The word “paradise” is one that is overused, it’s true – in everything from travel brochures to descriptions of multi-million dollar homes with manicured properties. One look at the Amalfi Coast south of Naples however, and the word has never seemed so comfortable to be associated with a place – with its climate tempered by the azure seas, with its waves crashing on rocky cliffs, lush green mountains just inland, three thousand years of architectural history, a world-class cuisine, and some of the most amiable people you can find anywhere. So it should come as no surprise that a place with this sort of breathtaking charm would produce wines to match, and indeed it does, and ones that deserve to be better known outside of their homeland, and this wine serves a fine ambassador to do just that.
Because this region has been a vacation area since Roman times, and is thick with vine-friendly volcanic soil, there are literally dozens of obscure but very characterful endemic vine varieties, both red and white, and this wine is no exception. Amalfi has a wealth of seafood coming into its ports that pair beautifully with the fresh local whites, but the hills just beyond the sea are full of furred and feathered game, and flocks of sheep and goats whose meat pairs perfectly with the local reds, and one of the those local reds is what was on the menu…
This wine is made from 40% of one of southern Italy’s noblest varieties, the austerely elegant Aglianico, 20% of Aglianico’s frequent partner, the soft and aromatic Piedirosso, and 40% of the deep, velvety, and ultra-local Tintore to round out the blend. The volcanic soil lends a smoky minerality, and the location is a rare one indeed, with steep vineyards sites seated between 1,000 to over 1,600 feet above sea level which helps to cool and temper the strong southern sun, but these vineyards are also within view of the Mediterranean through a narrow valley that allows for higher mountain winds to funnel out to the sea at times, and warmer sea breezes to blow up the slopes at others. The upshot of all these details of terroir and wind convection is the creation of a wonderful conspiracy to yield healthy, intense fruit with very elegant tannins and acids – in short, a paradise for vines (and people too).
I put this deep, vibrant wine with a first course of penne with a sauce of mushrooms, red pepper, and spinach, and then little lamb meatballs with mint, parsley, and garlic in a tomato and red wine sauce with oregano, potatoes, and black olives.
Tenuta San Francesco Costa d’Amalfi Rosso “Tramonti” 2010
Magenta-tinted deep garnet color. Big and sensual nose of smoky black cherry fruit closely backed by strong notes of blood orange juice and strawberry preserves supported by aromas of woody spices, lilies and roses, toasted grain, and barnyard. The palate is full-bodied, deep and supple balanced by a very fresh acidity and peppery tannins that spring flavors of black raspberry, myrtle, and black licorice. Very long and dry plum butter finish. A wine that defines “elegant rusticity”.