo, man? Talk about soothing the savage yeast! Tranquillity and harmony by diffusion of
new-age sounds in the cellar supports “the activity of the living enzymes inside our natural wines sensitive to music
therapy” runs the philosophy of the winery, or more succinctly, from healthy and happy vine roots to healthy and happy
vine fruits and enzymes with a spring in their step, a wiggle on their hips and a “New Age” song on their lips. We think
Pasquale should play Fatalone Boy Slim and The Primitives – that should sort the wine out.
The straight Primitivo cuts to the chase with its sweet tobacco scent and flavours of sour black cherry, mussel plum and
toffee. A smooth, warm, balanced red it finishes on an aftertaste of toasted almond, typical of the Primitivo of Gioia del
Colle. Recommended with lamb cooked with garlic, rosemary and Primitivo – natch.
The Riserva is exotically rich and super-ripe oozing scents of fruits-in-alcohol and spicy-toasted wood. This monster has
smoothed out over time: it is warm and velvety with dried fruits baked under a marzipan crust.
Serve with stewed and braised meats such as Filetto di Maiale alla Calvacanti, Stufato alla Napoletana and with cheese.
PRIMITIVO GIOIA DEL COLLE
PRIMITIVO GIOIA DEL COLLE RISERVA SPECIALE
LA CASADA, CALEO, Salento
When I think of Negroamaro I taste in my mind’s tongue a vinous version of valrona-shocked espresso.
This is not such a wine. Where you expect bitterness there is softness. The characteristic “scorched earth” quality is also
absent. The wine is pleasant, round and just peppery enough to remind one of its Mediterranean origins, but just don’t expect
to be able to headbang to it. The Salice is an interesting wine, a blend of Negroamaro and Malvasia Nero. An appealing nose
of sweet cherries and stewed plums with some curious gamey notes.
NEGROAMARO DEL SALENTO
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