|Angelo Muto (right) with Luigi Sarno|
The best way to tour Angelo’s vineyards is with a tractor or a jeep...that’s what enologist Luigi Sarno told me on our way to Tufo. Which would you prefer?…Angelo Muto, Cantine dell’Angelo, was on the phone with Luigi…waiting for my answer.
Jeep…couldn’t see the three of us on one tractor. I thought. So Luigi and I met up with Angelo, and after a stop for something fresh to drink, we were on our way. Vineyard Hopping -Extreme Edition through Greco di Tufo DOCG country.
I soon saw how the jeep came in handy, driving along as paved roads became dirt roads, as dirt roads became grassy paths. Paths barely wide enough for our jeep to pass. We zig-zagged through the vineyards-an up close and personal look, every now and then stopping, chatting, discussing. It was important to Angelo and Luigi that I understood the territory…That I got a chance to see various vineyards throughout this small, 6 sq km community of Tufo.
Patches of vineyards are splattered throughout the countryside. A piece here, a bit there, belonging to a number of different wine producers. Producers who understood that if you want to produce Greco…this is the place to be. A territory dripping in minerals…rich in sulfur. Sulfur that gives Angelo’s wines that intense aroma…that dry, fresh, flavorful taste.
After awhile, Angelo pulled up to an iron gate. We stepped inside the grounds of an abandoned sulfur mine founded in 1866. It was here where Francesco Di Marzo discovered that this part of Tufo would be crucial for the development of this community. Sulfur - as far down as 250 meters. And there was a light smell of sulfur in the air…pieces of sulfur rock sprinkled on top of the soil. We stepped through the weeds as Angelo spoke of the history of Tufo…how this part of Irpinia was like no other…and once again pointed out how this special terrain was crucial to the wine that he produced.
Back in the jeep. The ride became more extreme –we only got stuck in the mud once. Rain earlier in the week had made many vineyards in the area unreachable…impossible to enter into. We were headed to Angelo’s vineyard that practically sat on top of the mine that I had seen earlier. Angelo pointed out how this vineyard was particularly rocky, he picked up large stones and tossed them aside. Stones that filled up the soil-stones that were the soil Once again, that light note of minerality in the air.
From this view point, you practically see the entire Greco territory. Springtime in Irpinia. The grapevines beginning to bud. Vines where even insects, butterflies, and birds felt comfortable. I was beginning to appreciate the challenges of having a vineyard in this part of the country presented. How it was necessary to a do a large majority of the cultivation by hand…impossible with a machine. A few minutes of reflection…then back in the jeep, off to the cantina.
Cantine dell’Angelo. The Muto family has been growing grapes for three generations, and like many in Irpinia, had been selling them to other wineries. Their first year that they bottled their own wines for sale, however, was in 2007. They make one wine and one wine only-Greco di Tufo. That is what the territory calls for-other grapes just don’t perform as well, Angelo shared. Luigi agreed and at this point took over the tour and talked to me about the wine making process. He told me that the grapes are pressed softly, with the stems, to give that light touch of tannins. Natural tannins that he did not feel the need to take out only to add back in later. We tried a glass of the 2010 vintage that was still in the stainless steel vat. It should be in the bottle in a few weeks…on the shelves in a few months. Over a glass of 2010, I noticed a light touch of that minerality that had followed me throughout the day…then slight aromas of light fruit such as pears. A nice acidity…
Angelo looked pleased. Pleased, as over light conversation, our glasses, filled with this amazingly sapid wine, this beautiful straw colored liquid, evolved in our glasses. Pleased as he expressed that this vintage may give him more satisfaction than the previous year. Pleased as another long day in the vineyards-his vineyards- was fruitful and productive. I felt pleased as well. Pleased with my extreme day and that I had the chance to share it with Angelo and Luigi in Tufo.
via Santa Lucia 32.