Salerno is a port city that sits just below the Sorrento peninsula. As such, to its east lie the vineyards of the Amalfi Coast. To the west is the Cilento National Park with another, different terrain and climate.
The Amalfi Coast is deservedly more renowned for its beautiful landscape speckled with olive and citrus groves that grow on precipitous slopes that plummet to the sea. It is one of Italy’s most famous vacation destinations. The only producer readily available from this neck of the woods is Marisa Cuomo. The wines, on the other hand, are satisfying and occasionally even impressive. Whites are made primarily from the Falanghina grape, blended with the less known Biancolella. For red wine the Piedirosso (locally called Per’ e Palummo) is the main feature with Aglianico serving as a blender, as in the Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio wines found slightly to the north. The whites are vibrant and fresh with floral and citrus perfumes and lively acidity, perfect for fresh seafood. Reds are gentle and soft with berry (rasp and straw) flavors that, quite frankly, would also pair well with fresh seafood due to their low level of tannins. Not by coincidence, they eat quite a bit of seafood in these parts.
East of the city of Salerno, lie some of the most beautiful and unspoiled landscape in all of Italy, the Cilento National Park. The park consists of a series of hills that run from the Apennines straight to the sea, creating some spectacular seascapes. As a national park there is only a limited amount of viticulture happening here, but it is very much worth the attention of any intenditore di vino. There are three producers here that are always on our list: De Conciliis, Luigi Maffini, and Montevetrano.
The De Conciliis family has been producing wines in these hills since the early 70’s, but most of their grapes were sold to the recently establish Cantina Sociale (cooperative winery). It wasn’t until the late 90’s that the family began to release their own bottling commercially. Today, their white wine production focuses on the Fiano varietal, while Aglianico is used for the red wines. The entry-level red and white varietal wines labeled Donnaluna are excellent values and often make appearances in our vino al quartino selection, but the limited-production Naima (Bruno de Conciliis is a self professed Coltraine fan), and Zero, both Aglianico based, are where it starts to get real fun. They are both decidedly modern takes on an ancient varietal, with seamless structure and wonderful depth. I’m guessing that the name Zero has something to do with our allocation of the wine, as precious few bottles ever come into the market.
Luigi Maffini also began in the late 90’s, focusing his production on the white fiano and red aglianico grapes, in vineyards that lie perhaps slightly closer to the sea, but still at decent altitude, which gives the wines structure and backbone. His white Kratos and red Cenito are both excellent efforts. I particularly like the depth of flavor in the Cenito.
Last, but far from least, is the Montevetrano estate of renowned photographer Silvia Imparato. With the assistance of world famous enologist Riccardo Cottarella, the Montevetrano property produces only one (eponymous) wine, and it is a blockbuster! Consisting mostly of cabernet sauvignon, with lesser amounts of merlot and aglianico, the wine is quite modern in style, as are most of Cottarella’s efforts, showing the sleek tannins derived from aging the wine in French barriques. The first Montevetrano was produced in the early 90’s but the varietals were grafted onto Piedirosso, barbera and uva di troia vines as early as the mid-eighties.