Delectable Destinations – When touring Italy, vineyard visits are a must. There really is no better way to savour a rich red or crisp white vintage than sipping one amongst the Tuscan hills or rustic Appuliese landscape. It’s a time-honoured tradition for anyone visiting Italy, especially on a culinary tour. I have noticed over the years just how much more appreciation my guests have for Italian wines after visiting a real working vineyard.
Take, for example, one of my favourites – Le Vigne di Raito on the Amalfi Coast. I go twice a year and I never get tired of exploring the orderly rows of vines and talking with Patrizia Malanga, the warm and welcoming proprietor. Her six-acre vineyard is organic and still hand-worked, proving just how much love and passion she has for the craft and the product.
Patrizia and Alfonso – our guide and translator, love to tell my guests and I about Raito’s grapes and wines, explaining how aglianico and piedirosso grapes – typical grapes of the Campania region of Italy – turn into their famous Ragis Rosso. Spending the afternoon sipping wine, eating homemade delicious local specialities- made by Patrizia herself, and sharing in the extraordinary views afforded by the vineyard’s situation on the crescent-shaped Bay of Salerno and neighbouring Vietri sul Mare, the Amalfi Coast’s gateway. No doubt, this day is a highlight of our week!
Patrizia, like the rest of us, couldn’t resist the natural beauty of the area when she visited for the first time over 15 years ago, even if the property was overgrown and neglected. She knew she could make something of the hillside and that is just what she did.
On occasion, the winemaker may decide to leave them in if the grapes themselves contain less tannin than desired. This is more acceptable if the stems have ‘ripened’ and started to turn brown. If increased skin extraction is desired, a winemaker might choose to crush the grapes after destemming.
She learned that the site had been a vineyard in the Middle Ages and decided to wake it up by rolling up her sleeves and getting to work.
It is from people like Patrizia that we learn that a vineyard isn’t just about grapes and great vintages, but about the history of the people who love the land, and even the history of the land itself. Italian wines show off the landscape in their bold flavours, especially when the grapes are treated like Patrizia treats them, organically and by hand, and it is such a joy to witness that passion firsthand. The vineyard is certified organic and biodynamic.
I can’t thank Alfonso Vincenzo Mauro enough for helping me out with this blog post – he knows the vineyard and surrounding areas so well, his stories and knowledge make Vietri sul Mare and Raito shine for me and my guests. A wonderful friend and guide, bringing this region alive with his enthusiasm and energy. Looking forward to our return in 2016!