August Wine Box: Naples: metropolitan wines, Stage #17, selected by sommelier Tommaso Luongo (August 2019)
We often speak, sometimes inappropriately, of heroic viticulture, but how else can we define the stubbornness with which Raffaele Moccia defends his territory daily from the risk of hydrogeological instability? Hours and hours spent in the vineyard, using only the hoe to sculpt the steps and create an efficient water regulation system in order to counteract the natural decay of dusty soil which could collapse in the blink of an eye due to the run-off resulting from just a little more rain. Here phylloxera, which has disrupted European and global viticultural geography since the second half of the 19th century, has been defeated thanks to the grain size of very fine volcanic sand, which obstructs the passage of this aphid between the root systems of the planted vineyards on the edges of the ancient Astroni crater. Wines with a strong volcanic character, which mix fruit and flowers with saltiness and gunpowder.
Gerardo Vernazzaro has a mission: to spread knowledge of Naples wine . A daily, incessant, even maniacal work to forge the sensorial identity of his wines . Obviously starting from the earth, "dirtying" his hands with sulfur and lapilli, in search of the natural vocations of his vineyards, which cross the various metropolitan areas of the city of Naples, from Camaldoli to Astroni. Here, in the Campi Flegrei, a fundamental page in the history of world viticulture was written with the passage of Greek and Roman civilizations. The Greeks had the habit of cultivating the vine by letting it crawl on the ground following its nature: in this way they were able to collect even the smallest drop of humidity. In Campania, however, they found different climatic conditions, while this cultivation system exposed the grapes to attack by mold; so it was that the Euboean colonists were forced to look for an alternative, understanding that it was necessary to lift the vine from the ground and place it on wooden poles, the Latin phalangae . From these support poles, around which the vine was wrapped, was born the Vinum Album Phalanginum, the progenitor of the Falanghina flegrea.
A family-run company where the culture of the vineyard is felt. A close-knit team, which moves in perfect synchrony: the brothers Luca, Marco and Antonio, with their parents Paolo and Giuseppina, all together passionately to give life to a project that involves and supports a large number of contributors, thus managing to keep in the thousand stories that intertwine men and women in the vineyards of the metropolitan area of the city of Naples come to life. Fascinating stories that speak of peasant toil , an authentic expression of a resilient model of urban agriculture defended every day with sacrifices and sweat. A reality that enjoys the support of cutting-edge technology, alongside the tradition of this large extended family (made in Naples!) now in its fourth generation. It all started from a modest farmhouse immersed in the Phlegraean countryside of Bacoli in the early twentieth century and then arrived in Marano, on the outskirts of the capital in 1985, and finally found new life and consolidated itself as a dynamic and established company also in international markets.
Campi Flegrei Pieridosso "Volcanic Sand" - Agnanum Agricultural Company
Ruby red, with luminous purple transparency. Nose of geranium and cherry, wrapped in a soft smoky veil; closes with a touch of black pepper. Juicy mouth, with an agile and slender sip. Taste dynamics supported by freshness with a pleasant tannin that leads to a savory finish. A simple and essential wine, gastronomic for the versatility with which it can be combined.
And in combination? By playing with the serving temperature, it manages to accompany both the traditional Neapolitan fish soup and the classic aubergine parmigiana.
Campli Flegrei Falanghina "Colle Imperatrice" - Cantine Astroni
Colle Imperatrice is the fruit of the vineyards distributed between the Camaldoli and the Astroni volcano. Here, the Falanghina expresses itself generously and preserves the most classic sensorial physiognomy of the Phlegraean terroir intact. Straw yellow that lights up the glass. A nose that smells of summer and the Mediterranean: percoca and white melon introduce nuances rich in saltiness. Clean and clear sip with an entry marked by lashing acidity; closes smoothly with a persistent trail that intertwines salt and exotic fruit.
And at the table? Perfect on octopus, potato and wild mint salad: a dish in which the callous fiber is demolished by the acidity of the wine and the sweet tendency of the tubers is contrasted by its flavour.
Campi Flegrei Falanghina - Cantine Federiciane
Lively straw yellow. It smells of mandarin, exotic fruit and Mediterranean herbs. Smooth and slim tasting structure, shaken by deep saline vibrations that amplify the final extension. An educational Falanghina, for execution and territoriality.
Suggestions at the table? With these organoleptic characteristics it is almost obvious, but no less pleasant, to suggest celebrating the wedding of this Falanghina with spaghetti with clams; or more generally the combination with traditional seafood first courses featuring the sweet tendency of molluscs and crustaceans.
Piedirosso dei Campi Flegrei "Vigna delle Volpi" - Azienda Agricola Agnanum
It comes from a vineyard named after the foxes who love to roam between the rows, slipping into the holes that time has dug in the Bourbon wall that delimits the property from the Astroni nature reserve.
Ruby. Compressed nose, like a spring ready to explode. Just linger a while in the glass to witness an incessant and engaging sequence of red fruit, black pepper, tobacco, burnt wood and traces of ferrous minerality. Vibrant sip that brings full and vigorous fruit, with savory contours; a subtle and composed tannin helps the drink and delicately dries the palate; satisfying and delicious closure.
And at the table? It finds its ideal companion in Ischia-style rabbit, an ancestral dish in which the animal is cooked for a long time in the classic four-handled clay pan, 'u tiane , with wild herbs and chilli. As tradition dictates, at the end of cooking the excess sauce is used to season the bucatini. Here is a "monothematic" lunch in which this juicy and mineral Piedirosso is perfectly at ease.
Campi Flegrei Falanghina "Vigna Astroni" - Cantine Astroni
It is the wine that comes exclusively from the vineyard grown on the external slopes of the Astroni Crater, between Naples and Pozzuoli, once a Bourbon hunting reserve and today a WWF Italy natural oasis.
Antique gold colour. Aromas of ripe fruit with an exotic touch alternate with hints of spices and aromatic herbs, with a gentle breeze of salt and ginger that refreshes the nose. On the palate it is striking for the volume and fullness of the sip, crossed by a savory trace that drives the entire gustatory development, dragging along all the olfactory aromas.
And in combination? The fried paranza (with anchovies and mullet and the many delicious poor fish from the Neapolitan gulf) combines with the marine flavors of this wine for a successful marriage of love and convenience.
Campi Flegrei Piedirosso - Cantine Federiciane
Shiny ruby. Bold and expressive on the nose with hints of rose hips, cloves and an infiltrating sulphurous hint. When tasted it shows the calibrated integration between freshness and softness, fueled by the savory boost. Graceful tannins accompany the finish.
Suggestions at the table? There are many possible combinations: among them the Phlegraean grass pea soup with squid and small paranza fish in stew; to be appreciated for its flexibility which allows you to range from seafood to land cuisine, as long as you don't overdo it with tomatoes.