A Trio of Wacky Southern Italians: Terre del Principe

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Terre del Principe is located in Campania in southern Italy. This winery is making wines from the extremely obscure indigenous grapes Casavecchia and Pallagrello Nero. In fact, founders Peppe Mancini and Manuela Piancastelli were responsible for reviving the grapes and fought with the Italian regulators for the right to put the grape names on their labels. Neither of these grapes has an entry in Oz Clarke’s Grapes and Wines nor in the Oxford Companion to Wine.

This fact is not surprising given how little about these grapes is known. In the case of Casavecchia, all that is known is that all current vines are cuttings of the original, which was discovered near an ancient roman house that gave it its name. As Terre del Principe describes: “found inside the remains of a sort of walled garden near the ancient via Latina which connected Capua and Alife, that plant, with a trunk 40 centimetres across, would give birth to all the others.” Not much else is known. It is planted in the older vineyards.

More is known about Pellagrello Rosso – but not much. It is a late ripening variety (October-November) with thick skins that protect its tightly packed bunches from rot.

Both of these grapes are extremely interesting, and carry fascinating bitter leaf and bitter nut characteristics along with a dense core of rich fruit and lively acidity that make them both highly enjoyable and fascinating for the jaded wine-geek palate. From what I can tell the wines see a combination of traditional techniques like very long maceration with modern ones like barrique ageing (though I think at 8-12 months this is not excessive – and it does not interfere with the uniqueness of the grapes). These are food wines, though, and do best matched with tomato sauces, grilled sausages and roasts.

Centomoggia Casavecchia 2008: My favourite wine of the three, it was the prettiest and best balanced and a less of the intense bitterness found in Pallagrello Nero. Nonetheless, it had an extremely peculiar bouquet, but was also very easy to drink and full of fruit and life. Excellent. ~$45 at Kits Wine.

Ambruco Pallagrello Nero 2008: My least favourite of the three, the funky

bitterness came out a bit too much in this wine for me, though food mellowed out this characteristic. It may also be a personal preference issue since this wine was also quite fruity and accessible. Nonetheless I think it has less elegance than the pure Casavecchia. Very Good. ~$45 at Kits Wine.

Castello delle Femmine Pallagrello Nero & Casavecchia 2008: A highly interesting wine that seems to balance the intense funky nut bitterness and iodine of Palagrello Nero with the florals and elegance of the Casavecchia. Both fruitily delicious and very interesting to drink. This is an unusual and delicious companion for red meat or tomato pastas. Very Good+ ~$45 at Kits Wine.

If you’re looking for a cool alternate summer BBQ wine to match all that grilled fatty meat, any of these trio will fit the bill very well and will probably excite quite a few, even those with less wine experience. These wines are highly recommended if you’re looking for something unusual.

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