In the 1990s, two native Italian grape varieties, once thought extinct, were rediscovered in Campania and cultivated by Peppe Mancini. These grapes are called Pallagrello Nero & Casavecchia, and they comprise, in equal amounts, the blend of Castello delle Femmine. The story goes that one ancient vine was discovered, proper research revealed its native origins, and subsequent cuttings led to eleven hectares of successful wine vines.
Campania is a southern Italy wine-growing region on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, near Naples. This winery is closer to Caserta, about 30 miles from Naples to the north.
This wine and I are already becoming great friends. Which means, I may be in love? Lush, ripe cherry fruit and great acidic balance play off each other, so that the wine’s cloying complexity continues with each subsequent sip. Add great tannic structure for a firm mouth-feel and a lengthy finish. Non-fruit elements include cedar, almond, a waft of cured olive, a whisper of jalapeno, dark chocolate, with some Mediterranean herbs present–I’m tasting rosemary and wild fennel. There’s a great undertone of granite minerality in the finish. I’m won over by its lovely balance and versatility. Serve this slightly chilled with grilled anything, roasted vegetables, pizza, your favorite chicken recipe, chocolate and cheese. Salute!
I love wines with a story, producers with passion, and the rarity of these particular grapes. Peppe Mancini is one of a handful of producers in the Campania region that grows these grapes, so you won’t find them anywhere else.
This wine was opened last night, so some of my notes will reflect the maturity that some air time allows. Or in this case, a lot of air time. At home my typical decant is about an hour. Maybe more, maybe less. If I’m really paying attention, it could be hours that a wine can sit out. The flavors here are fully present, integrated and softened. Just opened, this bottle may have very different tasting responses. That said, don’t be afraid to open your wines the night before. Especially young Italian bottles. This wine will age really well, and drinks great now, but definitely let it have some space. It may seem unrealistic, but try it. I rarely have wines left over. One time I did, and I couldn’t finish this particular Montepulciano d’Abruzzo for several days. Opened on Monday, finished on Thursday, the wine was better than ever. Otherwise, use whatever you can for a decanter, drink out of the biggest glasses you can find, I love Riedel Vinum XL glasses, and open it as soon as you think of it.
I have to thank Taylor Stein of The Wine Company, who imports this beauty, for ordering this wine at Bar La Grassa, and letting me take the last few sips home with me. It was nice to spend some extra time with it. You’ll never guess what my new recommendation will be . . .