Thursday, December 22, 2011

Garantito IGP: The Whites of the Costiera Amalfitana

This time Luciano Pignataro Takes the Stand.

There is the Costiera whose feet soak in Ulysses's Sea, and the Costiera whose head is in the mists wrapped around the pepella, ginestra, San Nicola, ripoli, binacazita, tintore, piedirosso, and sciasinoso vines. This extraordinarily vertical land, with the port of Amalfi below, and the highest bastions of the Repubblica overlooking the Chiunzi Pass above, is a tiny enological gem.

It seems just yesterday that the touristy restaurants served wine in ceramic pitchers, while the elegant restaurants just had French wines. In those days they fermented grapes from all over the south to make easy watery wines unable to express the character of an area like none other in the world, a place where nature and humanity come together with unequaled balance, to the point that it's impossible to tell which influenced which: the houses nestled among the rocks and the bell towers that rise up, or Nature, who brings together rock, earth, water and sky in the space of a few yards?

Polvica di Tramonti

With the establishment of the Costa D'Amalfi DOC, and its three subzones, Furore, Ravello, and Tramonti, the situation suddenly changed. For the better. In 1983 Marisa Cuomo led the way with the help of Luigi Moio, and suddenly great wines of the sort that linger in memory were possible. Then came the rush from Tremonti, with Fortunato Sebastiano from Gigino Reale in 2002, and Gerardo Vernazzaro from Monte di Grazia in 2004, Prisco Apicella from the Prisco Apicella winery -- the first in the region to bottle -- established by the Prisco Apicella family in 1977, and Carmine Valentino at the Fattoria San Francesco in 2004. Nor is this all; in the past few years there have been developments in Vietri, the extreme southern end of the Costiera, where Vigne di Raito (formerly Fortunato) and 'O Cammariello are followed by Mario Mazzitelli. And though the traditional parterre of Ravello has seen the closing of Episcopio, Ettore Sammarco, scraped his winery from the rocks along the climb from Amalfi to Ravello in 1965, has gained new vigor with son Bartolo's entry into the cellars.

Small estates, small numbers, but steadily increasing quality, which ever more frequently crosses the boundary into exciting. To the point that we can perhaps say that it is this wine making region, more than others, that can look Irpinia in the eyes, thanks to its marked acidity, minerality, and ability to improve and dominate with time. Of the 90 hectares registered in the Albo della DOC, 39 are white. However, only 29 are effectively producing, on average 100 quintals per hectare: this comes to 1641 quintals of grapes, 1418 hectoliters, or a little more than 190,000 bottles. A drop in the Campanian sea, but a unique and precious drop.

We tasted through them in the occasion of the presentation of the new Colatura di Alici di Cetara and noted, once again, that the adage that Campanian wines should not be opened earlier than a year from the harvest date to give the bottle time to work its magic is true.

Apicella, Tramonti

Giuseppe Apicella Tramonti Bianco 2010 Costa d'Amalfi DOC |86
(Falanghina-Biancolella). 18,000 bottles

A territorial blend in which Falanghina provides structure and freshness, while Biancolella gives aromas and freshness. An excellent, typical sample, and unbeatable with the classic dishes of the Costiera Amalfitana. Still floral, with citris accents, on the palate a slightly soft attack becomes tonic and dynamic, leading into a clean dry finish. A fist of steel in a velvet glove.

Santa Marina 2010 Tramonti bianco doc |85 (Falanghina, Biancolella, Pepella, Ginestra). 4,000 bottles

Slightly overripe fruit, and a brief time in oak: they are seeking complexity in this local varietal blend, which in this vintage is already balanced and fairly soft. To drink now, because it's ahead with respect to the base wine.

Ettore Sammarco, Ravello Selvapiana

2010 Ravello Bianco Costa d'Amalfi doc |85

(Biancolella-Falanghina) 15,000 bottles

This base wine, with which the winery changed gears a few years ago, always has good fresh fruit. On the nose pears and lemons, and a dry attack that doesn't try to ingratiate. On the palate the acidity is still doing its own thing, but the wine will certainly have a lot to say in the next 2-3 years.

Fattoria San Francesco, Tramonti Gaetano Bove and a century-old vine (FotoPigna)

Tramonti Bianco 2010 Costa d'Amalfi doc |87

(Falanghina-Biancolella, Pepella), 18,000 bottles

Perhaps the freshest wine of all, with power beginning on the nose, where citric and white fruit prevail. On the palate it's decisive, with no sweetness to soften it; acidity runs the show through the finish, which is very persistent and enjoyable. It will also work with richer dishes.

PerEva Tramonti Bianco 2009 Costa d'Amalfi doc |88
(Falanghina-Pepella- Ginestra), 5,000 bottles

A selection of the best grapes, and a slight delay in its release, as long as they can ignore market pressures. Great raw materials, speed, and body. The nose is still citric, with mineral, broom (the shrub), and thyme. An impressive progression from mid- palate to a dry, savory persistent finish.

Marisa Cuomo, Furore

Marisa Cuomo
Furore bianco 2010 Costa d'Amalfi doc |87
(Falanghina-Biancazita), 23,500 bottles

The grapes are those from the spectacular terraces of Furore, and the wine presents with considerable acidic verve from the outset, with on the nose nice floral accents, fruit, and vegetal echoes. On the palate fresh, long, and full bodied. At present nicely balanced.

Ravello bianco 2010 Costa d'Amalfi doc |86
(Falanghina-Biancolella, San Nicola), 13,500 bottles

The blend from Ravello is always softer than Furore, with well integrated acidity from the outset, with aromas of broom shrubs, tangerine skins, sage. On the palate it's thinner, but with a persistent and very pleasant finish.

Fiorduva 2009 Costa d'Amalfi Furore doc |88
(Ripoli-Fenile-Ginestra), 17,800 bottles

The wine that led the general public to discover the wineries and terroir. The time spent in barriques clearly matched the type popular in the 90s. Now wood accents may seem out of fashion, but if one is blessed with the patience to wait a few years this is an interesting wine in the style typical of Luigi Moio. The 2009 promises well thanks to lively acidity, considerable structure and tropical fruit on the nose.

Monte di Grazia, Tramonti

Alfonso Arpino Monte di Grazia bianco 2010 Campania igt | 86
(Pepella, Ginestra-Biancazita). 2,000 bottles

The least controlled of all the whites revolves around savory freshness. The nose brings up citrus, thyme and slight fumé. On the palate fresh, long, full, and quite interesting, a wine that will age beautifully in the coming years.

Reale, Tramonti

Gaetano and Gigino Reale
Aliseo 2010 Tramonti Costa d'Amalfi doc |86
(Biancolella-Biancazita-Pepella). 2,400 bottles

It was fairly obvious at the outset, but a year after the harvest it is fully mature, quite fresh, compact, and a nice long finish with no hints of weakness. A wine that, thanks to its considerable freshness, will also work well with substantial dishes.

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

We Are:
Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi

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