At the Bay of Naples northern, outermost edge, the isle of Ischia rises like a green and dusty bastion out of the acquamarine sea. It’s quite a bit larger and far less trodden than Capri, its sibling at the southern end of the gulf , and these physical traits, and of course its looong viticultural history, have been able to carry this winemaking tradition past the villas and the resorts (though they’re there too to be sure) into the 21st century.
And it should come as little surprise that this undulating crust of land shelters a few rare, local vine varieties, and guess what? In addition to the whites varieties Biancolella (50%) and Forestera (50%) that make up this wine, the island is also home to Guarnaccia (an old clone of Garnacha!), the fantastically named Per’e Palummo (a Piedirosso clone) and even some Aglianico. Now, and likely back to classical Greek times, Ischia has been known for fish restaurants, and with so many tables set innumerable times with all manner of frutti di mare, it’s a natural fact that these two grape varieties pair brilliantly with anything born with a fin, a shell, or a set of tentacles.
So who am I to disagree? It being the heart of asparagus season, I stayed seasonal, and roasted a small bunch of blades with olive oil and lemon zest, and then garnished them with minced hard-boiled eggs (the wine handled this with aplomb for those wondering) and then a coastal Campanian classic for the main course – Fritto misto di mare – in this case just white shrimp and squid tossed in seasoned flour, and flash fried, served with lemon wedges, a side of baby peas, and bread.
Casa d’Ambra Ischia Bianco 2009
Moderately deep greenish golden color. Fragrant nose of ground ginger, light honey, pear, apricot, and hay. The wine is medium full-bodied and broad and clean with very fresh acidity, carrying flavors of grass, pale scotch whiskey, and sweet corn. Finishes with a tidy salty/quinine taste.