Monday, March 19, 2012

Vineyard Hopping - Caiazzo (Ce) - Az. Agricola Alepa

Wear a hat, was the message from Paola Riccio that morning.  It’s windy in Caiazzo
I didn’t have a hat…but I had a coat with a hood.

I was heading to Caiazzo, a small town near Caserta, about 45 minutes from Naples. I was heading towards Azienda Agricola Alepa to taste Riccio’s wines and walk her vineyards.  A windy version of Vineyard Hopping.

Azienda Agricola Alepa is located smack in the middle of Terre del Volturno IGT country  An area where Paola’s father, Eugenio Riccio bought land back in 1986 and planted vineyards and olive trees.  An area in the hills of Caserta that has become famous for its native Pallagrello white and red grapes. An area where Alepa has been bottling their wines since 2003.  

Upon arrival Riccio, along with her winemaker Maurizio De Simone, took me on a stroll through the vineyards so I could take a few photos before the wind picked up.  Our first stop was to take a look at something, well, interesting.  Interesting because?  Because here Pallagrello has been grafted into 20 year old Aglianico grape vines. And since the winter of 2010, they have been molding together creating what Alepa hopes will produce something special…something unique.  A closer look at these vines and the rest in the vineyards  I couldn’t help but notice the trellises.  Vines were attached to trellises with salice, willow twigs. Tying these twigs looks easy, but I knew it wasn’t.  Angelo D’Agostino, who has been working with the family for years showed me how.  And as I tried a few times in the Caiazzo wind, I could only imagine and appreciate how labor intensive this phase of life in the vineyard must be.  A lot goes on year round…not just at harvest time.

De Simone, Riccio, D'Agostino

Eventually the wind brought us to the winery, to warmth, and to our wine tasting.  We had talked about Pallagrello most of the morning, but De Simone wanted to have me see and taste what else has been going on in this young winery’s life.

Santojanni, a blend of Falanghina and Greco grapes.  Two vintages, 2010 and 2009, were on the table and eventually made it into our glasses so we could discuss this fresh, fruity wine.  De Simone shared Alepa’s philosophy.  Their wines are not rushed.  The 2010 vintage was placed in the bottle back in September of 2011. Almost a year after the harvest.  We discussed the subtle differences in the 2009 offering.  A drier summer, De Simone mentioned, so our wine was warmer.  It behaved like a red wine in our glass, continuing to evolve the longer it sat…opening up, continuing to share diverse aromas.

Continuing with our white wines, we moved on to Riccio Bianco, Pallagrello bianco IGT. Once again 2010, then the 2009 vintage.  Each a beautiful golden yellow color thanks to a short period of maceration with healthy grape skins.  A wine that enjoyed a long, slow fermentation period.  A wine that treasured slowly rotating in the glass.  Vinified in stainless steel vats only. But Maria Carolina?  That is another story.  This version of Alepa’s Pallagrello bianco, named after the Bourbon queen, spends time in untoasted oak  barrels.  We tried the 2010 – a sort of world premiere – since it is not on the market yet.  De Simone called this the ‘baby’ while the 2009 was the ‘teenager’.  Vibrant color, deep floral, fruit, and herbaceous aromas.

Reds?  Why not.  De Simone poured me a glass of Palenio 2007, a blend of Aglianico and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Fifty-fifty.  2007 was a difficult year in the vineyard, no rain from May to November. I studied the color in my glass as De Simone discussed the 7 day maceration with the grape skins, 18-20 months in oak barrels before it spends another year in stainless steel. I tried this deep red, with tannins that carefully dried my mouth, and I could imagine this wine with a nice juicy steak.

Then it was time for Riccio Nero 2008, Paola’s Pallagrello Nero. Vinification process almost a carbon copy of Palenio, but Pallagrello is an intense grape…therefore producing an intense wine…

A wine as intense as the wind that blew in Caiazzo that day…

Azienda Agricola Ale.P.A.
Caiazzo (Ce)
39 0823 862755

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