Sunday, October 31, 2010

Vineyard Hopping-Piedirosso and Pompei with Mastroberardino

I don’t know at what point I realized that my Vineyard Hopping on this particular day with Antonio Dente, Mastroberardino’s agronomist, would be different. But at some point on the Autostrade A3- Napoli -Salerno it hit me. Because on this day, Antonio took me out of Irpinia and brought me to Pompei for the Piedirosso harvest. A harvest of grapes that would become Villa dei Misteri.

Pompei…traffic, souvenir stands, restaurants shops. Pompei…not your typical place for a vineyard. Or is it?

Inside the ruins of Pompei, a beautiful project has been going on since 1996. A partnership between the Soprintendenza Archeologica Napoli e Pompei and Mastroberardino. A project that would bring Pompei ‘back to life’ the vineyards. A project where archeologists studied and discovered where the Ancient Romans planted their vines. Antonio, along with Mastroberardino’s Dario Pennino and Dr. Annamaria Ciarallo (from the Sopridenza) filled me, as well as a small group of journalists, in on the details.

In the beginning they narrowed it down to about 1.5 hectres, 5 different areas. They identified 8 grape varieties. Five whites; Greco, Fiano, Caprettone, Coda di Volpe, and Falanghina. Three reds; Piedirosso, Aglainico, and Sciascinoso.

The year 2000…vineyards identified, grapes narrowed down to two reds; Piedirosso and Sciascinoso. Antonio described how important it was, and is for the spirit of this project to design the vineyards exactly like the Ancient Romans. To plant where the inhabitants of Pompei did so many years ago. Once again, the archaeologists stepped in. During their research they discovered cavities in the ground. By filling them, they were able to discover where the rows of vines were planted. Rows with vines 1.2 meters apart, in rows 1.2 meters between each other. And when in the Roman Empire, do what the Romans do…or did. Mastroberardino did so. Vines supported by chestnut poles. Grafted vines, due to the presence of phylloxera noted in the soil. And rows and rows of perfect vines…

I had the opportunity to visit 3 areas with Antonio. The Domus of the Summer Triclinium. A small garden near the amphitheater. An attractive area with a magnificent mosaic fountain in the middle. A stroll through this small vineyard I was beginning to feel the excitement that others felt. I was beginning to get goosebumps. Watching the workers dressed in their Mastroberardino blue. Workers harvesting in ancient gardens among ancient ruins. An area that in ancient times, visitors would come and taste wine after an event at the amphitheater. An Ancient Roman garden party.

Next stop, Foro Boario, The cattle market. The largest area, directly across from the theater. When I entered this gate I was overwhelmed by the scenery. Rows and rows of Piedirosso…sweet Piedirosso ready for the harvest. Beautiful fall leaves mixed in with yellow crates waiting their turn to be filled with this gorgeous grape.  And the background…to one side, the amphitheater, casting a shadow on part of the vineyard on this particularly warm October morning. And to the other, Mt. Vesuvius. Innocent looking, tranquil, spectacular.

The last stop. A stop to a vineyard ‘in progress’ so to speak. A vineyard that would produce Aglianico in time for the 2011 harvest. Another red grape to become part of this historical wine, Villa dei Misteri. A vineyard placed quietly next to castings of skeletal remains that bring back to mind what happened in 79 AD.  Goosebumps…

And it was at this point that everything came together for me. I stepped back, walked around, and silently thought about what I was witnessing. That this Vineyard Hopping in Pompei, this 10th harvest in the ruins of an ancient city, was unique. There is not another vineyard like this in the world.

Those goosebumps returned. Right next to my admiration for Campania…

For more information on Villa dei Misteri, go to the link on Mastroberdino’s web site

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