In our search for Greco di Tufo, a local DOCG wine, Vinnie and I found ourselves in the mountains behind Naples. Naples was the capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy by Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1860. Okay, I know there is only one Sicily but originally the whole of southern Italy was known as the Kingdom of Sicily. Inevitably, the island revolted during the War of the Sicilian Vespers at the beginning of the 14th century, became independent, and there were two Sicilies – with me so far? Hence, when the two kingdoms were eventually reunited we were left with the Kingdom of Two Sicilies; simple isn’t it? Vinnie looked far from convinced but we let it pass as we are climbing high up into the mountains along some narrow roads to find a very old winery called Benito Ferrara.
So the year 1860 is very important to Italian history – this was the year that Garibaldi and his redshirts landed near Marsala in Sicily and started the formation of modern Italy. It was also the year that this winery was founded when Nunziante Ferrara, a judge in Avellino, planted the first vineyards. As befits a judge, he kept very detailed records of the activities of the cantina, including transporting the wines by donkey to the town of Tufo where the wines were sold to private clients and hostelries.
We met Gabriella, Nunziante’s great-granddaughter, who showed us the vineyard and cellar. It was her father, Benito, who moved the business forward from just producing grapes to again making their own wine. Today they have 20 hectares of vines from which they produce around 55,000 bottles of wine per year. Their vineyards are between 450 to 600m above sea level. If that seems a wide range, it is an indication of how steep the land is here. Their range includes both red and white wines but we are here for the indigenous Greco di Tufo and Gabriella makes two versions of this wine.
The first that we tasted is called Terra d’Uva or ‘Land of the Grape’ from 2018. This wine has spent seven months in steel on the lees and has a rich straw colour with hints of green. The bouquet is full, with almonds predominating and lemons in the background. On the palate it is rich and buttery with low acidity and the mild taste of Amalfi lemons. Enjoy it with a firm fish like swordfish or white meat or perhaps fresh cheese.
The second we sampled was called Vigna Cicogna named after the vineyard that the grapes were harvested from and was from 2019. It too has spent seven months in steel on the lees. It has a pale straw colour with elderflower and lemon on the nose. In the mouth there is lemon with a good acidity and a saltiness that almost seems like a fizz on the tongue. The grapes for this wine come from vines that are decades old and somehow this imparts an ability to age for this wine. Normally white wines are drunk young but this wine is perfectly drinkable up to ten years and beyond.
The cantina does not offer tasting facilities but do look out for their wines at your local wine merchant or via online merchants.