Volcanic wines, Vesuvius and its peculiarities
Volcanic wines, Vesuvius and its peculiarities
Vesuvio National Park, covering more than 5000 hectares, is a territory rich in biodiversities and the vine is cultivated at different altitudes (from 50m to 400m) expressing its unique character and personality, thanks to the soil rich in minerals, especially potassium. The numerous eruptions that took place over the centuries have created a complex stratification and volcanic soils, a factor that has favored the presence of ungrafted vines, cultivated through the ancient method of the layer, burying a shoot to create a new plant.
The total grape-growing surface is 320 hectares, of which 260 are in active production, with an ampelographic distribution that has remained rather resistant to the many post-phylloxera replanting, focusing on pre-existing local varieties, with a prevalence of Caprettone grapes, followed by Piedirosso, Catalanesca, and in lower percentages, Coda di Volpe, Falanghina, Aglianico, Greco, Verdeca, Olivella, Cancello, Colonna, Rosa grapes and other minor varieties.
Before analyzing the numerous varieties, it is important to underline the work carried out by the ‘Consorzio di Tutela Vini Vesuvio’ (The consortium for the protection of the Vesuvius wines), really aware of the value of this area and how the new policy document, in force since 2017, has clarified some varieties, like the Caprettone, for years confused inappropriately with the Coda di Volpe.
The first operational project done by the consortium, in collaboration with the Westminster Business School, has been aimed at obtaining important data, such as to strengthen the “Vesuvio” brand, especially on international markets, which today has a 45% share of exported product, especially between France, USA, Japan and a small share in the countries of Northern Europe and Switzerland. This collaboration with the academic world, as explained by Ciro Giordano, president of the Vesuvio Consortium, has the purpose of communicating the uniqueness of the Vesuvian territory in a simple and effective way. The wines with the registered name – Vesuvius origin, whose annual total production is 1,900,000 bottles produced, saw a 12% increase in production in the 2016/2017 harvest, an extremely positive factor and consequently an indicator of greater awareness and commitment from the producers themselves.
As for the distribution of areas used for vineyards, it is often inappropriately only mentioned Vesuvius, instead it is a complex of two different craters and two different summits, Mount Somma and Vesuvius, therefore it is more accurate to talk about the complex Somma-Vesuvius, making the appropriate zone distinctions.
Actually, it would be best to consider four areas of the Vesuvius wine system, taking as a reference the municipalities of San’Anastasia and Trecase and dividing each one on the sea side and inland, obtaining wines with different characteristics. The vineyards, which extend in a circular way compared to the Somma-Vesuvius complex, have different exposures and altitudes and are influenced by the sea in direct or indirect form, a factor that affects the organoleptic character of the wines produced. In the lower areas, on the sea side there will be full-bodied and warm wines, while in the hinterland, towards the mouth of the crater, the wines will have a slimmer character and a greater freshness, as well as connoted by an incisive flavor.
Today, the viticulture of the mount Vesuvius is evolving; the producers are becoming aware of the vocation and uniqueness of this territory and they have understood that treading the road of quality, with low yields in the vineyard and significant attention in the cellars, is certainly a winning weapon. An interesting work is the one that has been done in recent years, especially on two exclusive white grape varieties of this territory: Catalanesca and Caprettone.
Despite its ancient origins, Caprettone has only recently been recognized as a vine with its own specific genetic and productive profile. It is possible to include it among the varieties that tend to be “neutral”, being rather poor in primary aromas, but after one year of aging in bottle, it is, however, able to give pleasant hints of apricot and broom; on the palate it expresses a decisive flavor. The Catalanesca vine instead, imported in 1550 from Catalonia by Alfonso I of Aragon, prevalently spread in the municipality of Sant’Anastasia, has high strength on espalier systems with Guyot pruning and tardive aging. It was officially added to the list of wine grapes in 2006 and in 2011 it obtained a separate IGP. From the olfactory point of view, the wine obtained has fruity notes with hints of dried apricot and honey. There are many positive signs and strong convictions to make the peculiarities of this historic wine-growing area more incisive.
• Castaldo F., Storia di vini e di vigne intorno al Vesuvio. Il vino nella Campania antica dall’epoca pompeiana alla fine dell’Impero Romano, Edizioni Intra Moenia, 2016