Posts Filed Under Italian Wine
Nestled in the sandy clay soils between the Taburno and Matese mountain ranges in Italy’s Campania region, at about 200 meters above sea level, sit a relatively small number thirty year old lost souls.
Well, almost lost souls, anyway.
Specifically, the “esoteric” grape varieties Pallagrello Bianco, Pallagrello Nero and Casavecchia, rescued in part as a passion project of husband and wife team Peppe and Manuela Mancini, the former lawyer and journalist, respectively, that founded Terre del Principe. (which I visited this year as part of a media tour around the Campania Stories event).
That their vineyard is a land of the almost lost (no Sleestaks, of course) is one of the more charming things about a charming couple who are making mostly charming wines.
Peppe Mancini at Terre del Principe
Peppe Mancini, in remembering the Pallagrello wines form his youth, sought out the vines and ended up finding them in this vineyard, which turned out to belong to one of his family members. Until recently, Pallagrello Bianco wasn’t even in the National Register of winemaking grapes. Seemingly, it had fallen out of favor when the Bourbons fell during the unification of Italy (King Ferdinand IV had taken a liking to it), and had never recovered.
Similarly, Casavecchia (taking its name from an “old house” where the vine was found growing in Pontelatone) had been relegated to small-time, rustic production until Mancini helped to spearhead its rediscovery in the 1980s.
Along with cellarmaster Luigi Moio, Peppe makes the wines of Terre del Principe (while Manuela, as she modestly states, “just drinks it.”) in Castel Campagnano tufo cellar that dates back to the 10th century (the well in the 15th Century entrance is now used for lowering French oak barrels into the cellar space), and was likely part of the Longobardo castle’s external warehouses.
Everything about Terre del Principe seems similarly, charmingly small, and modestly adjusted only where absolutely necessary. The vineyards pergola training (a hold-over from the past, to protect the grapes from wild boar) is still in use, though modified slightly to reduce vigor. Production has recently been culled back to 20,000 bottles per year (“It’s higher quality,” notes Manuela, “and less work!”). And the wines, in turn, seem all the better for it…
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One of the more endearingly maddening things about European wine classifications is that they try to lump location, in aspects that are increasingly specific, and “quality,” in ways that are often nebulous.
Over at MyNameIsBarbera.com, I take this dichotomy head-on, in my dime-store-philosphical way (not yet trademarked, but it might as well be at this point). Obviously, the focus of that piece is on the “quality pyramid” as it pertains specifically to Barbera in Asti and the Monferrato area, but the idea that the pyramid is more reflective of stylistic personality rather than core quality (in the I’m-good-therefore-you-are-bad sense) is, I think, something that plagues many of the most well-established wine regions not just in Northern Italy, but in all of Italy; and, arguably, all of Western Europe.
Pour a glass, have a read, and then we can argue in buzzed pseudo-philosophy about it all!
THE PUZZLE OF THE (BARBERA QUALITY) PYRAMID
As a wine-scribe-type-guy, I absolutely despise writing about terroir.
If there is another term (aside from “optimal ripeness“) that is more flippantly overused in the wine business than terroir, I am unaware of it. In fact, its overuse – and the fear that it engenders – is so ingrained in me that I am incapable of typing the word terroir without italicizing it. As if, somehow, calling further attention to my use of it will protect me from the madness surrounding its misuse.
Yeah, good luck with that, right?
I was asked to tackle the concept – in writing – for my Monferrato gig, and, since I am supposedly a professional and all of that, I couldn’t say “no, thanks, I’m good.”
And so I offer you my humble take on what is often the least humble notion in wine; including why I specifically despise writing about it, why I disagree with the common English translation definitions of the word, why the word terroir shouldn’t be used as often as it is, and, fianlly, why I think that Northern Italian Barbera truly has a legitimate claim on its use. Check out the full essay on MyNameIsBarbera.com
MONFERRATO: BARBERA’S SOUL
Today’s theme is… confusion.
Where to start…
Ok, firstly, earlier this year I attended VINO2017 in NYC, the annual exposition of Italian wine, during which dozens of producers pour there wares. And so naturally, I am only going to talk about three of those dozens of producers.
Secondly, my highlights reel includes a sparkling… Gavi.
Thirdly, one of the producers I am about to mention has the word Grillo in the title, but hails not from Sicily in the south, but from Friuli-Venezia Giulia in the north. And they don’t produce a wine made from Grillo.
Oh, and for some of these wines, I don’t have prices or vintages. But I felt compelled to write about them anyway, because of their deliciousness.
See, it’s all perfectly clear, right?
No? Crap. Ok, look, just run with it an get these wines on your jaded little radar already, okay?…
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