CAMPANIAN SOJOURN, PART 2:
ANFORA AND A GENUINE TASTE OF THE LAND
(from our recent visit: the vessels!)
Having spent the better part of a week in Campania this past May, we come away in awe of the remarkable diversity of terroir and grapes there along with a rising quality of winemaking. Improvements in Campanian winemaking have been dramatic since our first visit there some twenty years ago. As an example, back around then, we were among only five Americans to have ever visited the now truly renowned Fattoria Galardi (aka "Terra di Lavoro") in Campania's Roccamonfina zone. The world class quality of that wine left us near speechless to p0nder the awe-inspiring potential of that then largely undiscovered region. All these years later, most tasters who can afford that wine ($100 per bottle +/-) are in the same boat knowing it's an awesome taste experience.
(diana and mario with their raw material)
Yes, there were some other good wines then too, but it was more Taurasi for red, and generic grape names for whites, such as Fiano and Greco. A notion of place and terroir had yet to emerge as part of the normal vocabulary for these wines then, at least in the USA. How the times have changed!
We're pretty thrilled to have carefully explored Campania for ourselves. We at E&R are honored to present owners/winemakers Diana and Mario's brand new "I Cacciagalli" wines- making their Oregon premiere in partnership with our great local importer via our own "almost direct imports" program.
The hallmark of these wines is pristine clarity and purity...
CASERTA AND THAT OLD VOLCANO
(i cacciagalli is at top left near "sessa aurunca")
Early Roman Kings called the area "campania felix"- the fertile countryside, and indeed it is. The Campanian fertile countryside soil provides prolific farming potential; indeed making wine has been ongoing there for eons. A criss-cross of any twenty miles in the region quickly exposes you to this reality: Campania is wildly diverse and of formidable potential. These days it feels artisanal wine production is at the start of a true golden age.
Though their prices are only a fraction, I Cacciagalli's wines hail from Caserta's Terra di Lavoro region- the very same zone as Fattoria Galardi in northwest Campania. The extinct (so they think) volcano of Roccamonfina and its wide influence on the soil over the millennia dominates the wines of the zone in sharing its unique character with a lovely aspect impacting the I Cacciagalli wines. You cannot make wines like these anywhere else we know of. The local terroir of I Cacciagalli's geology is the key factor separating these wines from of all of the rest of Campania's wines using the same grapes- Falanghina, Piedirosso, Pallagrello Nero and Aglianico.
(i cacciagalli's home vineyard, may 2015)
FILOSOFIA DI TERRENO
"the wine tells the way, not the man"
-mario, may 2015
It's virtually a given: the most exquisite wines we know are always "ground grounded"; that is, the greatest potential any self-respecting grape bound for vinous glory can hope for begins with the land and the care of its vines. Then there's the people; those who work the land. Some levels of connectivity to the land go far deeper than others...
Diana Innaccone's farm and land roots go way back- she is quite literally well-grounded, as her father and grandfather and great grandfather and so on, have each lived and farmed the very land she and Mario harvest grapes from today. As she explained to me, the I Cacciagalli name goes back to pre-1600 when their farm was so named from historical local maps indicating an infamous "rooster battle" took place there where no doubt many feathers flew. She well remembers seemingly always being in the fields and spending time there with her father and grandfather- "I used to go to there with him my papa"- and of playing greengrocer with her brothers "and collecting the tomatoes, aubergines and courgettes and pretending to sell them." It's a good bet her very real and palpable connectivity to her place IS translated to the wines she makes. Quality, character and individuality are infrequently produced by chance.
While they have about 25 acres, only six are vineyard land, thus production is carefully managed and output is small. Diana and Marco love their land, vines and wine. They treat all the related elements of their wines with respect- as if family. Their literally hand-crafted production from red-hued soils, places the highest importance in organic farming and bio-dynamic practices. For example, they do not filter their wines. Most of their wines are made in terracotta ("anfora"- their spelling) to allow each wine to breathe, and to not be subjected to- as they describe- the toughness of stainless steel and the difficulty they face in breathing in wooden vessels. These conclusions come from Diana and Mario's personally tried wine making there over previous vintages. (I agree. I've tasted the wines prior to their introduction to anfora and to my taste, these are steps up in very enjoyable ways.) As Mario told me back in May in his cellar "anfora allows for less tannic wines, they can relax more in the terracotta than in wood or inside steel, it is less aggressive and we can keep the juice on the skins longer- drawing out more complexity, and we get no reduction."
EXPECTATIONS & TASTE
If you've been following us at E&R for a while, you know for wines we want to drink, we personally value purity, expression, individuality and finesse. Usually, well made wines not influenced by elements outside the regular processes of great farming (anyone can grow crappy tomatoes: try growing a perfect one) and minimal intervention in the cellar- flat out taste better to us, while also providing more drinking enjoyment.
Within the popularity machine of wine ratings, comparative tastings or quick sips without reflection (not criticizing that), our personally preferred wines perhaps fall a notch by that wayside and those barometers. At the same time, if one is spending even a little time in really tasting, the rewards are like reading a great book, or not just passing by that Renoir on the terrace.
The I Cacciagalli wines premiered here via E&R's search missions in Italy, and our "almost direct imports" efforts, are lovely, true wines offering exceptional value in price.
We have found that every one of these four wines need time "open" before drinking them. This helps bring out their best qualities. (We think you will find there are many.) Each of these wines were better: more fleshy, more flavorful, more complete, on the second day than the first. We suggest- no urge- that you open your bottles in the morning to serve in the evening, or if that is not possible, decant them for 3-5 hours. Not to worry, they are lovely when you open them, but they are in full bloom after some time having escaped from their bottles. Think of it like chocolate chip cookie dough, pretty good before baking...
THE FOUR NEW AND
THOUGHT PROVOKING WINES
(Those able to reserve our pre-arrival of wonderful incoming Campanian wines of San Giovanni note: the wines below are so different, even though the same region, they may as well be from another universe.)
LET US GO THEN, YOU AND I:
(the way down and the way up)
I Cacciagalli 2014 Falanghina
Roccamonfina IGT "Aorivola"
Distinct, yet understated; a 100% Falanghina singing out purity without concession to taking on some other identity than its own. Here they've captured the grape and the ground only. Their organic farming and careful attention to the vines wholly nourished by the volcanic soil is a hallmark. Do not look here for heft or an intentional weighty cloak, but instead prepare to enjoy the simple refined nature of Falanghina at its purest best. Eucalyptus and licorice with finesse in spades- a bit like Chablis but not like Chablis, not as floral or darker-colored as some we've tasted. It's a touch reminiscent of the Zimmerman line "I say I’m not loving you for what you are, but for what you’re not". $21.50
I Cacciagalli 2012 Piedirosso
Roccamonfina IGT "Lucno" (Anfora. 12.5%)
(in the cellar)
I Cacciagalli 2013 Pallagrello Nero
Roccamonfina IGT "Sphaeranera" (Anfora. 12.5%)
Yes, Pallagrello Nero! And made in "anfora" too. The "Sphaeranera" (in Italian, a pun on the black color of the Pallagrello grape and at the same time a bowl as in a cone of a volcano) has as close to irresistible a scent coming from a wine glass after 36 hours as any we've come across. Can we say there ain't nothing like it except maybe the $100 Terra di Lavoro (though that contains some Piedirosso)? The Pallagrello's- there are two, one red and one white- are two of the most secret grapes in Italy. Indeed, they are hardly mentioned, even in the most authoritative books until after 2003. Why? Just forgotten it seems. Now the red is on a roll big time having won many awards and upended many an Agliancio, and when you check this one out, you will know why. This wine is a wild ride in the best and most fun kinds of ways- it evolves and changes and then evolves some more. You can taste this evolution over the course of at least three days, it's pretty amazing stuff. You may find, beyond its richness and verve, some charcoal tint, or fresh cut roses, and some earth and smoke- it comes with a dense finish and lingers on the palate for a long time, but it is not stressed or harsh: if chalk were black it would smell like this. $30.00
I Cacciagalli 2013 Aglianico
Roccamonfina IGT "Phos" (Anfora. 12.5%)
When our importing partner tasted this wine a while back, he liked it very much, noting it does not taste like most of the Aglianico he is familiar with. He's right, it is not. By comparison I Cacciagalli's 2013 "Phos" Aglianico comes across with more freshness while being less aggressive (but still with great power) and possesses a unique Burgundian finesse- some from the soil and some from the farming and production by Dianna and Mario. At the same time it offers a touch of a Loire Valley Cabernet Franc with a sort of dusty stone edge that beguiles. As this chewy wine developed in the glass we noted licorice and black plum scents within its vibrant freshness. The grapes are harvested by hand from the volcanic soils, the wine is unfiltered and is aged in anfora for a little more than half a year. Like all three wines above, Phos needs to be opened many hours ahead to allow its true nature and rebel soul to share itself with you. (The word "Phos" ties in to the Bible suggesting light as in revelation, as well as encounters with truth.) $30.00
The wines are in stock.
Supply is meager.
Wines are great!
A mixed six prices:
White- $18.75 (a steal)
A mixed case prices:
Orders with billing info via this email
or at 503.246.6101.