Our search for Aglianico, the fabled ‘Nebbiolo of the south’, had become an obsession. This is a vine that can sometimes resemble Barolo, offers hints of a pinot noir nuance and, in the capable hands of Ferrante di Somma (who has lived and studied in France and understands Burgundy), demonstrates a supple elegance for good measure.
Aglianico is so often hard and rustic, many a frog was kissed until we discovered di Marzo’s supple and elegant reds, the white wines were a bonus. Cantine di Marzo turns out to be the birthplace of Greco di Tufo. This famous white was born in 1647 when Ferrante’s ancestor, Scipione di Marzo, moved home from Nola to Tufo to escape a virulent plague. Amongst his belongings was ‘Greco del Vesuvio’ which he planted in vineyards dominated by red vines. We have stumbled across a piece of living history and Greco is the beating heart of this estate.
The village of Tufo is built on volcanic rock rich in sulphur, it is an unusual terroir and in truth, over the centuries the family has had far more success mining sulphur than making wine.
The golden period from the 20’s ended in the 50’s with the discovery that sulphur was a by-product of the oil industry, mining had been the source of Tufo’s wealth and it was not just the di Marzo family that entered a period of hiatus.
Winemaking continued unbroken though there was little input or interest from the family and the palazzo fell destitute after earthquake damage.
Fortunately, the estate continued to propagate vines in its own nursery and the original genetic stock remains unchanged, the value of this is incalculable.
Much of the 23 hectares of Tufo vineyard is planted with greco then aglianico, grapes are purchased rom the best vineyards of Taurasi.
There are no plantings, experimental or otherwise of the French set; for a cosmopolitan family they have a wonderfully narrow approach to their vines.
The cellar has been carved by hand into the hill, it is a series a caves ensuring a perfect temperature even if it does mean that every piece of equipment has had to be tailor-made to fit.
The modernisation of this cellar has been overseen by Ferrante and also owes much to his father, who started the recovery by acquiring enough shares to wrench control from the various factions of the family.
Throughout all of this, the people working within the estate have remained unchanged, Giuseppe Lennaco looks after the vineyards, as he has for all of his working life. Paolo Caciorgna looks after the still wines and Maurizio Baldi the sparkling wines, it is an excellent team.
Certainly the latest releases make this winery one of the most exciting new finds (if such an old family firm can in any way be described as new) I have made in many years.