Posted by: tomciocco | February 16, 2012

THE MYSTERIOUS, ANCIENT ‘RED FEET’ OF CAMPANIA

Beginning with cuttings brought by the earliest Greek traders, or perhaps even before, Campania has been host to the grape vine. This is a temperate, hilly, fertile (lots of volcanic soils), sunny patch of earth that is dotted with micro-climates ranging from seaside vineyards on the island of Ischia, to high-elevation rows sloping right up to the snow-capped Maiella and Mainarde mountain ranges.

So after close to 3,000 years of viticulture, it’s not any sort of shock that there are more varieties of vitis vinifera growing in this region (many that grow nowhere else, with names like like Casavecchia, Pallagrello, Asprinia, etc….) than can be found in entire countries.  One vine from out of this great multitude is a red variety (most often) called Piedirosso (pyed-ee-ROH-so). For the non-Italophones out there, this name is tough enough but two of this variety’s aliases (after three millennia, they’ve ALL got AKAs) are Sciascinoso (sha-shee-NOH-zo) and  – hold on to your fillings – Per’e Palummo (per-EH pah LOO-mmo).  For those with some aquaintence with the Italian language, you probably could pry the meaning “red feet” from the name Piedirosso, and if you did, you’d be right. It might conjure images of deeply colored, almost black-skinned grapes trodden by stained heels…Thankfully, I don’t have to continue with that description because in truth, the “feet” being referenced are not human. The meaning of one of the aforementioned aliases – Per’e Palummo –  tells the story…

In the dialect of Salerno in southern Campania, Per’e Palummo means “dove’s claw”, and doves, like some pigeons, and lots of other birds too, have red feet. To make a short story long, Piedirosso’s stalks, just above, and figuratively “clawing” the fruit, are markedly red, hence the name. Ironically this particular wine’s coloring is fairly pale red, but to perhaps add to the confusion, the variety is indeed capable of yielding deeply colored wines, but what fun would any of this be if it were easy, right? 

Dinner consisted of a primo piatto of spaghetti with finely chopped walnuts toasted in olive oil, with garlic, basil, pecorino cheese, and parsley. The main course was mackerel fillets, slathered with a paste of bread crumbs, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, mint, and oregano, and baked, with some cauliflower browned up right alongside the fish in the oven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giuseppe Apicella Piedirosso Colli di Salerno IGT 2010

Completely transparent, black-tinted, ruby color. Rustic nose of cherry juice, stones, sulphur, green olives, grilled strawberries, hay, and dried herbs. The palate is fresh, juicy, and smooth, with a medium-light, slightly austere mouthfeel, with a wiry, grippy structure and tart acidity and flavors of salty fig, sweetened cranberries, and fine cigar. Sweet and sour, spicy finish.

 

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