Nothing sells a wine quite as well as a memorable backstory. In this five-part series, Jacopo Mazzeo explores wine styles with impressive tales to tell
In classic Greco-Roman culture, myth and wine are key elements of everyday life – and grapes of Greek origin still grow in a large volcanic area to the north west of Naples called Campi Flegrei. Literally translated as ‘flaming fields’, the Greeks believed that Lake Avernus, which fills one of the craters, was the entrance to the underworld.
This comes as no surprise. The area contains several steaming fumaroles, craters and thermal springs. As soon as the steam obstructs the idyllic view over the bay, the surrounding environment looks pretty much like a stereotypical depiction of hell.
Thanks to the area’s volcanic soil, phylloxera grape pests have never affected the vines, which keep growing ungrafted. Centenary vines still climb up traditional training posts called falangi, which is how the local Falanghina grape variety got its name.
In Roman times, Falanghina grown on Naples’ volcanoes was used to make the famous Falernian, a wine as highly priced then as top Bordeaux is today.
Campi Flegrei white tends to be full-bodied, with white stone-fruit and floral notes and a hint of salinity. Spaghetti with clams and Campi Flegrei white is a match made in heaven.
Campi Flegrei red can be made with a blend of Aglianico and Piedirosso. However, the best examples – those that really make this small appellation worth looking for – are made with Piedirosso only, known locally as Per’ e Palummo. With crisp red-berry and fl oral notes and a distinctive minerality, Piedirosso is best paired with a classic Mediterranean seafood soup.
Cantine Farro, Campi Flegrei Piedirosso 2017
Made with ungrafted Piedirosso grapes, the focus in this unoaked wine is on purity of fruit. The nose is complex, with aromas of red cherry, black pepper, liquorice, garrigue, raspberry and rose petals. A balanced, full-bodied palate follows, with well-integrated tannins and a long finish.
£10.74, The General Wine Company