Category Archives: Asprinio d’Aversa

On Wine, Pizza and the Princess in Naples

 

In February, I received an invitation from an acquaintance to try a new restaurant in New York. But since I was in Naples, Italy, I responded that I could not attend. “In that case,” came the reply, “you must visit the Pizzeria Concettina ai Tre Santi. My mother, the princess, owns the building and lives upstairs.” It sounded like a great invitation but unfortunately my schedule was set and we were leaving Naples shortly so I had to decline.

I had an appointment to meet with winery owners Gilda Guida and her husband Salvatore Martusciello.

I met Gilda last year on the Campania Stories tour for journalists.

Gilda Guida

At the Pizzeria Parule in Ercolano I drank the best Gragnano, which I consider the perfect pizza wine, that I have had. Gilda told me it was her and her husbands’ wine.  Salvatore had 26 years of experience in his family winery before going out on his own. His family’s was the first winery to produce sparkling wine in Campania over 30 years ago.  Their winery is in Quarto. We had a long conversation about wine and pizza and she had invited me to visit.

Salvatore in the Vineyard

Gilda and Salvatore picked us up in front of our hotel and drove us to see one of their vineyards located on a high hill in Gragnano with great views.

Salvatore said the training system is the spalliera. He said he does not own any vineyards but has arrangements with a number of small vineyard owners in the area. All of the arrangements are based on a handshake, he said. Salvatore showed us around the vineyard pointing out where the different grapes were grown. He spoke very enthusiastically about the terroir, the native grapes and this part of Campania in particular.

After we visited the vineyard, Gilda and Salvatore suggested we go for pizza to what they consider the best pizzeria in Naples right now. To my surprise, it was Concettina ai Tre Santi (S.Antonio, S.Anna and S. Alfonso) the same place my New York contact had recommended. I could not believe the coincidence! We called the Principessa who graciously came down to meet us and took us on a tour of her grand apartments.

Ciro  at the Wood Burning Oven

At the restaurant, we met the pizzaiolo/owner Ciro Oliva who is only 24 years old. The pizzeria is not in the best part of Naples,Via Arena della Sanità 7, but Ciro has become famous because of his great pizza and his charity work for the children and needy people in his neighborhood. The place is always crowded.

Ciro brought out a succession of fritti, fried appetizers, including little fried pizzette with different toppings,

little rice balls filled with cabbage and cheese, fried pasta and fried polenta. With them we drank Salvatore’s Trentapioli Spumante Brut Asprinino d’Aversa. It was an excellent combination.

“Trentapioli “Spumante Brut Asprinino d’Aversa 2015 (Metodo Martinotti Brut) Made from 100% Asprinio d’Aversa from the tree-lined historic vineyard in the town of Casapesenna, in the Agro Aversano. The name of the wine Trentapioli comes from the thirty pegs of the ladder used to climb up to harvest the grapes

The vines are typical Alberata Aversana. In the Alberata training system, which dates back to the Etruscans, the vines grow up to 18 meters tall and are tied to tall poplar trees. The harvest is manual because ladders up to 20 meters high are used in order to reach the grapes.  The grapes are placed in 18kg boxes. The soil is alluvial, volcanic and of medium texture. After crushing, the must is immediately separated from the skins and placed in an autoclave for a second fermentation. The wine is matured on its lees in an autoclave for about 90 days and was bottled on December 3. The wine has nice citrus fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of lime, herbs and good acidity. The wine can age for 5 to 6 years.

Then Ciro made a number of pizzas for us to share using local cheeses, vegetables and meats.

With the pizza we drank Salvatore and Gilda’s Ottouve Gragnano della Penisola Sorrentino 2015. This is a slightly frizzante red wine which Salvatore likes to describe as vivace (lively). It was good as I remember it from last year.

Ottouve Gragnano della Penisola Sorrentina DOC Made from 60% Piedrosso, Aglianico, Sciascinoso and 40%, Suppezza, Castagnara, Serbegna, Olivella and Sauca. That is why the wine is called eight grapes. Salvatore said it was a tribute to the lesser known grapes of the area. The training system is espalier.

The vineyard is at 300 meters. For 2015 the harvest began on September 24th and ended on October 8th. The grapes were hand harvested into boxes of 20kg. After destemming and crushing, maceration with the skins lasts for 5 days, soft pressing of the grapes in a pneumatic press  and fermentation in temperature controlled tanks at about 20C

The 2015 vintage was bottled on December 1st. The wine should be served chilled and should be drunk within two years after it was bottled. This is the perfect pizza wine but it also goes with many other southern Italian dishes. It is only 11.5% alcohol. This is a  wine with light foam when poured, hints of strawberry, red currants and a hint of spice.

 Salvatore also produces :

Settevulcani Falanghina dei Campi Flegrei DOC

Settevulcani Piedirosso dei Campo Flegrei DOC

Ottonove Lettere della Penisola Sorrentina DOC

 After having a very enjoyable time, making new friends, sightseeing, eating pizza and drinking wine, we did not have enough time to taste these wines.  I guess I will just have to return again.  But Salvatore and Gilda had one more surprise for us. They took us to visit their vineyard in the Campi Flegrei called Foglie di Amaltea.  It overlooks a large volcanic lake though they do not currently produce grapes there.

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Filed under Asprinio d'Aversa, Cantina Salvatore Martusiello, Ciro Oliva, Concettina ai Tre Santi, Gragnano, Gragnano OttoUve, Otto Uva

Surprising White Grapes From Campania

I have always been of the opinion that the most interesting and unique white wine grapes in Southern Italy come from Campania.  Some of these grapes (Asprinio) make wines that should be drunk young, while others make wine (Fiano di Avellino) that can last for 20 years of more.

Many of these grapes originated with the Ancient Greeks who colonized Southern Italy during the period known as Magna Grecia. They referred to Southern Italy as Enotria – the land of wines.  In his book, Vino,(1980) Burton Anderson says, “What the Greeks called Entoria, at least in the beginning, was part of the Salento Peninsula where the Enotri people dwelled… the Greeks noted that their native vines fared so well in Southern Italy that they referred to their colonies collectively as Enotria.”

Grilled Baby Octopus

Grilled Baby Octopus

I was asked by Franco Bengazi of the Wine Emporium to invite a few journalists to a tasting of his wines from Campania. The tasting and lunch was held at SD26 and the menu was based on the food of Campania. The speaker was Marco Melzi, a representative of the Wine Emporium, whose passion for Italian wine is matched by his knowledge of the subject.  Here are the four white wines that were served.

Az. Agr. I Borboni Asprinio Spumante NV. 100% Asprinio d’Aversa. $20  Produced in the Aversa and Giuliano zones from sandy soil mostly of IMG_2646volcanic origin where philloxyera could not survive. The vineyards are at 80 meters. Hand harvesting takes place the first week of September and temperature controlled fermentation lasts for 15 days.  Aged in stainless steel for 4 months. The foam stability time is 60 days in an autoclave (Charmat method). It remains in the bottle for 30 days before release. This is a sparkling wine with good bubbles nice citrus aromas and flavors, a hint of lemon and a slight touch of bitter almond in the aftertaste. It was almost impossible to find Asprinio in this county 10 years ago.  Today it is not impossible just difficult but worth the effort.  It is a good food wine.  There is also a non-sparkling version of Asprinio.

Asprinio is a grape whose origin in unknown but it is grown almost exclusively in the area around the town of Aversa in the province of Caserta north of Naples.  There are only 250 acres under cultivation. The name may come from the Latin asper (tart, bitter) and it can have a sharp lemon tinge to it and a slightly bitter aftertaste. The training system for the vines is know as Alberata Aversana, which may be traced back to the ancient Etruscans. In this method the vines can climb to a height of 15 to 20 feet or more attaching itself to nearby trees. One plant could produce over 200 pounds of fruit. Today only about one half of the growers use the Aberata Aversana method.
There is also a non-sparkling version of Asprinio that is also very good.

Marco said that this was the original sparkler of the King of Naples, born out of a desire to be no less than their French relatives. It was the wine of choice in Naples until the 1950’s.

Burton Anderson in his book Vino says the following about Asprinio (Asprino), “The habitual wine of the city (Naples) used to be Asprino. The vines were supposedly brought from Champagne during one of the French dominations. By the 1980’s good Asprinio was difficult to find even in Naples.” He also says that Asprinio is or was then grown in Basilicata. “ … in fact all of the Asprino of Basilicata winds up in Naples.”

Linguine di Gragnano with Clans, Grape Tomatoes and Parsley

Linguine di Gragnano with Clans, Grape Tomatoes and Parsley

Az.Agr. Apicella Costa Di Amalfi Bianco 2011. $17
Made from 60% Bianca Zita and 40% Biancolella in Tramonti. The exposure of the vineyard is mostly southwest and they are at 300-400 meters. The training system for the newer vineyards is the espalier/guyot with 4,000 – 5,000 vines/hectare.  For the older vineyards it is the traditional pergola (tendone method) with 2,500 vines per/hectare.  Harvesting is by hand the second half of October with a careful selection. The must is left to settle by a static cold system and selected yeast is injected into the must. Temperature controlled fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for 20/30 days. The wine remains on the lees 4/5 months.  The wine had a deep yellow straw color with nice fruit, hints of honey and oil, good acidity, slightly bitter with a long after taste. This is an old style wine, which can go with seafood in a tomato sauce and works well with salami and cheeses. I really enjoyed it.  Marco said they were the first winery to bottle wine in Tramonti.

Biancolella as know as Bianca Tenera because of its thin skin.  It is best known as a grape used in wines produced on the Island of Ischia. It grows best in volcanic soil alone the maritime coast. It is grown along the coast north and south of the city of Naples. It is mostly used as a blending grape.

Marco said that Bianca Zita was a local name for Falanghina. IMG_2650

Az Agr. Orazio Rillo “Fontanavecchia” Falanghina Taburno 2011. $16  Made from 100% Falanghina in the Benevento region of Campania.  The grapes are hand picked and put into little baskets. Temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel and the wine is aged in stainless steel.

Nichols Belfrage in his book, Brunello to Zibibbo,(1999) states “This grape (Falanghina), which some have suggested may be of Greek origin, and which some have tentatively indentified as the grape from which Roman Falernian was made, has been know as Falanghina only since the 19th century. (A falanga… is a type of wooden stake used for supporting a vine; the suffix –ina makes it a small wooden stake.) The grape Falanghina is a late-ripener which requires well exposed, sunny slopes and not-too-excessive production to shine, but when it does so it shines brightly, making a wine of good extract and flavor, with a firm acidic backbone enabling it to resist the passage of time in the bottle. It is a grape of real interest deserving wider national and international attention.”

Falanghina today is very popular in Rome and more and more good examples are coming into this country. IMG_2648

Cantina Dei Monaci Fiano Di Avellino 2011 100% Fiano di Avellino. $18 Fermentation and aging is in stainless steel. Fiano has small thick-skinned berries. This is a complex wine with overtones of honey and hazelnut and floral hints.
I quote again from Belfrage, “Fiano is either a native grape of Campania or a member of a family of grapes called Apianes brought to southern Italy from the Peloponesse, once called Apia. … it is mentioned specifically by Pliny in his Naturalis Historia… the bees give Fiano its name, because of their desire (for it). Pliny’s etymology has since been challenged…that it is not bees (apes), but wasps that are attracted to the sweet grapes, and it is claimed that the name really derives from appiano, a type of apple, or Apia, once a place name in the province of Avelliano now called Lapia.”

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Filed under Asprinio d'Aversa, Biancolella, campania, Costa Di Amalfi, Falanghina, Fiano di Avellino, Italian Red Wine, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Sparkling wine, Spumante