A place in Italy where pasta and wine share the identity of its terroir
Huddled on the slopes of Vesuvius, there is a small town reflected in the blue waters of the most romantic gulf in the world: Gragnano. Known as the “City of Macaroni” by the end of the XIX century, it was the only one to have the privilege of supplying pasta to the royal table then, and it is the only one to boast the European IGP brand for pasta, now. “White gold”: it owes its excellent quality to the heat of the day, to the wind that blows from Castellammare and to the Gragnano artisans. “Full sun that beats, until sunset, from the plain of Pompeii, on the heights of Lèttere, Pimonte, Sant’Antonio Abate, the typical places of Gragnano”, thus described Mario Soldati the terroir of the wine of Gragnano, “the traditional wine of the true Neapolitans” of the DOC Sorrento Peninsula.
In this habitat of “torcularium” to press the grapes, and terracotta “dolium” for fermentation and preservation of the Roman wine, the grape has always been cultivated as low orchard plantations of the Lattari Mountains, thus allowing the farmers to plant vegetables in the shadow of the vine. From the grapes of Piedirosso, Sciascinoso (Olivella), Aglianico, Suppezza and Castagnara, wine was made mainly for family consumption and to be sold to Neapolitan merchants who arrived in Gragnano every autumn for the usual “traffica del vino”, the negotiation of new wine in the barrels on the trailers to Naples. This happened until 1960. Gragnano, a small piece of land that was difficult to mechanize, escaped the industrialization of wine, passing from being a peasant product to the artisan one, with just 20 cellars today. Raffaele La Mura of Poggio Delle Baccanti returned to produce the ancestral method, taking up the true soul of Gragnano wine. In the vineyard, the harvest is manual; the mid-hill clusters are selected at about 350 m above the sea level, where the daytime temperature range gives the greatest results when it comes to the complexity of the aromas and acidity, as well as a meticulous work in the cellar.
The wine of Gragnano, lively and graceful, served strictly cold, goes well with pasta, pizza, fresh cheeses and cured meats, but also fish and seafood dishes, which the region is rich of. “If you can’t get two clams on the way back home, you make a ‘barzanella, a typical local pasta with fresh tomato and pork fat sauce, which the Gragnano foam enhances wonderfully,” explains Raffaele, exultantly of the “second youth of the Gragnano”, requested today also by the foreign catering for its genuine peculiarity. Juicy and naturally sparkling, with a brilliant ruby colour, it smells of red fruit, Mediterranean herbs, and the sea. Sometimes sweet, it is a blunt and casual wine, cheerful and melancholic. “Enjoy it at sunset, placed in an ice bucket”.