Thursday, August 18, 2011

I hear the Wine is good in Italy...

Some "almost ready" red grapes
I swore I would blog about our recent wine-tasting tour before we head to Tuscany this weekend to do  some more wine sampling. Not that any 2 wines (or wine tours) in Italy are the same- or even close! I remember shopping for wine in the States before moving here, and getting excited when I saw an Italian wine. "Ohh-Italian! It has to be good!" my inexperienced self would say. Granted, I haven't encountered too many bad wines here, but I am learning the ins and outs of Italian wine and how they vary vastly from region to region.

In most parts of Italy the natives will tell you Naples is nothing to brag about-even the Neopolitans will tell you this! While there is certainly much to experience outside of Naples, I think my temporary home has some things to boast about too, and wine is one of them. So boast I will!

Wine made in the Campania region is unique because of one of the nearby landmarks- Mount Vesuvius, which is an active volcano that famously erupted in AD 79 destroying the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, and most recently erupted in the 1940's. The volcanic residue drastically changes the mineral content of the soil, giving it a distinct "feel" and taste. It is often bubbly and somewhat "salty," as the wine growers describe it. This, in combination with the fact that Naples is a coastal city allows for endless variations of the mineral make-up of the wines. During our first unofficial wine-tasting experience (in the lobby of the mini-mall on base), the wine expert/seller/our-new-friend taught us about how to identify wine grown "on the mountain" versus wine grown "by the sea" and wine with combination of mountain/sea soil. We were utterly fascinated! So depending on the mineral content, a wine may be more or less bubbly, and more or less "salty"

Side story: My husband and and I experienced this "slight" carbonation first hand when we re-corked an opened bottle of Naples red wine and awoke the next morning to a red-stained kitchen (which was mistaken for blood for the first 10 seconds). We quickly identified last night's wine as the culprit and said a silent prayer of thanks for military tiled kitchen walls. However, some of my cookbooks will forever bear the mark of our first Neopolitan bubbly wine.

Anyway, here are some pictures from our recent wine tour at Cantina del Vesuvio. This particular vineyard is the closest to the peak of the volcano, and the wine it produces is well known in South Italy and among the locals.

Rows of grape vines

Green grapes which will make white wine

Steel vessels used in the fermentation process

Oak barrels where some of the wines are further aged
Viola! The finished product

Va bene! A good wine consumer gives it a good sniff first

..And make sure you have a good bowl of pasta nearby.

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