Friday, October 25, 2013

Knight Errant & il tocco femminile ...

Don Chisciotte Fiano
 Pierluigi Zampaglione calls his organic Fiano wine Don Chisciotte for a reason. People thought he was crazy.

Contrada Tufiello
Plant grapes?

Cultivate the low yielding delicate and noble Apianum on a windswept slope deep in the heart of Eastern Irpinia? 

While not exactly insanity, they said it was a stretch to imagine. The Eastern Irpinian region has been many things to various peoples throughout history but it has never been thought of as a good place for producing fine wine.

Pierluigi of course wanted to write his own story -

Nerina in the rows
Under the force of an enchantment (or was it il tocco femminile?) Pierluigi Zampaglione took to planting fiano on his family’s contrada Tufiello, about 8 kilometers from the nearest town, about 8 years ago.

A vast unprotected area boasting a brigand past, the territory of Alta Irpinia is situated on the far eastern confines of the region of Campania - and the zone called Irpinia Orientale reaches even further east to Apulia.

Il tocco femminile
If you look at a good topographical map (ciao Captain) you’ll see Irpinia Orientale towns - Lacedonia, Aquilonia & Monteverde - are few and far between, her contrade occupy wide swaths of endless space.

Not too long ago, it would have taken a rider the better part of a day to reach one or another of these towns on the back of a rickety donkey - if he had to get there. Seasonal transumanza herds have crossed its terrain from the north for millennia, bringing cowboys and shepherds and hunters and their teams. Some call it the Wild West. Dry and temperate most summers, her rolling fields made golden by drying wheat, are much warmer in autumn. Come winter, desolation sets in and the area becomes nearly uninhabitable by all but the stoutest men.

Nerina embraces her husband’s penchant with the grace of a Napolitana. ‘Siamo un po fuori area’  she says.

That is, they are succeeding. 

Pierliugi produces a good wine from an ancient grape planted in a place that was never expected to yield such results. 

Il tocco femminile, Nerina tells me, applies also to the delicacy of their Fiano - a decision to produce a light-bodied fragrant wine without overpowering or overcomplicating the palate; fermented without the use of chemicals with only organic yeast. A natural wine.

And thanks to this, Don Chisciotte has been a selection at NOMA, in Copenhagen (recently featured on Anthony Bourdains’ Parts Unknown) and is on the list at Brawn in London.
And it can be ordered at Viniveri annual natural wine festival in Cerea near Verona or purchased in NYC at Chambers Street Wines and in Boston at Vineyard Road.

Pierluigi Zampaglione

The irony now is that the area to the south and east of contrada Tufiello has recently been dotted with giant windmills. Those wind turbines - or pale eoliche - known in California & other (wine &) windy places, have been planted in an attempt to shore up Southern Italy's regional economy. Don Quixote indeed.