Vinnie and I were in Campania, near its capital, Naples, and we were in search of a special wine, Greco di Tufo or Greek of Tufo. Tufo because that is the name of the town in whose area this wine is produced but why Greek? Well, if you go to the origins of the name Naples you will find a clue. Naples is a contraction of two words Nea and Polis which is Greek for new city. Yes, the Greeks were here before the Romans and they brought the vines with them, although it must be said it was hardly an original name for their new colony and given that it was founded over 2,500 years ago it can no longer be considered new.
This white wine is produced high up in the mountains behind the city and we went to the Cantina Bambinuto in Santa Paolina where we met the owner, Marilena, a qualified sommelier. Marilena explained the history of the grape and of the vineyard. Marilena’s father inherited the land from his family and he planted the vines. Her father initially sold his grapes to one of the large concerns in the area rather than producing his own wine.
However, Marilena eventually persuaded her father to go down a different route and from 2006 they started producing their own wines. Marilena gave up her career as a lawyer to concentrate on the vineyard which she now runs with her husband. The cantina produces around 25,000 bottles a year from seven hectares. She has also concentrated the business on the indigenous grape, the Greco. From this grape they produce a sparkling wine and also a passito. The passito is made by letting the harvested grapes dry on trays for six months before fermenting them. The resulting wine is then matured for four years in a barrique. However, we were here for the two Greco di Tufo DOCG wines they produce.
The first was a classic Greco di Tufo from 2018. The grapes come from one of the cantina’s two vineyards, this one at 450m above sea level. This wine is fermented in steel and spends 12 months on the lees before being bottled with no malolactic fermentation, Pale straw in colour with a bouquet of clementines in the mouth, there is strong acidity with a taste of lime. It has more body than many white wines due to the time spent on the lees and this makes it more versatile in the foods that it can be paired with. It will obviously go well with fish but I think particularly with spaghetti alle vongole.
The second wine we sampled was Greco di Tufo Picoli 2018. As with the preceding wine this is fermented in steel and spends 12 months on the lees before being bottled. The difference here is that the grapes come from a vineyard much higher up at 600m. The colour is straw with hints of gold but the contrast with the first wine is immediately apparent on the nose where the bouquet is big with lemon, peach, and elderflower. On the palate there is a fruit concentration and the bitter almond note which is distinctly Italian. Marilena recommends pairing it with salmon or baccalà.
On the outside of Cantina Bambinuto are painted the words il vino è il specchio della mente, wine is the mirror of the mind, and clearly Marilena has been thinking a lot about her wine. It is fashionable here in Italy to produce very light and crisp white wines that have an almost ephemeral quality about them in their lightness, so it is refreshing to find someone who is prepared to take a different view and to produce a white wine with structure and body. These are wines definitely worth seeking out and when you find one and open it, spend a moment to look at the cork. Made from a single piece of the finest cork rather than the cheaper agglomerated corks which are made of pieces bound together under pressure – this is the attention to detail of someone who truly cares. Raise your glass to Marilena and be grateful that in this global world there are people like her who really do care.
www.cantinabambinuto.com (the site is under construction but you can obtain information regarding their wines). Alternatively, you cam follow them on Instagram @bambinuto or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cantina.bambinuto/