I’ve struck gold in Italy - let me tell you all about it.
I’m just back from Naples, where I’ve found the most amazing wines from an up-and-coming region.
And it might turn out to be the best call I’ve made since starting this business.
I can’t tell you the who, but I can tell you the how
This time last year, I got an interesting email from a young winemaking couple in Italy.
At the time they were making wine at one of the country's most prestigious estates in the north.
In fact they still are. So I can’t tell you their names, just yet.
They were dreaming of returning south to Campania, to make wines in their homeland.
They’d heard about WineSpark, and thought we might be a good fit for each other.
It didn’t take long to make up my mind
After an intro Zoom call, I had a pretty good feeling about them. After years of working with winemakers, you develop an instinct for this sort of thing…
- Winemaking credentials? Impeccable
- Access to quality fruit? Promising
- Hunger/desire to make it work? Absolutely.
They were hoping to pick grapes and make their first wines from the 2022 harvest, in October. And would I be interested in buying them?
It sounded exciting to me, so I told them to go ahead and we’d keep in touch.
Fast forward to Friday morning
We did keep in touch, and it was time for a visit to see how it was all shaping up.
I land mid-morning in Naples and meet them at arrivals. It’s chaotic and baking hot outside - we're in Italy, after all.
We hop in the car, and instead of the well-worn path south to the Amalfi Coast, we head east up the mountains, to an area called Irpina.
On the way up I learn about Campania and what makes it special.
It’s possibly Italy's oldest wine region - it’s thought that the ancient Greeks first brought grape vines here on their way through Europe.
And the weather, which drops 10°C in the one-hour drive up here, is completely different to the coast.
It’s windy and rainy, and has very hot days and very cold nights - perfect conditions for creating grapes with intense flavour and freshness.
The visit gets off to a flier
Our first stop is a beautiful organic Aglianico vineyard - the grape behind the powerful reds of Campania.
The grower proudly shows us around, and brings us into his garage where he gives us a taste of his homemade wine from his grapes.
It’s a bit rough around the edges - but I can see the fruit potential is there. Deep, dark colour, and lush blackberry fruit. It’s good stuff.
With some proper winemaking, this could be outstanding.
It’s time for lunch
We head to a nearby restaurant, and I happily order 3 courses of pasta (it’s been a while.)
We order a bottle of one of the best local wines, a 2018 Fiano. It’s rich, oily and complex - and reminds me a bit of a lovely aged Riesling.
I’m yet to try their wine - but so far, so good.
It’s all on the line…
Over lunch we talk about starting our own businesses, and taking that first scary leap into the unknown.
It turns out they took that big leap right after our Zoom call last year - and I nearly choke on my truffle and pecorino ravioli. No pressure on me then!
But they’re great people, and I have a good feeling about it all.
I've taken a punt - and it’s paid off spectacularly
We get back to their winery late in the afternoon, and it’s finally time to taste the wines they’ve made.
And they completely blow me away.
- The first wine is a Falanghina, sourced from a vineyard on sandy soils near Naples. It’s a ripe and fresh style, with loads of apples, peaches and pears, and floral and mineral flavours going on. It’s textured and characterful - so true to the grape variety, and easily the best Falanghina I’ve ever tasted
- Then there's a Fiano, a more serious and complex wine, with a mineral and almost smoky nose. On the palate it’s layered and tropical, with a very fine and very long finish. This one will age for years, and takes me right back to that stunning example we had at lunch
- Finally we try their Aglianico straight from barrel - and there’s so much potential here. It’s big, structured and powerful, with waves of fresh dark fruit, herbs and savoury notes. If you like Ribera del Duero or Priorat, this will be right up your street. But it’s a baby and won’t be ready for another couple of years!
If you’ve ever been to the Amalfi Coast, these wines will take you right back to the magic of the place.
From the comfort of your own garden or kitchen this summer.
At this point I’m buzzing
It’s an unbelievable feeling when you’ve discovered something new, made by brilliant people, that you know customers are going to love.
And it feels even better when you realise that you’ve had quite a big part in making it happen.
I’m so glad that a chance email led to this.
And more importantly, that I have a group of customers, like our members, who appreciate great quality wines, and will support ambitious and talented people like this.
The whites will be here in June
You’re going to want to make sure you get your hands on these.
I can’t wait for you to try these special wines from Campania - just keep an eye on your emails, and roll on the summer!