The Wines of Michele Alois at IL Gattopardo

I was invited on a press trip a few years ago by Campania Stories to Benevento.  As part of the program I was able to select the wineries I wanted to visit. One of the wineries I chose was the Michele Alois Winery as I have always enjoyed their wines. I had a very nice time at the winery and I was invited to come back. A few years ago, I was in Naples and contacted Massimo Alois.  He invited me to visit the winery again.  On the way to the winery we stopped in Caserta to pick up his son Gianfrancesco and a friend who were at basketball practice. I was surprised to learn that Basketball is the #1 sport in Caserta. At the winery we had a fantastic lunch prepared by Talita de Rosa,  Massimo’s wife, which I wrote about in a previous blog.

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Massimo Alois and his son Gianfraneseco

Recently Gianfranco Sorrentino, owner of Il Gattopardo, invited me to his restaurant for a lunch featuring the wines of Michele Alois.  Massimo Alois was there to speak about the wines. It was the perfect combination, Alois wine and the food of IL Gattopardo prepared by Chef Vito Gnazzzo.  When I arrived, Massimo greeted me and introduced me once again to his son Gianfrancesco.

Massimo spoke about his family’s involvement in the silk business going back several centuries to the era of the Bourbon rulers when Naples was a part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. They supplied silks to the crowned heads of Europe as well as many noble families. Examples of their work can be found in the Louvre Museum and even in the White House. The factory is now a museum which I have visited with Massimo.

In the early 1990’s  Michele Alois, Massimo’s father, decided to go in a new direction by opening a winery with 9 hectares of vines in the foothills of the Caiatini in the province of Caserta. Michele wanted to restore forgotten varietals and produce wine from them.

The wines

IMG_7454Pallagrello Bianco “Caiati” 2021 (Campania) Alois 100% Pallagrello Bianco from a 2.13 hectare vineyard at 280 meters with 13 year old vines. The soil is volcanic with minerals. The training system is guyot, there are 4,800 plants per hectare and the harvest is in the middle of September. Fermentation takes place on the lees for 30 days. Malolactic fermentation is in stainless steel at a controlled temperature. The wine remains in the bottle for 4 months before release. The wine has hints of almonds, citrus fruit, melon and grapefruit with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste.

IMG_7421Assortment of appetizers  

Massimo said the name Pallagrello derives from “u Pallarell,” local dialect for “small ball” because of the grape’s tiny round shape. Its shape distinguishes the grape cluster. It is a vigorous varietal, producing grapes with high sugar content. Native to the hills around the Campania town of Caiazzo, it may be related to the ancient Roman varietal “Pilleolata” mentioned by Pliny the Elder (d.79 AD) in his Historia Naturalis. The wine was the favorite of the Bourbons when they ruled in Naples. It has now become a favorite of mine. 

IMG_7422Parmigiana di Zucchine con scamorza e salsa al pomodoro

IMG_7424Terra del Volturno Pallagrello Bianco IGT “Marrone” 2018 Alois (Campania).  Made from 100% Pallagrello Bianco from the 15 year old Morrone della Monica 2.13 hectare vineyard at 350 meters in Pontelatone. The exposure is east/west and the soil is limestone. There are 5,200 plants per hectare and the training system is guyot.  Harvest takes place in early September.  Two-thirds of the wine is vinified in stainless steel at a controlled temperature for one month and one-third of the wine is on the lees in neutral oak for nine months. The wine remains in the bottle for 12 months before release. This is a full bodied intense wine with hints of citrus fruit, melon, a touch of chamomile  and a note of apricot. This is the second time I had this wine. The first time was at Trattoria San Ferdinando in Naples.  I was very impressed with this wine then and I was just as impressed this time.

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Cavatelli di grano Senatore Cappelli ai frutta di mare — Handmade pasta from the prized Senator Cappelli flour with a light tomato and seafood sauce.

IMG_7425Campania IGT Falanghina “Caulino” Alois 2021. Made from 100% Falangina from a 4 hectare plot at 500 meters with 30 year old vines. The soil is organic and the training system is guyot. There are 5,200 vines per hectare. Harvest takes place at the end of September. Fermentation is on the lees for 30 days. Malolactic  ermentation takes place in stainless steel. The wine remains  in the bottle for 3 months before release. The wine has hints of yellow peach, apricot, a touch of lemon and a note of bitter almonds.

IMG_7452Aglianico “Campole” Alois 2018 made from 100% Aglianico from 30 year old vines in volcanic soil at 156 meters.  Harvest is the first week of October. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks with skin contact for 16 days with several rankings. Malolactic fermentation is in large Italian casks. The wine remains  in bottle for 8 months before release. The wine has hints of dark fruit, spice currents.

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Agnello al Forno con padellata di Friariella e patate — Loin lamb chops with broccoli rabe and potatoes
IMG_7453Terre del Volturno IGT Campania Settimo
Alois 2018 Pallagrello and Casavecchia from a 4 hectare vineyard at 500 ft with volcanic soil. There are 5,200 plants per hectare and the soil is volcanic. Harvest takes place the first week of October. Stainless steel vinfication with maceration on the lees for 14 days. Malolactic fermentation is in stainless steel. The wine remains in the bottle for 6 months before release. This is a light bodied red wine with hints of cherry. 

IMG_7451Trebulamum Alois 2015 made from 100% Casavecchia from a 3 hectare vineyard vineyard at 180 meters. The soil is volcanic with minerals, training system is guyot and there are 5,200 plants per hectare. Harvest is in the first weeks of October. Vinification is in stainless steel tanks with maceration on the skins for 10 days. Malolactic fermentation in Italian botti 25HL for 18 months then 24 months in bottle before release. This is a big wine with hints of licorice, tar and smoke, a very long finish and a pleasing aftertaste.

The Casavecchia grape variety is of unknown origin. There is a legend that a small old grape vine was in an abandoned house in the town of Pontelatore, hence the name “Casavecchia”. Massimo said the vine survived phylloxera, and the parasite fungus of Oidio in 1851. Others say that it is related to the ancient Roman varietal “Terbulanum,” praised by Pliny.

Massimo said that the propagation started with the cutting and then setting small branches, and the provine, an ancient method that places the vine branch in the soil until it develops its own roots.

IMG_7436Un piccolo Baba al Rhum — Rum flavored baba’, a Neapolitan clasic

I was a wonderful lunch with the wines of Alois and the food of Il Gattopardo-it was just like being in Napoli.

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