When we open a bottle we are not always looking for the Wine of Our Lives. I'd say, to the contrary, that 99% of the time we're opening only what we need, to enjoy with friends or with food. Without thinking overmuch.
Italy's genetic reservoir is infinite, and its study is supported by a paucity of funds and therefore incomplete, but there isn't one region that lacks a hidden ace ready to be played when everything seems to have been seen, read, and drunk.
In Campania one such ace is Coda di Volpe, a white grape widespread in Irpinia, which it likely reached from Vesuvius, on the way to the Sannio area. It's a grape that was always present in farmers' vineyards, used to balance the excessive acidity of Falanghina on Vesuvius, and Fiano and Greco di Tufo in the Irpinia area. Then the decision of two wineries, and we'll never know which thought of it first, to vinify it on its own, after harvesting it early, before San Gerardo, to capture the proper degree of freshness.
Professor Antonio Troisi, at Vadiaperti near Montefredane and Mimmi Oconoe at Ponte, near Beneveto, pioneered this white at the beginning of the 1980s. A wine that was then launched in the 1990s, with the sleek Renano-style bottles of the Cantina del Taburno. For reasons I cannot fathom Falanghina, in the same bottles, took off and became an acclaimed star.
Coda di Volpe instead mosied along, with few believing in it, perhaps because the market wasn't ready for it.
And this is why it's always a good sign if it's kept on a company's product list: it indicates a love for the land, and the existence of a faithful clientele. At the last Fiera Enologica di Taurasi we tasted almost al the Irpinian Coda Di Volpe, and I will now give you a quick rundown.
Cantina Giardino Paski Campania IGT 2010 | Score 85/100
This is an extreme version of a natural wine, long maceration on the skins, no filtration. A textbook example, which brings to mind the old farers' whites beginning with its color, while its freshness may be somewhat penalized. On the other hand, on the palate it's long and savory.
Di Meo Coda di Volpe Campania IGT 2011 | Score 86/100
From the beginning Roberto di Meo has lavished attention on Coda di Volpe, using grapes from Salza Irpina, Montemarano and Manocalzati that are grown at altitudes between 500 and 550 meters. Fermentation in steel; it's very pleasant on the palate, subtle, fresh, dry and zesty. The nose is more standard, and less interesting.
Di Prisco Coda di Volpe DOC 2011 | Score 87/100
Pasqualino Di Prisco's whites are always a pleasant surprise: they're worthy of attention and patience. Even his Coda di Volpe needs a little time. Good fruit on the nose and palate, savoriness, and nice body.
Donnachiara Coda di Volpe Irpinia DOC 2011 | Score 85/100
The first vintage for this winery from Montefalcone, whose attentions, in its initial phases, have been dedicated primarily to whites. Their Coda di Volpe, fermented in steel, has nice tension on the palate, with dryness and freshness, but on the nose has a useless excess of sweet fruit that initially distracts. Bitter clean finish.
Perillo Coda di Volpe Irpinia DOC 2010 | Score 87/100
An example of adherence to the land: A producer of Taurasi and Aglianico who makes just this white without buying Fiano or Greco di Tufo grapes as so many other small winemakers do, to meet the requests of ignorant, facile wine shop and restaurant owners. And what a white: Made simply in steel, but with patience for the release, which is at least a year after the harvest. The sweetness on the nose reflects ripe white berry fruit, flowing into gunflint, and on the palate it's full, ripe, pleasant, long, effective, and perfect with food thanks to the vibrant acidity that supports it from beginning to end, A savory, bitter, thirst-quenching sip.
Tenute del Cavalier Pepe Bianco di Bellona Coda di Volpe Irpinia DOC 2011 | Score 86/100
No winery more than this, managed by Milena Pepe, daughter of emigrants who invested in their home town, buying land and building cellars, believes more in Coda di Volpe, a white so territorial that they planted it without hesitation. The way they manage their grapes is evident in the glass; despite simple fermentation in steel it expresses ripe white fruit, freshness, and savoriness. Long and enjoyable. Terredora Coda di Volpe Campania IGT 2011 | Score 85/100
Terradora is the only large Irpinian winery to make pure Coda Di Rospo. After a few uncertain vintages, the leap in quality of their other whites has also benefited this wine they consider lesser, with a delicate nose, moderate concentration, and simple freshness that's easy to drink, in a light pleasant interpretation
Vadiaperti Coda di Rospo Irpinia DOC 2011 | Score 88/100
The hand unused to half-measures is evident here too: An absolutely savory white, mineral, vertical, of terrific impact, which captures the attention of the person drinking it and takes center stage. Extremely long, with a clean bitter finish, a bottle that heads for the podium in blind tastings.
Does this tasting show some common trends? We think so:
1 - These are low-cost whites, never more than 10 euros in a wine shop
2 - They are fermented in steel
3 - They generally have simple, rather rustic noses, which are not that interesting
4 - On the plate, however, the markers characteristic of Campania are quite evident: freshness, savoriness, and the total absence of sweetness.
5 - Coda di Volpe is perfect with all manner of fish and vegetarian dishes made without tomatoes,
Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.
NO STAR goes to wines that are correctly made but nothing to get excited about.
ONE STAR goes to wines that are good. TWO STARS go to wines that are very good to excellent. THREE STARS and a POINT SCORE (90-100) go to wines that are superb to extraordinary. And I will give pairing suggestions, which I consider much more important than the scores.