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What our expert thought of Feudi di San Gregorio 'Cutizzi' Greco di Tufo




about this wine About this wine
 
The Mycenaean Greeks introduced winemaking to southern Italy and Sicily.  Later, the Ancient Greeks had extensive colonies and vineyards in the region.  Traces of this heritage can still be found today, especially in the grape varieties found there.  Last week we saw how the Negroamaro of Puglia is probably named ‘black-black’ in Latin and Greek respectively.
 
Across in Campania the Greek connection is more obvious.  The main black grape of the region, Aglianico, was known as Ellenico (‘Hellenic’, i.e. ‘Greek’) up until the 15th Century.  The oldest white variety in Campania, long grown alongside Aglianico, is even more explicit: it’s called Greco.  As their names suggest, both are believed to be of ancient Greek origin.
 
Greco or Aglianico, or perhaps both, are believed to be the grapes used to make Falernum, the most celebrated and expensive wine of the Roman era.  A price list inscribed on the wall of a tavern in the ruins of Pompeii (also in Campania) states:
For one coin you can drink wine
For two you can drink the best
For four you can drink Falernum
We know where Falernum came from – the slopes of Mount Falernus in Campania, where Greco and Aglianico grow today.  At first it seems strange that we don’t know whether it was made from black or white grapes, but the distinction would not have been obvious in the finished wine.
 
The deep colour of modern reds is a fairly recent invention, requiring constant punching down (originally by foot-treading) of the cap of grapeskins during fermentation.  This isn’t practical in the clay amphorae in which wine was fermented in ancient times, so wine from black grapes would have looked more like rosé.  Falernum was also aged for decades before being sold, producing an oxidised style akin to Madeira.  With long, oxidative aging, red wines fade and white wines darken, until both end up the colour of really old tawny port, or vintage Madeira.
 
The heartland for Greco today is about 70 km east of Mount Falernus, but it shares the same well-drained, tuff-rich volcanic soil and steep slopes.  This is the Greco di Tufo DOCG, centred on the small town of Tufo that gets its name from the tuff (Italian tufo) stone of which it is built.  Tuff is compacted volcanic ash; it’s very easy to work and much of Ancient Rome was built with it.  Greco seems to have a particular affinity for it.
 
This may be southern Italy, but these vineyards are a long way inland and high up – around 600 metres.  Consequently nights are very cold, which preserves acidity in the grapes as they ripen, making inland Campania one of the few areas in Italy where white wines dominate.  Neither Greco di Tufo nor the neighbouring white DOCG of Fiano di Avellino taste like hot-climate wines; both are notably crisp and powerful dry whites.
 
This wine comes from one of the giants of the region: Feudi di San Gregorio.  Founded in the late Eighties, it has been responsible, along with the much longer-established Mastroberardino, for the revival in the reputation of Campanian wine, and has been an enthusiastic champion of traditional local grape varieties like Greco.
 
This is their top bottling of Greco di Tufo, from the best vineyards in Santa Paolina, just a couple of kilometres northeast of Tufo itself.  It’s called Cutizzi after the 8 hectare vineyard that supplies most of the grapes for it.  These are picked about a week later than those for the regular Greco di Tufo bottling, for extra ripeness and weight.
 
Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks at a cool 16°C to 18°C, and lasts around 15 days.  The wine is then aged on its lees in stainless steel for four to five months, with repeated batonnage (lees-stirring).  After bottling the wine is aged a further two months before release.
 
the tasting The Tasting
 
The colour is a pale-ish lemon, with some slight green hints showing the wine’s youth.
 
This has an aromatic but very clean and obviously unoaked nose, with lemon oil and apple peel scents laid over greengage and pear.  It’s herby too, with a hint of fresh mint.
 
Fully dry and mouthwateringly crisp, this is nonetheless full-bodied, with surprising palate weight.  It’s decidedly mineral, tasting stony and concentrated rather than overtly fruity.  There is  lovely fruit behind the stones and white pepper spice – greengage and pear with a lemony edge, along with just a touch of mouthfilling creaminess from the lees contact.
 
Salted almonds join the spices and stones on the long, mouthwatering finish.
 
Assessment
 
This is classy stuff, combining cleanliness with concentration, and ripe fruit with stony minerality.  It comes over quite restrained at first, but gets better with each mouthful, always leaving the drinker’s palate refreshed and ready for more.  In that respect it reminds me of the great Greek grape Assyrtico, and it’s tempting to think that the two varieties might be related.
 
Although this is clearly a food wine, its lovely balance makes it rewarding to sip contemplatively on its own.  And ‘sip’ is perhaps the operative word here: this wine has an intensity that makes one drink it slowly; there’s no need to rush back for another mouthful to find out what it tasted like.  It’s a classic illustration of the merits of quality over quantity.


Tasting notes

Appearance
clear medium- lemon, hints of green
Nose

Intensity medium+

Aromas citrus (lemon oil), orchard fruit (apple peel, pear), stone fruit (greengage), herbs (mint)

Development youthful
Palate

Sweetness fully dry

Acidity high-

Body full-

Intensity medium+

Flavours spice (white pepper), mineral (stony), green fruit (greengage, pear), citrus (lemon), lees (mouthfilling, slight creaminess)
Finish

Length medium++, mouthwatering

Flavours spices, stones, salted almonds
Other notes
Very clean and fresh, and obviously unoaked. Concentrated, classy and moreish.


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