Riccardo Gabriele, head of the Italian PR agency PR Comunicare il Vino, represents some of the best wineries in Italy. Stefania Tacconi of his PR agency asked me to participate in a virtual master class with Salvatore Avallone owner of Villa Matilde Avallone winery in Campania. I first visited this winery about 20 years ago and met Salvatore and his sister Maria-Ida Avallone. They are the children of Francesco Paolo Avallone who founded the estate in the early 1960’s. I have always enjoyed their wines and I visited again about five years ago with Campania Stories.
Via Zoom, Salvatore explained that his father had a passion for the ancient grapes of Campania and especially the legendary vinum Falernum the wine described by Pliny the Elder (d. August 79 AD) and other ancient Roman writers. He wanted to find a way to make this ancient wine again. After years of research he was able to locate a handful of vines that survived phylloxera in Monte Massico. He planted them and this became Villa Matilde.
Salvatore said Villa Matilde now has four properties, two within the Falerno del Massico DOC appellation (province of Caserta), and two in the Benevento and Avellino provinces. They have reached their goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions on all properties.
Fiano Di Avellino Tenute d’Altavilla DOCG made from 100% Fiano Di Avellino from vineyards at the Tenute d’Altavilla estate in Campania. The vines were planted 1968-1965. Soil composition is tuffaceous and marly clay. There are 2,500-3,000 vines per hectare. Training system is guyot and the vineyard is at 500-600 meters. Harvest is in the middle of October. Grapes are soft pressed and fermentation is in stainless steel at a controlled temperature with selected yeast. The maceration technique is cryomaceration. The wine is aged in stainless steel for 4 months before it is bottled. This is a well-balanced wine with hints of citrus fruit, apricots, peaches and almonds.
Falerno Del Massico Bianco Vigna Caracci DOP made from a single vineyard of Falanghina, the Falerno clone (Farreno biotype), first planted in 1968. Vineyard location is San Catrese, Sessa Aurunca, in Campania. Volcanic soil with good levels of potassium and phosphorus. There are 4,500-4,800 plants per hectare guyot trained. The vines are 26-52 years old and at 150 meters. Harvest takes place in late September. Maceration technique is Cryomaceration. Fermentation is for 20 days in stainless steel with selected yeasts. 70% of the wine is aged in stainless steel and 30% in clay amphora for about 12 months. The wine is in bottle for 8 months before release. The wine has hints of pineapple, banana, pear, with a touch of vanilla and a note of almonds.
Falerno Del Massico Rosso DOP 2016 80% Aglianico and 20% Piedirosso from vineyards on the slopes of the Roccamonfina volcano in the province of Caserta, Campania. There is volcanic soil with excellent levels of phosphorus, potassium and microelements. The vineyard is at 140 meters and the training system is guyot. There are 5,000 to 7,000 plants per hectare with various exposures. The wines are 15 to 52 years old. The Aglianico is harvested in late October and the Piedirosso in the middle of October. Fermentation is in stainless steel with selected yeasts for 20 to 25 days. After de-stemming and pressing, the must remains on the skins for 20 to 25 days. The wine is aged for 12 months, one half in Allier oak barriques (one third new) and one half in large Slavonian oak casks. The wine remains in bottle for 12 months before release. This is a fruity and complex wine with hints of cherry, raspberries, plums, spice and a touch of violets.
Taurasi Tenute d’Altavilla DOCG 2016 made from 100% Aglianico. Tenuta d’Altavilla is 25 hectares in the province of Avellino in the DOCG zones of Irpinia. There is tuffaceous soil with a high percentage of clay on steep slopes. The training system is guyot and the elevation is 500 to 600 meters. There are 3,000 vines per hectare and the vines were planted in various years from 1968 to 1985. Harvest is in late October. Fermentation is in stainless steel for 20 days with select yeast. Pumpovers and delestage take place. Maceration is for 20 days. The wines are aged in barriques and tonneaux (500L) for 18 months and in bottle for 12 months before release. This is a complex, well balanced wine with hints of blackberries, licorice, leather, a touch of cedar and a note of violets.
Francesco Paolo’s work is still carried on at Villa Matilde. Today, 20 original clones of Falanghina, Aglianico and Piedrosso are trademarked as Villa Matilde.
Savatore said there are a series of indigenous rootstocks for which they are carrying out a study with WRT (Wine Research Team) of which they are a founding member, and the University of Milan. This type of rootstock is being studied and developed, as they are drought-resistant, a problem made increasingly topical in the light of global warming. In order to anticipate and prevent possible hydration problems of the vine and the grapes, the rootstocks are grafted with Villa Matilde’s varieties and biotypes of Falanghina and Aglianico to then evaluate the best response to their type of soil and climate.