I just returned from a ten day wine adventure Italy, traveling with the amazing team from Oliver McCrum, a local importer of Italian wines. With a focus on volcanic soil, we made our way through the vineyards of Sicily and Southern Italy; I was amazed how varied the soils were from Sicily to Campania! It was also fascinating to learn that all the vines grown in volcanic soils didn’t need to be grafted onto American rootstock, since phylloxera can’t thrive in volcanic ash. I want to share three wineries from my trip, along with some photos. More to come in a future posting!
2010 Villa Dora Vesuvio Bianco-$12.99; 6 or more –> $11.70
Of course Mt. Vesuvius is infamous for that day in 79 AD when it violently erupted, destroying (yet preserving) the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. What it may be less known for is wine production! Villa Dora is literally located on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius, inside what is now a state park. The soil here is of course volcanic, and the small black rocks resemble Grape-Nuts! This black volcanic soil gives Villa Dora’s reds a light smoky quality and their white an aroma of struck flint. This Bianco bottling is made from two indigenous varietals, Coda di Volpe and Falanghina which are fermented and aged in stainless steel. A light, smoky flint quality is followed by aromas of white peach and flavors of herbs, and preserved lemon.
Perfect Pairing: Fresh pasta with olive oil, lemon, and grilled squash
Paolo Cali’s vineyards are extremely unique in that they’re located on very sandy soil in southeastern Sicily. Imagine vines growing on a sandy beach and that’s exactly what Paolo’s vineyards look like. Because sand tends to hold moisture poorly, he has to irrigate to keep his vines healthy. The fact that his vines have to struggle a little to survive and really have to dig deep to root themselves translates into elegant wine with a lighter, floral quality. Paolo’s Mandragola Frappato is from some of his younger Frappato vines and has light aromas of orange peel, rose, and fennel. It’s light in body and maintains great acidity with a soft finish.
Perfect Pairing: Seared scallops over greens and heirloom tomatoes
The Aglianico grape is best known for deep, robust, and heavy reds like those from Taurasi and Monte Vulture. Grifalco is located in Basilicata (think of the arch of the boot) near the now extinct volcano Monte Vulture, with vineyards located in now dry riverbeds. The combination of volcanic soils and river rocks creates wines with incredible depth and minerality. The winery is named after the Grifalco bird, an ancient and rare falcon once used for hunting by royals in the area. Their ‘Gricos’ bottling is a lighter style of Aglianico more approachable at a younger age then most others from the region. Aglianico can have a tendency to be bitter, but this bottling has certainly tamed the bitterness and tannins usually associated with this grape. Aromas of dark plums, smoke, and rosemary lead to a mid-weight body with a long, flavorful finish. Perfect for grilled dishes!