The summer of 2020 is certainly one to remember. In July, Campania seemed Covid free , the region was finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately August deepened the fear again. But this has nothing to do with our visit. It was an hot day in July, the sky were clear with some clouds. Summer 2020 has been a quite dry summer for viticulture and an hot one, not as hot as the prior years. I would expect a good vintage, although with less quantity but better quality. We decided to make a visit to some of the iconic producers of Mount Vesuvius, known for the Lacryma Christi wines.
Lacryma Christi is not a grape but rather a blend of multiple grapes as recommended by the disciplinare. Why the name ? It actually means tears of Christ, as the legend goes ...Lucifer as he was expelled from Heaven brought with him a piece of it and by falling hard on earth he created Mount Vesuvius and the Gulf of Naples. Jesus wept at this sight and where His Tears fell gave birth to the grapevines. From here the name. So now you know if you drink a Lacryma Christi you are drinking a red or white blend made from grapes grown on the foothills of Mount Vesuvius.
The unmistakable uniqueness of the Vesuvian wines and of everything that is cultivated on the Vesuvius is thanksto its exceptionalvolcanic soil.
The complexity of volcanic soil can be found in the composition of the ground and type of vegetation that grows in the area and that is different depending on the side due to the incidence of the lava accumulated during the eruption.
Some vineyards are located on the south-west side, where numerous lava flows that reached the sea have enriched the soil with minerals, lapilli and made it extremely fertile with high porosity and drainage.
This represents a first line of defense against pathogens and, in particular, ensures the authentic preservation of ungrafted vineyards.
We decided to visit Sorrentino winery. As we drove up on Mount Vesuvius we realized that getting to the winery wasn't as easy as we thought. Google maps was taking us through dirt roads with a no easy drive for the car. SO we decided to call and the voice of the other side, was kind and accommodating with clear directions on how to avoid the Google suggestions. SO then the winding roads offered a beautiful view of the Bay ( Castellamare ) and of the crater as we looked up.. very close to us. The image of what could have happened the day of the infamous eruption came to my mind. I imagined smoke and lava coming down those same hills on their way to desert Pompei and the near by areas.
As we arrived we were welcomed by Maria Paola, the owner's daughter. A very sweet young lady who offered to take us for a walk through the vineyards but not to the winery which was located few km away.
She intro crd us to the grapes which made the Lacryma Christi blend, Caprettone and Falanghina for the white and AGlianico and Piedirosso for the reds. We have seen these grapes everywhere in the Campania region. Although every one shows its own nuances due to the terroir where they are grown.
Caprettone was a new one, we never heard that grape before; I knew of Coda di Volpe as one of the components of the blend. Interesting to find out that Coda di Volpe ( Fox Tail) grown on Mount Vesuvius changed its name to Caprettone in the register. Although having the same DNA there is a sensorial difference between the Caprettone grown on Mount Vesuvius and Coda di Volpe in the Irpinia mountains.
Ian D'Agata explains Caprettone in this way:
Follks in Italy are viscerally attached to their local varieties, and so nobody in this neck of the
woods wants to hear that their beloved Caprettone is the same as someone else's variety. The latest in
genetic analysis by Costantini, Monaco, Vouillamoz, Forlani, and Grando (2005) confirms that the two grape varieties are different, and that Caprettone is closely related to Ginestra (a white grape) and
Piedirosso (a red variety). still, the century-old habit of refering to Caprettone as a local Vesuvian "Coda di Volpe persists and many people making wine on and around the volcano will tell you that the grape they use is Caprettone, or Coda di Volpe."
For what it's worth, Caprettone looks very diferent from Coda di Volpe Bianca to me. The nanes
themselves would seem to point this out: Coda di Volpe Bianca is so called for its opulent cluster, which resembles the bushy tail of a fox, while Caprettone, a much scrawnier cultivar, is named after the small "beard' of goats (or perhaps because the frst to farm Caprettone where local goat herders). Caprettone's berries are also smaller than those of Coda di Volpe Bianca, though I have been shown supposed Caprettone bunches that were so big and round they seemed to have more in common with fat turkeys than true Caprettone. These phenotypic differences were once thought to be the result of local terroir diversity-the poorer volcanic soils where Caprettone grows were believed to play a role in causing scrawny bunches and small berries.
Interestingly, while Antonio Mastroberadino has told me in the past that he is not convinced there is much difference between Coda di Volpe Bianca and Caprettone, the majority of
Campanian wine producers and winemalkers I have talked to are. In fact, it's more than likely that the
majority of growers on the volcano own Caprettone, but many took to calling their grapes Coda di Volpe Bianca, as the latter is a better-known and hence better-selling grape. Nevertheless, I think Caprettone is a very interesting variety and its wines potentially exciting. Chances are high that we shall hear a lot
more about it in the future.
Currently, Caprettone is typically grown on volcanic soils, which might explain the wine's bubbly personality. Vineyards are mainly located on the slopes f fifteen towns near-
and even on-the Vesuvius volcano (especially the southeastern slope, where soils are more fertile than
in the almost barren northern sector). Look for vineyards around Boscotrecase, Trecase, San Sebastiano al Vesuvio, Torre del Greco, Terzigno, Sant'Anastasia, Somma Vesuviana, and Viuli. It is also grown on the Monte Somma, a lower portion of the ancient volcano, where the colorful landscape of black lava, brownish tufa, red pomodorini del piennolo, and green trees loaded with orange apricots of a local, high-quality biotype makes a beautiful sight."
A journey that has its roots in 800
Beginning with their ancestor’s erience in the nineteenth century… the story continues and comes to life with Grandmother Benigna as a young woman determined not to follow the country life lived by her parents, but who, during WWII, rediscovered her passion for nature and for the cultivation of grapevines. Everything began with the management of the property “moggio” where Grandmother conserved all the ungrafted native vine varieties, and many other varieties of fruit and vegetables, today company treasures. Paolo Sorrentino and his wife Angela inherited the family assets and with a lot of love for the production of Vesuvian wines, fruit and vegetable cultivations, they recovered all the varieties conserved by their ancestors. They began an expansion of the wine department in the ’90s undertaking enotourism by opening their doors to tourists and wine lovers, allowing them to taste the history of the territory and its fruits. «’a terr adda mangià comm ‘e figl nuost» – Nonna Benigna "The land has to be fed just as your own child"
Go and spread the quality of a legendary wine
Ancient roots play an important role in the philosophy of the Sorrentino company but this does not prevent the Company’s ability to experiment with new projects and introduce innovations. Aglianico Pompeiano, known also as Don Paolo, is an example of rare wine balance between meticulous care in the cultivation of vines and impeccable work in the cellar. The complementary application of traditional winemaking techniques and of more modern and experimental techniques, makes the Sorrentino Company one of the most active and vibrant wineries involved in the search for the best wine quality. The manual grape harvest in vented crates,the loving care towards the plants, the silence in which the aging process takes place in the barrels are all ancient wisdom gestures that belong to centuries past. The destemmer, filtering and re-assembly technologies, the scientific viticulture treatments, the Sorrentino laboratory enological work are the natural evolution of a passion that anticipates the times and that makes best use of the most advanced techniques of winemaking.
Paolo Sorrentino, his wife and his children have received as a gift from the past the same devotion to the land and the family vineyards, and similar passion for the magical art of Wine Making. Like a genetic legacy, the ancient wisdom has been passed on for generations, linking the Sorrentino name to prestigious quality Vesuvian wines. For some years now, new exciting chapters have seen the light of day on the slopes of the Vesuvius: for the Sorrentino company the time has arrived for awards and national recognitions, from the appreciation of European and overseas markets and the challenge of the most advanced wine-making techniques undertaken by the latest generation.
After a beautiful visit through the vineyards under the July hot sun, we enjoyed a beautiful lunch and a wine tasting of their major wines.
I added few of their wines to my collection, so watch for my tasting notes on this site... soon. I purchased a special edition of Don Paolo an opulent red wine made from the Aglianico grape. Sooner or later i will open that bottle .... and enjoy it; after all my name is Paolo and you have to do these crazy purchases when your name is involved .... especially with wines. To the next one