Wine Tasting on a Volcano

30 May

We were in a precarious position, according to our host; perched on the side of a legendarily destructive and still-live volcano.

Yet at 11 AM that morning, as we tasted wines on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, overlooking the Bay of Naples; the greatest threat we could perceive was that we would lose all motivation to leave for our engagement at the Canadian reception of the International Women’s Form later that afternoon in Rome.

Now, I have to say that by 10 AM, it had already been a busy day. We woke at 6:30 AM in Vietri Sul Mare on the Amalfi Coast (at this lovely B&B called La Soffitta sul Mare) and went for a walk around this gorgeous village stacked above the sea, before breakfast. As a lifetime chronic over-scheduler, I have developed a rule of not leaving one place for another, when you are enjoying yourself at location #1. And I was extremely reluctant to leave a place that looks like this:

Yet we had a 10 AM commitment scheduled with friends, and had no choice other than to move on. And fortunately, our next engagement by far surpassed the beauty of Amalfi!

Italy is justifiably famous for its many celebrated wine regions – Tuscany, Piemonte and Veneto to name just a few. But few people outside Italy have ever tried wine from the Mount Vesuvius region. Which hopefully, will not long be the case.

Personally, the region has long been embedded in my consciousness. No doubt, due to some National Geographic issue I read as a child, showing the mystical ruins of Pompeii after being simultaneously destroyed, and preserved by its massive eruption in 79 AD. But now the region has an additional, epicurean, association for me.

Alessandro represents Sannino Wines, a small family-owned winery in the area, with vineyards in Sorrento and Pompeii, as well as on the slopes of Vesuvius in Ercolano (Herculaneum). The charming and gracious Mr. Sannino himself kindly offered to give us, and 4 friends, a tour of the vineyard as well as a tasting of some of his wines and local delicacies.

In contrast to the endlessly pastoral landscape of Tuscany, many of the local vineyards here are somewhat urban. I’m not talking about vines in the downtown financial core, but a seemingly modern (but probably ancient) multi-use neighborhood with green vineyards tucked between homes and local businesses. The grapes here are defined by the Volcano, drawing up their high mineral content to produce wonderful and unique wines such as Lacryma Christi (Tears of Christ – you can read the legend of the name here), Falanghina, Coda di Volpe and a personal new favourite, Gragnano. Many of these wines, especially the reds, actually have a remarkable bouquet of violets.

One of the most useful things I’ve learned about the potential complexities of pairing wine with food is simply this: look at the foods that are produced in the region of the vineyard, and pair wine with those for the best combination (this assumes the wine has a regional production representing the local terroir). In the Naples area, that meant we were in for a treat! Naples is the birthplace of some of the most iconic Italian flavours, including pizza, pasta, buffalo mozzarella, limoncello and espresso.

After guiding us on a tour of the Aglianico vineyard (an ancient vine dating to the 6th century BC), we retired to an enormous rooftop terrace to indulge in an unexpected midday feast of 4 different local wines plus mozzarella, prosciutto, pizza and bruschetta – the latter made with unusual local tomatoes that are unique in their ability to last for months after being picked (due to their high mineral content). One of the highlights was the Gragnano, a deep red but slightly effervescent wine with floral overtones. I could not imagine a more “perfetto” wine to sip on a warm & sunny morning; and whether it was the Gragnano or another wine, the sumptuous food, or the hospitality of Mr. Sannino (according to Alessandro, men from Naples are the most charming of all of Italy – a remarkable accomplishment); the huge smiles of our guests indicated that everyone was completely enraptured by the experience.

If you are thirsty for a taste of the unique wines from the Vesuvius region and live in Ontario, some of Mr. Sannino’s wonderful wines will be on the shelves of LCBO in August.

FYI – we did make it to the Canadian reception that afternoon, thanks to someone sober in our party who had to gently and repeatedly remind us of our previous engagement. And, like everything else this day, well worth it!


3 Responses to “Wine Tasting on a Volcano”

  1. Sarah May (@AntiquaTours) September 5, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

    Love these wines!!

    • A Life in Rome... September 6, 2012 at 11:11 am #

      You know Sanino? That makes me so happy – amazing, interesting wines and really lovely, lovely people crafting them. Mr. Sanino is a such a wonderful person.


  1. Review: Sannino Lacryma Christi Del Vesuvio 2009 Bianco – Just released at LBCO « Love & Luce - October 10, 2011

    […] about a fantastic experience wine tasting on the slopes of Vesuvius – you can read about it here. I’m happy to say that one of Mr. Sannino’s wines has been released LCBO for all my […]

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