Posted by: tomciocco | September 25, 2010

SO GLAD YOU MADE IT OUT OF THE HOUSE, CASAVECCHIA

It’s the kind of story you’d like to believe, though it really does seem way too good to be true…In the late 19th century, in the mountainous province of Caserta in northwestern Campania, in the small town of Pontelatone near a very old half-ruined house, stood a particularly beloved, thick-trunked old vine that was  thought to literally be the  last of its kind. In order to preserve and propagate this variety without taking a risky cutting from the solitary ancient mother vine, only an untested and painstaking  ancient Roman viticultural technique was deemed safe enough… So rather than trying to root a cutting, a living, growing shoot was led off the mother vine directly back into the the soil and rooted that way. The technique was successful, but only after this shoot had developed an independent and robust root structure was it then separated from the mother vine and planted.

Perhaps predictably, this seemingly ancient and esteemed variety, at some point on the long dwindling trail that lead to that singular gnarled example, irretrievably lost its original name to some crack in the flow of time. The story continues that since the mother vine had always been associated with the old stone house next to, under, and through which it grew in Pontelatone, once the variety’s survival was assured, it came to be known as “Casavecchia” (“old house” in Italian) as a nod to the venerable domicile that once sheltered it…Quite a yarn, right?!

But no matter what this vine is or was called at one time (some scholars believe it to be the ancient and once coveted variety the Romans called “Trebulanum”, a black-skinned grape that is known to have been grown just up the road from Pontelatone) the most important things are that we can still drink it today, and that it’s now legally and officially called “Casavecchia”.

I set this exotic and intense wine out with prosciutto and super sweet cantaloupe melon slices, and then re-worked a beef pot roast with a fresh yellow squash into an herby hash that I stuffed into giant rigatoni (paccheri) that I then arranged in a casserole, slathered with a tomato/cream/sage sauce, and slid into the oven…

 

 

Vestini Campagnano Casavecchia Terre di Lavoro IGT 2009

Deep and saturated purple/black color with crimson at the rim. Penetrating nose of  bacon, lillies, black soil, brown spices, wild strawberries, and creme de cassis. The smooth, satiny medium full structure houses rich plum and blackberry fruit flavors, and indications of  black tea, and sap that are beautifully balanced by youthful,  fresh acids and softly peppery tannins. The finish echoes on, sweet and long.

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