Grapes: Casavecchia, Pallagrello, Falanghina, Aglianico
Region: Campania, Italy
Vintage: See below.
Any time an Italian man comes to town, you’ll know where to find me. I’ll be bellied up at the tasting bar trying my hand at broken Italian, slurring the few phrases I can still recite from my two years of University study. I always begin with my favorite, “Guarde le stelle, la luna e tu; tutte le cose belle delle notte.” Translation: “Look at the stars, the moon and you; all the beautiful things of the night.”
Off the record, in my early 20s, this phrase garnered lots of Italian tail. (By the way, that’s not true. At all.)
Ahem, I digress, I’m here to tell you about an Italian winemaker, Massimo Alois (Ahl-oys), from Campania, Italy. He was recently in town pouring samples of his family’s wines at Zipp’s Liquors.
Here is Fred (from Rootstock Wine Company, responsible for Massimo’s precious cargo) & Massimo.
Here is Massimo, Peter (from Thomas Liquors) and me. Psst – 25% off sale right now through Oct. 18!
Massimo is a lovely man who speaks terrific English. He’s ready and willing to answer any questions and explain about the wines, family history and vineyards.
Massimo, along with his father, Michele Alois, have a rich history. I’ll spare you the full-on nerdery in favor of the Cliff’s Notes version. After all, there’s wine to drink, people.
The Alois name is synonymous around the world for it’s rich silks and tapestries. This is evident in places such as the White House, Italian Parliament and even the Louvre. The Alois factory, located in Caserta, began in 1885 and continues to this day. In 1992, Michele decided to begin foraging and planting native grapes. In concert with the Universities of Napoli and Firenza, he started cultivating a forgotten strain of indigenous ancient Roman grapes. I think it’s incredible that grapes such as Casavecchia or Pallagrello (Ferdinando IV of the Bourbon family, King of Naples from 1751 to 1825, fave) survived the Phylloxera outbreak of the late 1800s! [Man, I LOVE that Brad Mitt movie!] Today, the Alois family still has ties to the silk factory; however, winemaking has become the main family passion.
The vineyards are situated about 15 miles from Mt. Vesuvius, which is still an active volcano. (Yikes!) Because of this proximity, much of the vines grow from volcanic soil, giving the wines an added layer of minerality. Some say “ashy”, but I think that sounds gross, and frankly do not detect that in these wines.
I would have bought them all if I wasn’t saving for a NYC vacation. Alas, I came away with these three:
Caitî 2012 – 100% Pallagrello Bianco. Gold in color, rich in tropical fruit, and followed up with balanced acidity. This reminded me of a tart Chablis. Patio perfect to have alongside a nicoise salad, grass fed llama reduction foam, or tuna tartare. (Who am I kidding, I’ve never eaten any of that on my patio.) Drink it with any salad or a tuna fish sandwich. Very palate pleasing!
Settima 2010 – Blend of Pallagrello Nero and Casavecchia. Oh Madone! This gal is a-spicy little a-number. Hints of smoke swirl among the spices, red berries, toasted plum skins and strong tannins. Drink this Old World hottie up with fatty sausages or meatballs.
Murella 2008 – 100% Pallagrello Nero. This red wine is smooth, voluptuous, even. If Helen Mirren was a wine, she’d be Murella. This wine has such finesse and grace. She doesn’t need to slap you across the face; she, alone, draws you in with her charm, leaving you wanting more.
The real importance here is your bragging rights to say “I am drinking like a king.” Thanks King Ferdinando IV!
The tides are turning along with the leaves, get out your pot (cooking vessel) and make a big ‘ol vat of chili, Italian “gravy”, beef stew or some other classic stick-to-your-ribs dish. Ladle it up in a bowl, tear a hunk of bread and pop one of these wines.
Now, for a taste of full-on nerdery, including a regional map, list of varietals and wines, read below. Otherwise, as my husband might say: “BON APPETITO!” (He has literally never once said that.)
Read in detail here.