On a cold winter day in 2011 while reading Luciano Pignataro’s wine blog (http://www.lucianopignataro.it) (a must read for people interested in wines from Southern Italy) I came across an article on Le Vigne Di Raito. The winery bottled its first vintage in 2007. In the article the owner of the winery, Patrizia Malanga, commented on the challenges that a small winery with an annual production of less than 6,000 bottles has participating in the international market. This piqued my interest. I made arrangements with my wine consultant and transportation coordinator, Gaetano Petrillo of The Wine Bus (http://www.thewinebus.it) to visit Le Vigne Di Raito on our next trip to Italy.
On an autumn day in 2012 Gaetano left my wife and me at the base of the beautiful terraced vineyard to meet Patrizia. As Gaetano parked his vehicle, we engaged in conversation with Patrizia and soon discovered that she was born in the City of Potenza, a city about 25-30 miles north of my family’s ancestral home village of Corleto Perticara. We concluded that we must be “distant” cousins.
Le Vigne Di Raito, a certified organic winery, is located in Raito, a frazione of Vietri sul Mare. Patrizia purchased and planted the vineyard about fifteen years ago. At the outset she worked the vineyard with the workers so that she could appreciate fully the tiresome work, made more so due to the terraced land.
Because of the elevation and proximity to the Gulf of Salerno, Patrizia has to guard against erosion caused by strong winds and rain. For example, she does not turn over or loosen the soil with machines due to potential adverse effects that wind and rain would have on loose soil. On our most recent trip Patrizia shared with us one of her organic methods for detecting and stemming the spread of disease. She uses rose plants as a “guard” for her vines. If a rose plant becomes diseased, then it is likely that the grapes near the rose plant will also become diseased. The diseased grapes and leaves are pruned.
After each of our visits we have relaxed at Patrizia’s outdoor patio and enjoyed a breathtaking view of the Gulf of Salerno while tasting her wines. Le Vigne Di Raito features two wines: one is a rosato (rose) which is made from a blend of 80%-20% piedirosso and aglianico grapes, respectively; and the second is the flagship wine, Ragis, which is a blend of 80%-20% aglianico and piedirosso grapes, respectively. This wine blends the intensity and dryness of the aglianico grape with the softer and less tannic piedirosso grape. Ragis is one of our favorites.
Le Vigne Di Raito is a family affair. Patrizia’s daughters Valentina and Alexa assist with the harvest. Vallentina is studying to be a sommelier and Alexa is a pharmacist in Salerno. Patrizia’s husband, Stelio, is an oral surgeon with offices in Potenza and Salerno. His busy schedule does not allow for much time in the vineyard, but he is a presence at the dinners prepared by Patrizia for their friends and family.
When I was young my grandmother and Aunt Mary would make cavatelli, but we called the pasta dish “fingers” because of the way cavatelli pasta is made, rolling and pushing each piece with one’s fingers. For dessert Patrizia has prepared a caprese chocolate cake. (See next blog article for the recipe.) We are fortunate to be part of Patrizia’s “family”.