I created this tasting note sheet for many reasons. To pass the WSET Level 4 Diploma you have to get a bit indoctrinated into their vocabulary and stick with it. If you stray too much, they don’t take favorably to it. At walk-around tastings, I find myself more in a cocktail party mode and am completely unable to take a proper note for remembering later on for writing. I will certainly stand and have discussion with others, but then the notes are gone from my brain. At sit-down tastings, I seem to do OK with taking a written note but then never created a filing system for papers (or made the time to make them digital) and end up just tossing them out.
Apps like Delectable and Vivino are great for social sharing but not for serious note taking and I wanted something additional for my studies, not just photos for my social scene.
I formatted the note and its tickboxes with the intention I would with my iPhone in my left hand and glass in my right hand. All ticking would just happen with my left thumb. Longer lines were doing a weird word wrap so I put everything on individual lines.
In terms of organization, I have one large notebook called “TASTING NOTES” then tag the note with all the pertinent information that I may want to search for later like grape variety or event at which it was tasted.
Mobile-friendly version of the WSET Systematic Approach to Tasting formatted for Evernote. Simply copy the template for each new wine.
Mobile-friendly version of the WSET Systematic Approach to Tasting formatted for Evernote. Simply copy the template for each new wine.
I’ve created this exactly from the WSET Level 4 Systematic Approach to Wine Tasting as per the copyright requests of the WSET (maybe an American respelling or 2). How you choose to reformat and use in the privacy of your own Evernote is up to you.
Copyright Wine & Spirit Education Trust 2006
The copyright in the “WSET® Systematic Approach to Tasting (Diploma)” is the property of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, which also owns the moral rights therein. WSET is a Registered Trademark of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.
The WSET® Systematic Approach to Tasting (Diploma) may be reproduced freely without royalty or fee upon terms that:
i. it is reproduced in full, without alteration, omission or addition:
ii the title “WSET® Systematic Approach to Tasting (Diploma)” is always included therewith:
iii the Wine & Spirit Education Trust is acknowledged as the author thereof:
iv the foregoing copyright claim is reproduced in full in connection with every publication thereof.
Dolcetto (dole – chet – toe): the name itself is a bit deceiving. In Italian, it would mean “little sweet one,” but this red Piemontese wine is no sweeter than a Chianti or a Bordeaux. In fact, “dolcetto” takes its name from the Piemontese hills that are named, in dialect, Duzzet.
Piemonte, or Piedmont, is a northern region of Italy touching the snowy Alps and the south of France. Most attention on wine focuses on the great Barolo and Barbaresco, two wonderful red wines that do deserve more than an aside. For the sake of the Dolcetto, though, an aside is all they will receive for now so as to give this lesser-known wine some spotlight. Dolcetto is a regional wine that is not widely known outside of Piemonte, much less beyond Italy’s borders; although reasonably-priced bottles may be found in about a dozen US cities.
The Dolcetto grape is grown in the same regions as Barolo and Barbaresco, and serves an important role for producers of these two great wines. Dolcetto is best served fresh and young; it is light and simple, unlike either Barolo or Barbaresco, which both require longer aging. While a producer waits for a vintage, the Dolcetto fills in.
This not-so-complex wine is better known to be a table wine or a lunch wine, but a producer from Ovada named Tomaso Armento of the Forti del Vento winery is determined to prove this false. His Dolcetti are balanced in both tannins and acidity – a Dolcetto tends to be too tannic and not acidic enough. And, the layering of flavors is interesting and more subtle than the simple, sometimes flat, average Dolcetto.
The grape has been cultivated in Monferrato, Piemonte since before 1000 AD, and while it has spread and produced closely related vines since then, its best expression lies in the hills below the Alps. Its best terroirs are suitably its seven DOC areas: Acqui, Alba, Asti, Diano d’Alba, Dogliani, Ovada and Langhe Monregalesi. The wine earned its DOC status in 1972 in Ovada. Recently, Dolcetto di Dogliani and Dolcetto d’Ovada have acquired the DOCG status.
This modest but versatile red wine is usually not for drinking alone, but pairs smoothly with almost anything; and it is so light in flavor and refreshing that a summer glass of it could substitute a white wine for the evening. It’s traditionally low in alcohol, but modern production tendencies can sometimes give too high of an ABV. Dolcetto generally has a fresh, fruity scent and tastes of quince and jams, with balanced acidity and tannins in its very best expression (but again, too tannic and not acidic enough in other cases). It is versatile with food and never overpowering. Its signature taste is that of almonds, and a slight bitter aftertaste may be detected, as though the fine, bitter peel of the almond had dipped into the glass.
As drinkable as the average Dolcetto may be, which in itself is certainly a virtue, it has proven to be a hidden gem of a wine if produced in caring hands. Keep an eye on the Dolcetti of Piemonte, especially from Dogliani and Ovada.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover Piemonte’s Pelaverga DOC.
About Dolcetto. Wine Access.
Dawson, Evan. Dolcetto in Ovada Has Potential to Be More Than Pizza Wine. Palate Press. Jan 2012.
Living in Bra, Italy in the Piemonte region provides access to many small, surrounding Italian villages. Each one boasts a fine, regional wine: Barbera d’Asti, Grignolino, Barolo and Barbaresco to name a few. One fine, sunny Sunday, some friends and I found ourselves in Verduno, the land of Pelaverga Rosso DOC. This is a fairly new addition to the wine legends of the area, with DOC appellation since 1995. The wine is only produced in the small surrounding countryside of this outlier community of Alba, located in the same region as Barolo. The name may mean something like “vine peeler” after the process of harvesting; pela from the Italian word “to peel” and verga as in “branch.” Although the wine has achieved more prominence lately, it has been around since the 15th century, when it was mostly blended in other wines or was a simple table wine.
We asked the barista at a local wine bar if we could try a bit of the wine, and he lent us wine glasses to enjoy the bottle in a nearby park that overlooks Piemonte. The table and lookout were made specifically for wine tasters.
This medium-bodied wine has an herbal scent with undertones of fruit, and a pleasant and balanced flavor with a light acidity. At first, violet and red fruit notes are prominent; then, the signature white pepper spiciness pinches your tongue. This distinct aroma and taste of white pepper is incredibly pronounced so that it seems someone sprinkled a bit into the bottle. We were told that it comes from the soil and terroir of this very specific area in Piemonte. The wine finishes with clean, fresh, peppery notes topped with ripe, red raspberry.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover Piemonte’s Pelaverga DOC.
Pelaverga – Verduno, Piedmont, Italy. Fringe Wine. June 2011.
The incomplete ABC’s of Campania list may never be completed, at least not until the Italian language adds X and Y to its alphabet. As for Z, if there are any suggestions for a Campanian wine or winery, do let me know! Z is for Zeppole di San Giuseppe, a delicious, cream-filled Saint Joseph’s fritters dessert, which is waiting for its vino-partner to make an appearance.
I have been attending classes at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, a Piemontese town where it is has been raining for days, as it has in the rest of Northern Italy. This means classes about food sovereignty, olive oil making, cheese tasting, the beer making process, food anthropology and food philosophy, media and communications as is related to food, and much, much more.
Just this past week I enjoyed an offal dinner – which was certainly not awful, but very delicious and…adventurous. Offal is the fifth quarter of an animal, as in tendon pesto that looked like a plate of rough-cut pasta; chicken liver pate topped with candied fruit with a side of Tuscan olive oil and toast; creamy, breaded cow brain served on spoons; tripe (cow stomach) in a slurpy, red sauce and sprinkled with pecorino toscano; and much more was on our menu. This was in preparation for our week-long Tuscan study trip beginning on Tuesday, where in the past, Tuscans made use of as much of the animal as possible. In the week to come, however, I don’t think we’ll have the honor of another offal dinner. Instead, we’ll be watching the olive oil process, as the olive harvest is now, in November; visit a geothermal power plant that naturally grows basil all year long; see traditional bakeries and pecorino toscano cheese-making; and of course sample many Tuscan wines, including some Super Tuscans.
Again, I’d love to feel like the ABC’s of Campania are neatly wrapped up and write about a Z wine. Send me some names if you have them! In the meantime, I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for something uniquely Campanian.
White cavolfiore (cauliflower) is widely and internationally known, such a common vegetable that the average dinner-partier does not think twice about the origins of that hard, bumpy, white vegetable among the others on the veggie and dip platter. The white cauliflower is actually relatively new in terms of cultivated plants that humans have been munching on since before recorded history.
Along with at least a dozen varieties, the white cauliflower was cultivated from two native plants from Asia and the Mediterranean. This plant, its growth stunted so that the flowers never bloom and its mass covered with its leaves so it stays as white as snow, came from broccoli. Broccoli arose in Italy, some varieties evolved into cauliflower, and the vegetable was known throughout Europe by the 1500s. Italy still produces cauliflower today. Campania is the single most productive region with 40% of Italy’s white cauliflower grown here; Le Marche and Tuscany are two other key areas. The season lasts from October to May, and thus white cauliflower and its colorful cousins, such as the green and angular romanesco, are great cold-weather vegetables. Even though the stark whiteness of cauliflower may lead one to wrongly assume it is poor in vitamins, the opposite is true. It is rich in potassium and folic acid, and one of the highest vitamin contents is Vitamin C: a half a cup of cauliflower gives an entire day’s worth.
White cauliflower and its variations can be pureed to a creamy, smooth consistency, baked, steamed, boiled, roasted and eaten raw, to name a few preparation methods. Its tendency to lose structure and turn to mush can be avoided with a 20-30 minute precook at a low temperature (130-140 F / 55-60 C) before undergoing a final long cooking (this can be applied to other foods, such as apples, carrots and potatoes). In Naples, especially around Christmas and New Year’s Day, the insalata di rinforzo is served. This “Reinforcement salad” is a hearty dish featuring cauliflower, peppers and olives.
These restaurants offer the traditional insalata di rinforzo during the holiday times.
Hotel Palazzo Sasso
Via San Giovanni del Toro 28
84010 Ravello – Amalfi Coast
tel + 39-089-818-181
Agriturismo Il Cocchiere
Via Piano del Principe, 229
80040 Poggiomarino – Naples
Via Capodimonte, 2/b
80071 Anacapri (Napoli)
The phenomenon of the wine glut, referred to as a “wine lake,” is certainly not confined to the region of Campania. But, when visiting this region rich in cultural and gastronomical history, there are ways to personally counteract the negative consequences that the wine lake causes.
The wine glut refers to too much wine for too few consumers. The extra wine goes to waste or is used as alternative fuel – a terrible waste of energy overall, given that wine and all of its production processes are being used as fuel in the end. The wine lake exists because of low quality and low cost wines produced in huge quantities. Government support has helped to fuel mass production of wine, but this is not the only thing to blame. Huge wine companies themselves are actually pushing for more demand instead of responding to the present demand, making not only batches and batches of poor quality wine, but also various other drinks such as wine coolers, in an effort to tap into the soft drink mindset of consumers.
The wine lake is not simply an overflow of terrible wine, but even of palatable, albeit not “good” quality wine. All countries are guilty of purposefully overshooting the demand in the race towards catering to a consumer culture, including newcomers Chile, Australia and the United States as well as old-timers Spain, France and Italy.
This overproduction of lower quality wine is by no means a new phenomenon, however. Throughout history, wine has been an everyday drink as a source of calories, clean water, and the relaxing, pleasant effect of alcohol. As the demographics of these countries have changed and the average worker does not need the caloric value of wine, less wine of a higher quality is consumed by more people. The out-pour of too much low quality wine has not slowed down.
Allora, as Italians say – well? How to counteract this is simple. Buying from small producers to support their vineyards in Campania is easy to do. Your wine drinking experience will certainly be more fulfilling and gratifying as your taste buds appreciate the flavor of high quality.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover small producers and high quality wines of Campania.
Baldwin, Eleonora. Christmas in Italy. The Reluctant Gourmet. December 2009.
Carter, Marina. Adventure guide: Naples, Sorrento & the Amalfi Coast. Hunter Publishing, Inc.: 2006. Google Books.
Europe burns its wine lake. Nature News. June 2007.
McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner 2004.
Phillips, Kyle. Cavolfiore: That’s Cauliflower, A Winter Gift. About.com 2011.
Resnik, Hank. Youth & Drugs: Society’s Mixed Messages. DIANE Publishing 1990. Google ebooks.
Veseth, Mike. Money, Music, War and Wine. The Wine Economist. May 2010.
The Vitellone Bianco dell’Apennine Centrale IGP, or white veal of the Central Apennine mountain range of Protected Geographic Origin, is superior quality veal that is raised in Campania near the Apennine mountain range. The cattle and steer are also raised in other Italian regions near the Apennines, including Abruzzo, Emilia-Romagna, Lazio, Le Marche, Molise, Tuscany and Umbria. Three robust and, frankly, gigantic breeds are part of the white veal IGP category: Marchigiana, Romagnola and Chianina. All three breeds were used as draft animals up until the mid-1850s, when Italians began to breed them for meat instead of for work. The environment in the mountains is one of the most important factors that contributes to the high quality of meat: not only have these breeds evolved and been bred to fit the Alpennine environment like a glove, but the animals feast daily on quite a wide variety of flora.
The Consorzio di Tutelo del Vitellone Bianco dell’Apennine Centrale IGP is the protection agency that requires specific parameters of weaning and husbandry in order for the calves to be of IGP quality. The period before weaning can be in pastures, stabled, free range and fixed. The calves must be weaned solely on their mothers’ milk, and then afterwards are free-range or bred in stalls. Butchering happens from 12 to 24 months, often around 16 to 20, and only in certified butcheries.
When buying this meat, one can always be sure that is is, indeed, the Vitellone Bianco IGP. This is because the Consorzio is the first protection consortium to electronically track the calves and meat from their origins. With every package purchased, one may trace the package number back to the original farm. On each package, a unique label that marks it as true Vitellone Bianco IGP is stamped. The meat is lean with an average GPI value of 2%, and its delectable flavor, juices and texture are best brought out with the simple and traditional preparation method of grilling and drizzling with extra virgin olive oil immediately before serving.
A producer in Campania:
Via Venafrana, Km 4700
81050 Presenzano (CE)
Agristor Le Due Torri
Strada Statale N 85
81050 Presenzano (CE)
Cantina del Vesuvio is situated in the center of the Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio (National Park of Vesuvius) in Naples. Maurizio Russo, the owner and viticoltore (wine producer), has a long family history of viticulture and enology in his family. Today, the vineyards are in the middle of a transformation to becoming organically certified. The Cantina del Vesuvio has vineyards in Vesuvio, Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii and Naples.
Traveling to the vineyards, one will be greeted warmly by Maurizio Russo and take a tour of the vineyards and winery, chat with Maurizio and, of course, drink a glass of wine. The territory and natural simplicity of the area are found in the bottles of wine the Cantina produces. These wines are numerous: First, the three most typical and traditional wines of the region, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Bianco, Rosso and Rosato DOC; Maestro Rosso IGT (100% Aglianico); Mariè Bianco IGT (100% Falanghina Pompeiano); and Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC Rosso Riserva “Sigillo Ceralacca.” (80% Piedirosso, 10% Aglianico, 10% Olivella). The Cantina also produces Grappa del Vesuvio, Distillato di Albicocche (apricot spirit), and, in keeping with tradition of the region, Extra Virgin Olive Oil del Vesuvio.
The Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC Bianco is composed of 80% Coda di volpe and 20% Falanghina, with a floral profume and a fresh, light and fruity taste. The Rosso is 80% Piedirosso, 10% Aglianico and 10% Olivella, with a full body and intense scents of violet and the native ginestra flower of Vesuvius. White peach is predominant on the palate. The Rosato is composed of 80% Piedirosso and 20% Aglianico, with similar tasting notes as the Rosso. Because the Lacryma Christi tends to have a soft palate and be rich in alcohol, it nicely complements seafood, including sautéed clams, crustaceans, fish stews and seafood risotto. Grilled vegetables and semi-firm cheeses pair well with the wines, as does the local mussel dish called Impepata di Cozze.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover wine from Cantina del Vesuvio.
Baldwin, Eleonora. The Wines of Campania. Italy Mondo! April 2010.
Cantina del Vesuvio. Luciano Pignatoro Wine Blog. May 2011.
Italian Food DOP and IGP. Forums.cooking.com document.
Vineyard Hopping – Trecase (Na) – Cantina del Vesuvio. Andiamotrips. Sept 2010.
Vitellone Bianco dell’Appennino Centrale IGP. Naturalmente Italiano.
Uova ‘Mpriatorio (oo-oh-vah m-pree-ah-tor-ee-oh) is a simple Neapolitan dish that features a sizzling red tomato sauce with two or more sunny-side up eggs cracked into it, served with a hunk of bread to sop up the good juices. It is an expression of the Neapolitan and Campanian way of utilizing the simplest, freshest ingredients to showcase the seasonal variety and create something delicious.
The name says a bit about the dish itself. “Eggs in Purgatory” is the literal translation. Priatorio is Neapolitan dialect for “purgatory,” and may be a twist and combination of the words pregare and Purgatorio, or “to pray” and “purgatory.” And of course, if one is in purgatory, then prayers are a way of being saved.
The question remains – why the colorful name? In Italian cities on the streets, near churches and in back alleys, there are the occasional indented corners and walls where Christ or the Madonna are honored as small religious figures surrounded by votive candles and flowers. Some of the votive candles can be seen in Naples as white souls rising from the red flames of purgatory – much like the white eggs floating on the surface of an often spicy hot tomato sauce. Simple recipes can be found all over the internet in both Italian and English.
As this is such a simple dish, it will likely be found in many traditional restaurants both in Naples and around Campania. Here is one agriturismo that features it:
Agriturismo Tenuta Montelaura
Via Due Principati 101, Contrada Pozzelle
Celzi di Forino (Avellino), 83020 Italy
The Catalanesca uva (grape) is a relatively rare cultivar today. It was brought over in the 1400s from Catalogna by Alfonso I d’Aragona, hence the name “Catalanesca.” This grape took to the volcanic soils of Campania and Vesuvius well, like other Campania grapes have done. The wine became regionally popular and was considered one of the more highly esteemed cultivars of the Vesuvius area until about 60 years ago. Even today, one can find Catalanesca cantine (wineries) that date back to the 1600s. There are not very many, however, and those that exist produce wine exclusively in the Vesuvius National Park area in Somma Vesuviana, S. Anastasia, S. Ottavio and other small towns.
The grape itself is golden and oval, not growing in close bunches. It is high in sugar, making subtle wines that reach their peak after at least two years of maturation. Uva Catalanesca has traditionally been a late-harvest grape, harvested in October, November and even December. Because the skin is thick, it protects the grape from toadstool fungus and allows late maturation. This crunchy grape is sweet and juicy and can be enjoyed on its own, in the mixed fruit salad called Macedonia, and in pastries and savory dishes alike. Excess grapes have always been consumed as such. Only recently in 2006, uva Catalanesca was added to the official wine grape list.
As example of a wine produced from 100% uva Catalanesca is the Casa Barone Vino Bianco 2007. The color is a deep straw yellow, and the wine’s structure is good, both light and firm. It has floral aromas of acacia blossom, magnolia and broom, with a fresh and persistent taste. It pairs well with fish platters and pastas that feature light sauces or vegetables.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover wine from uva Catalanesca.
Catalanesca White wine. Bravo Italy Gourmet.
Ravone, Angela. Uova in purgatorio. Città del Monde. Apr 2011.
Santilli, Luisa. Ars Alimentaria. April 2010.
Uova in purgatorio ” ova ‘mpriatorio.” A Cucina e Mammà. July 2011.
Uva Catalanesca. Regione Campania – Assessorato Agricoltura. 2009.
Torrone (tor-rone-eh) has been called “Italy’s candy bar,” with its sweet nougat and nut confection that is the inspiration for Toblerone and Mars candy. A typical recipe includes white sugar and honey, egg whites, and almonds, hazelnuts or pistachios (or a delicious nutty mix). Various spices are optional, and each Italian town has its own variation of the torrone. This sweet is traditionally eaten after lunch or dinner from Christmas day until January 6, the Epiphany; but now it can be found at any time.
If other typical Campanian products are shrouded in mystery, torrone is even more hushed up about its origins. It was possibly made by numerous cultures, including the Persians, Spanish, North Africans and Chinese. The Arabic turun is a similar confection, which suggests it was introduced to Sicily by the Arabs and then spread through Italy. If basing the origins on the candy’s name, however, the Latin torréo means “to toast,” referring to the toasted nuts. So, perhaps the ancient Romans invented the recipe and carried it with them to the far ends of the Roman empire, whereupon sweet-loving Arabs adopted it and carried it to Spain and Greece. Again, though, “torrone” also means “big tower,” perhaps referring to the royal wedding of Francesco Sforza to Bianca Maria Visconti of Cremona in 1441. The nougat is fabled to have taken center stage at the table, sculpted as the Cremona tower.
In the end, the origins of torrone are lost. But, some of the best is found in Campania in Benevento, where they are served with a liqueur called strega, or “witch” (Benevento’s colorful past includes a long history of witchcraft). This instructional video shows you how to make torrone, but this long-lasting candy cannot only be bought all over Italy, but shipped (or packed in suitcases), as well.
If stuck in the States without torrone at a local Italian specialty shop, the nougat can be ordered at Dean and DeLuca and A.G. Ferrari Foods. In Italy, torrone are found everywhere. Here are some high-quality shops in the Campania area:
Via Pastena, 29 – 83014 Ospedaletto d’Alpinolo
Stabilimento in contrada Chiaira , 49/A – 83100 (Avellino)
Gran Caffè Gambrinus (while you’re picking up the sfogliatelle, give this a try, too)
Festa del Torrone e del Croccantino
San Marco Dei Cavoti
Dec. 3 – Dec. 6, 2011
This year will be the tenth edition. Watch out for changes, however; a notice on the website states that the date may change.
Taburno refers to the Campania wine region that was declared D.O.C. in 1982 and includes 13 municipalities in the foothills of Mount Taburno. The grapes that are grown include Campania classics: Coda di Volpe, Falanghina, Greco, Novello, Piedirosso and Aglianico. The soils are especially well-suited for Falanghina and Aglianico. In the Taburno D.O.C. area, the viticulturists’ cooperative Cantina del Taburno assists over 300 members to successfully cultivate the indigenous grape varieties of the region. The Cantina is also associated with the University of Portici in Naples, supporting students in research with their analysis and micro-vinification laboratories.
The wines that are produced are Rosso and rose, a blend of 40-50% Sangiovese, 30-40% Aglianico, and 30% of other; Bianco wines are 40-50% Trebbiano, 30-40% Falanghina, and 30% other; Spumante is 60% Coda di Volpe and/or Falanghina and 40% other; and Riserva blends, with the additional requirement that they must be aged for at least three years.
Taburno D.O.C. is one of the three most important areas for growing and producing Aglianico (the other two being Taurasi D.O.C.G. and Falerno del Massico). For the Aglianico D.O.C., the blend must be 85-100% Aglianico and 15% Piedirosso, Sciascinoso, or Sangiovese and spend 24 months aged in oak; the Riserva is aged for 36 months. The wine produced is a deep, garnet Rosso, with black plum, anise, tobacco and black pepper on the nose, and an initially strong sense of tannins that mellows within minutes in the glass, and is balanced in the mouth with a tangy acidity and spices. Red sauces and second courses of red meats or game pair well with this Taburno wine.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover the wines of the Taburno DOC area.
Gangi, Roberta. Sicilian Torrone. Best of Sicily Magazine. 2005.
Gold, Susannah. Aglianico in Campania: Taurasi, Aglianico del Taburno and Falerno del Massico. Alta Cucina Inc. 2008.
Piergiorgio and Amy Nicoletti. Torrone: Italy’s Candy Bar. Delallo. 2010.
Skurnik, Michael. Cantina del Taburno. Michael Skurnik Wines 2007.
Smith, William LLD, Ed. Taburnus Mons. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854).
Wines of Campania: Taburno D.O.C. Italian Made.
This sweet symbol of Naples is seen all over Italy and is as popular today as it was 400 years ago. The sfogliatella (singular of sfogliatelle: sfol-ee-ah-tell-eh) is a filled pastry with a characteristic seashell shape and a cascade of delicate ridges, which form as the layers of dough separate during baking. The dough is similar to puff pastry or phyllo. The sfogliatella is filled with a traditional mixture of sweetened ricotta cream, semolina and cinnamon, with optional lemon or orange zest brightening the creaminess. The non-traditional vanilla cream filling can be found in other areas of Italy. This dessert is perfect for breakfast, afternoon snack, after meal dessert – or just about any time of the day.
Like many typical products, the sfogliatella has a colorful, multi-storied history of its origins. One version states that the dessert was first baked on the Amalfi Coast in the Santa Rosa convent, arriving in Naples later. Another story goes that the dessert was created in the early 1600s in the Carmelite convent of Santa Croce di Lucca in Naples. A nun, using leftovers of semolina, added the ricotta, sugar and candied lemon or orange, and then baked it in a pastry crust. The result was a shape similar to a monk’s hood. Desserts such as this were commonly baked in convents, especially during the Renaissance period when such pastries were baked for royal families. The Santa Croce convent was particular in that certain rich daughters of Prince Cellemare, who had donated a large sum of money to the convent, were allowed visits from the outside world (most convents did not allow contact from beyond the nunnery). In this way, the sfogliatella was carried to the Santa Rosa convent where it was well-received, to Naples and beyond.
You can find sfogliatelle just about anywhere in Italy. In Naples, they are sure to be of high quality and authentically made, and every cafe will sell them. Here are a few widely popular cafes of Naples:
New opening: Via Pigna, 180 – Napoli 80128
via Luca Giordano, 158 – Napoli 80128
Piazza Vanvitelli, 16 – Napoli 80128
Laboratory: Via Pigna, 182/c – Napoli 80128
Antico Forno delle Sfogliatelle Calde Fratelli Attanasio
Vico Ferrovia 1/2/3/4, 80142 Naples
Gran Caffe Grambrinus
Via Chiaia, 1-2, 80132 Naples
If you can’t make it to Naples in time to satisfy your sfogliatelle craving, here is a recipe.
“Sannio” refers to a region of Campania that was awarded its DOC status in 1997. The large zone comprises of 80 communes and the entire province of Benevento. Why is it called Sannio? This land is that of the ancient Samnites, a pre-Roman people who flourished in the heart of Campania. They produced a wine that was enjoyed by several historical figures: Pliny, Columella, Catone and Horace. Sannio wine must come from the vineyards dotting the hills of the area, which has optimal soil and climate conditions for grapevine cultivation. The valleys of Sannio are not within the regulated area, because the temperature is too humid to contribute to a high-quality wine.
The D.O.C. regulations of Sannio encourage wine production from the traditional Samnium grapes: Aglianico, Coda di Volpe, Falanghina, Fiano, Greco, Sciascinoso (or Ollivello), Piedirosso and Moscato. It also allows room for modern wine development with the production of a Greco and Falanghina blend. This wine uses a fairly new technique for wines: that of a second fermentation in the bottle for at least a year, which produces more alcohol and further develops and refines flavors and aromas. The end product is the Spumante Metodo Classico, a white or rosè sparkling wine with a dry, harmonious and fresh flavor.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover the wines of the Sannio DOC area.
Campania – In Area Sannio DOC. Wein-Plus.
Sannio D.O.C. Regione Campania – Assessorato Agricoltura.
Sannio Wine. Wine-searcher.
Sfogliatelle. Mangia Bene Pasta.
Wines: Sannio DOC. Vinegusto.
Despite its name, Ragù alla genovese is eaten exclusively in Naples. This oniony meat sauce is hardly known outside of the area, in fact – unless a Neapolitan cook happens to move to another Italian region, bringing with him this rich pasta sauce.
The basic ingredients of the pasta sauce Ragù alla genovese are onion pureè, beef or pork, white wine, and parsley. The exact origins of the name are unknown, but it was probably first prepared in the late 1400s or early 1500s. As one story goes, Genovese merchants had relocated to Naples, as the two ports were (and still are) two principle Mediterranean ports in frequent contact. When the merchants left for home, the Genovese cooks remained behind. Whether these cooks were enchanted by Naples, or their employees lost all their money or they were thrown out on the street is unclear, but the result was the opening of a tavern in the area of Loggia di Genova and the invention of Ragù alla genovese in Napoli.
Ippolito Cavalcanti, the author of one of the most famous Italian cookbooks of the 19th century, titled Cucina casarinola co la lengua napolitana (“Home Cooking in the Neapolitan Language”), wrote perhaps the first written recipe for Ragù alla genovese in 1837. It is unlike any modern recipe and did not feature onions at all. Onions did not take the spotlight in this dish until the late 1800s, and meat, always an expensive addition, was used only for flavor. Today, recipes call for enough meat to make this sauce a second course. It is served with long, tubular macaroni or penne and accompanied with vegetables.
13/15 via Loggia di Genova
Mattozzi Europeo Ristorante
Via Marchese Campodisola 4
Open every day for lunch and dinner except for Sunday (open upon request)
Osteria della Mattonella
80132 Napoli (NA)
The Roccamonfina volcano sits 50 kilometers north of Naples, where its volcanic soils produce thick groves of chestnuts and various grape varieties. Among the wineries that produce Roccamonfina IGT are Villa Matilde; Poderi Foglia; Biondino; Masseria Felicia; Porto di Mola; Terra di Lavoro; and Vestini Campagnano. Roccomonfina wines can be rosso, bianco, rose and passito, with blends of Aglianico, Piedirosso, Greco di Tufo, Fiano, Falanghina and Primitivo. Two additional grape varieties used in Roccamonfina blends stand out as being almost completely unknown beyond the region: Abbuoto and Pallagrello.
Villa Matilde makes the full, fruity, red Cecubo Roccamonfina IGT. It is a blend of Primitivo, Piedirosso and Abbuoto, and its name derives from the ancient Roman wine called Caecubum or Caecuban, highly popular and prized in its day. This wine is Barrique-aged in Allier oak for 12 months, bottle-aged another 8, and has a shelf life of 10 years. Notes of plum are complemented with vanilla, chocolate, tobacco and liquorice.
The second relatively unknown grape of Greek origin, Pallagrello, has been confused for generations as Coda di Volpe. This grape is possibly the most obscure one that is covered in this series. It is one of the few grapes to have a sibling, that is, both a white and red variety of the same grape exists. Both Pallagrello Nero and Bianco make a fantastic wine that was once highly appreciated by the Bourbon King of Naples and Sicily. This wine can be found under the name “Concarosso” or “Concabianco,” because it was once an important grape in the wine “rosso di Conca,” produced in a part of Caserta known as Conca della Campagna. The Pallagrello Bianco of Roccamonfina produces a white wine with flavours of mature fruits and almond; and the Pallagrello Rosso of Roccamonfina is full of berry and prune flavours, with balanced acidity and a rich mouthfeel.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover the wines of the Roccamonfina IGT area.
Abbuoto Grape. Italian Wine Blog – Wine90. 18 May 2011.
Archaeological Varietals from the South. Wine Shop. 21 June 2005.
Davidson, Alan. Food Encyclopedia: Cavalcanti. Kitchen Daily. 2006.
Grout, James. Roman Vintages. Encyclopaedia Romana. 2011.
Naples at Table. About.com: Italian Food.
Pallagrello Nero. Montecastelli Selections, Ltd.
Piatti Tipici della Campania. La Bellezza d’Italia sul Web.
Region: Roccomonfina IGT. Vinopedia.
Villa Matilde. DiWineTaste. June 2003.
A traditionally popular and economically valuable dish of the island of Capri has been the quail. The common quail, Coturnix coturnix, is a small bird in the pheasant family with rusty red plumage mottled in black and white.
Historically, Capri depended on quail hunting as a large part of the economy. Flocks of hundreds of thousands of quail used the island off the coast of Naples as a temporary resting ground in their migrations to and from the mainland of Italy in the spring and autumn. The quail of springtime were not as tasty as those that feasted all summer long in Campania and Puglia to return in September fat and healthy, which were hunted with more vigour and attention. At the time, quails were caught in nets, which were strung between poles of about 30 feet high and 50 feet apart. In 1775, the bishop of Bourbon Ferdinand II chose the island of Capri as his summer residence, where he enjoyed quail hunting so famously that Capri earned the nickname Bishoprie of Quails. One report from 1793 states that up to 12,000 quail were netted in a single day, and 150,000 in fifteen days. Other methods were employed to catch quail, including the potentially dangerous poaching; scrambling over the cliffs of Capri in search of the small bird did not always end well for the hunter.
Today, quail are not hunted as much as they had been in the past, although quail hunting by rifle is still a popular sport. Quail is prepared much like other poultry, including braising, roasting, or accompanying with various wine sauces, such as the traditional white wine, pancetta and peas; less commonly, the decoratively mottled eggs are eaten.
These restaurants offer regional specialties:
Ristorante Buca di Bacco
Via Longano, 35
80073 Capri, Napoli
Ristorante Al Grottino
Via Longano, 27
80073 Capri, Napoli
Hours: Sun – Sat., 12:00-2:00pm, 7:00-11:00pm
Via Migliera, 18
80071 Anacapri, Napoli
For a more luxurious stay, try this hotel or its restaurant, which also offers quail:
Via Capodimonte, 14
80071 Anacapri, Napoli
The winery of Quintodecimo in Avellino was founded in 2001, making it relatively new compared to the other vinicole highlighted in this series. Owners Luigi Moio and Laura di Marzo bought a small parcel of land that today has expanded to about 8 hectares just outside the village of Mirabella Eclano. The winery’s name derives from “Quintum Decimum,” the name of an ancient farmhouse during the 8th Century AD, a time when Mirabella Eclano was known as Eclanum. The philosophy of this winery is to stay small and produce a limited amount of only the finest wines that authentically express the typicality of the area’s indigenous grapes. In keeping with this philosophy, Luigi Moio, a professor of Oenology at the University of Naples, combines his knowledge with his experience of being part of a family of wine makers. While remaining loyal to traditional grape varieties and creating single varietal wines, he also carries out small-time research on the soil, location and equipment usage of the vineyards and winery.
The three white and two red wines produced in Quintodecimo are of grapes that are common in the vocabulary of Campania wine: Greco di Tufo, Falanghina, Fiano di Avellino and Aglianico. The white wines, aged in oak barrels, are single varietal wines that represent the grapes splendidly. Fiano Avellino DOCG Exultet Bianco is smooth and rich; Greco di Tufo DOCG Giallo d’Arles Bianco is fruity, warm and golden; and Falanghina Via del Campo Bianco is fruity and mineral. Both red wines, the Vigna Quintodecimo and Terra d’Eclano, are also single varietal and express Aglianico beautifully. Vigna Quintodecimo is a DOCG Aglianico Taurasi Riserva, aged for 24 months in barrels and another 24 months in the bottle; and Terra d’Eclano IGT is aged for 18 months in wood and another 6 in the bottle. Both have full bodies and balanced tannins, with a nose of liquorice and spices and a fruity flavor. Both age well; none of Quintodecimo’s wines are aged for less than 18 months.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover Quintodecimo.
Capri: La Cucina Italiana. Da Gelsomina. Sept 2003.
Chi Siamo. Quintodecimo: Vignaioli in Mirabello Eclano.
Phillips, Karen. Vineyard Hopping – Mirabello Eclano (Av) – Quintodecimo. Andiamotrips. June 2011.
Pignataro, Luciano. Quintodecimo. Luciano Pignatora Wineblog. Sept 2007.
Viktorija. Quintodecimo Winery. Winery Visits.
Trower, Harold Edward. The Book of Capri. Naples: E. Prass 1853. Digitized book.
Webster, Thomas, et. al. The American Family Encyclopedia of Useful Knowledge. New York: Derby and Jackson 1856. Digitized book.
The image of Italy may recall baskets of tomatoes, plates of pasta, fragrant basil bouquets, and platters of hard and fresh cheeses. It is perhaps surprising, then, to learn that the humble potato is one of Italy’s most widely cultivated vegetables, second in national production only to the tomato. It is in fertile Campania, together with Emilia-Romagna, that the highest quality and quantity of potatoes are produced. They are grown principally in Naples, Caserta, and, to a smaller extent, in Salerno. The most popular variety is the Patata novella, or “New potato,” of the Solanum tuberosum species. This name derives from the homonymous Spanish word for potato, which together with the American name derives its nomenclature its origin in the Peruvian Andes. There, “potato” is nahuatl patatl. For a brief period in 16th century Italy, patata was called tartifola in reference to its similar visual characteristics as the truffle mushroom, tartufo. Patata, however, is the name that held fast in both Spain and Italy. The Patata novella is also known as primaticcia because of its early harvest, which takes place from May to June.
An early harvest means that the potato’s skin is delicately paper-thin, and can practically be rubbed off with one’s fingers. Discarding the skin is undesireable, though, because of the flavor and nutrients it imparts, including vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and C; along with fiber and iron. Again, thanks to the volcanic Campania soil, rich in elements like selenium and flouride, does the Patata novella have these desirable characteristics.
Patate novelle most commonly grow as light brown to red skinned, with white to yellow innards; but variations include hues from light brown to violet, and white to rich yellow inside. These potatoes are sometimes eaten raw, and in addition to innumerable dishes one can whip up with potatoes, are particularly excellent in salads of boiled zucchini, basil, tomatoes, and the Campania DOP cipollotti nocerini, a type of shallot.
Agriturismo Tenuta Montelaura
Via Due Principati, 101, Località Pozzelle
Celzi di Forino, Avellino 83020
Agriturismo Sentiero dei Sapori
Via Tutti i Santi, 25
Parco Corona – Agerola (NA)
In March, the Sagra della Patata Novella is held for the appreciation and promotion of Patata novella in Marigliano, Naples. An ad for the event shows that 2011 was the 9th edition, and other information can be found here (Italian).
The top grape of red wines in Campania may be the Aglianico, but Piedirosso is not far behind at all in terms of its excellent flavor, production and pedigree. Piedirosso literally means “red feet;” the reddish grape stems resemble the feet of doves, in particular after they have been snacking on the grapes and crushing the ruby juices from the snapped skin. In various local dialects, Piedirosso is also known as Strepparossa, Palombina and Per’e Pallummo.
Piedirosso, like Aglianico, is an excellent blending variety. And, though less common, it also produces excellent, classic wines individually. Piedirosso is sometimes blended just a touch with Campania’s famous Taurasi, and matches well with Aglianico and Olivella to produce Lachryma Christi del Vesuvio and Sant’Agata dei Goti. Its lineage is noble like that of Aglianico, and up to five different Piedirosso vines are mentioned as far back as the ancient Roman Empire. And, Piedirosso has also had to struggle through a victorious comeback after the devastating phylloxera that nearly wiped out many important grape varieties. Today, its production is strong. Piedirosso is grown in ten DOC areas of Campania: Taburno, Campo Flegrei, Capri, Amalfi Coast, Falerno del Massico, Ischia, Penisola Sorrentina, Sannio, Sant’Agata dei Goti, and Vesuvio.
On its own or blended, Piedirosso imparts a deep red hue, balanced tannins and lively acidity. Its flavor notes often invoke black plums and dark berries, tobacco and espresso, a slight minerality and spices like black pepper and clove. Though still not common as a stand-alone varietal, Ocone Agricola del Monte is one example of a producer that makes a fine wine of 100% Piedirosso.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover Piedirosso.
Castaldo, Dr. Antonio. The History Box. March 2010.
Cipollotto Nocerino DOP. Regione Campania – Assessorato Agricoltura.
Hyland, Tom. Guide to Italian Wines: Campania. Wine Lovers Page.
Maresca, Tom. Campania – The World’s Original Vineyard. Wine News.
Patata Novella Campana. In Campania.
Piedirosso Wine. Wine-Searcher.
Potatoes: Patate Novelle. Nature Service.
Prodotti Tradizionali della Campania: Patata Novella. Sapore di Campania.
Venuso, Maddalena. La patata: Umile richezza della terra. Terre di Campania.
The olives of Pisciotto, Salerno are possibly the oldest olive variety in Italy. This ancient olive comes from a medieval town that dates back to at least 900 A.D, when it was called Pixote and later Buxentum. Today, in the Cilento e Vallo di Diano National Park, numerous olive varieties are grown and produced into many varieties of olive oils. The extra virgin olive oil of Cilento, made from Pisciottano olives together with other varieties from the park (Rotondella, Ogliarola, Frantoio, Salella and Leccino), attained DOP status in 1998. The high quality of this oil is often said to be from the organic growing, cultivation and production methods that are employed in the entire park. Following strict guidelines can be restrictive, but they have also proven to be beneficial, leading to new innovations and technologies in olive tree cultivation and the production process. The Pisciottano olive tree grows to a tall 12 meters in the southern section of the park in the two areas of Mt. Gelbison and Bulgheria. The extra virgin olive oils are known for their aromatic compounds with a slightly bitter finish.
In addition to top quality DOP olive oils, the Pisciottano olives are used in a dish called Olive Pisciottane sott’olio, a recipe with roots so strong that it dates back before recipe books were being published – that is, as long as anyone in Pisciotto can remember. The recipe calls for green (fresh) Pisciottano olives immersed in water with lime and ashes for two days, before washing, rinsing and steeping them in salt and bay leaves for another day. The olives are then laid out and squashed until the pits fall from the fruit. Then, mashing the olives further with one’s hands, they are stuffed into glass jars full of pepperoncino, spices, herbs and olive oil – made from the Pisciottano olive, of course.
Locanda Pelinuro Agriturismo
84066 Pisciotta (Salerno)
Via Passariello, 2
Marina di Pisciotta (Salerno)
Ristoranti I Tre Gufi
Via Roma 1, Pisciotta (Salerno)
Ocone Agricola del Monte resides in the heart of Ponte in Benevento, a town that was called Sannio in antiquity. In the early 1900s, Benevento was a center of agricultural development, particularly in wine techniques. The Ocone family has been producing wine since 1910. In the 1930s, the family utilized the area’s first refrigeration and bottling line operation. The wine was quickly popular in Benevento, perhaps due to the focus on more drinkable, “mass-produced” tendencies. However, the focus from easy drinkability to higher quality changed definitively in the 1960s, when owner Luigi Ocone introduced modern wine-making technologies, employed more restrictive selection and capped yield quantities.
Today, the winery employs organic viticulture and has expanded to experimental, biodynamic viticulture as well, which are intense organic methods that rely on as many natural forms of care-taking and cultivation as possible. Ocone Agricola del Monte is a member of the Italian Association for Organic Farming (AIAB).
The focus of this winery has shifted from average- to high quality wines, and today, to fine-tuning and enhancing their wines and expanding internationally. 10 of 12 hectares of its vineyards have DOC appellation, and different sections of soils are selected for their distinct characteristics that are best for growing specific grape varieties. For example, the limestone composition is ideal for Aglianico cru, and the tuff soil is perfect for growing Falanghina. The Ocone Agricola has also produced the first Campanian sparkling wine: Spumante Ocone Extra Brut.
Finally, the value of tradition and history to the prestige and quality of a wine are not lost to Ocone. They have, for example, a wine named Diomede in dedication to the mythical founder of Benevento; another called Calidonio Piedirosso, the name of the mythical wild boar, a symbol of Benevento; and the classic line depicts early Roman deities and figures. For example, the Cerere Coda di Volpe, Plutone Piedirosso, and Giano Greco represent Ceres, Pluto and Janus. They also have a Superior line of wines, IGT wines, and two styles of Grappa made from Aglianico.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover Ocone Agricola del Monte.
Campania Wines. Ocone 1910.
The medieval village of Pisciotta. Residenza: Golfo degli Ulivi.
L’olio extravergine d’oliva Cilento DOP. Tipicilento.
Olive Oil Guide. La Cucina Italiana.
Olive Pisciottane schiacciate sott’olio. In Campania.
Ocone. Polaner Selections.
PDO Extra-virgin Olive Oils. Cilento Experience. Italy as an Italian.
Soracco, Diego, et al. Guida agli Extravergini 20011. Slow Food Editore. Bra (Cn): Italy 2011.
Walnuts were brought over to Italy centuries ago from the middle region of Asia Minor, and they have been known in Italy since at least the first century AD. As Pompeii and Herculaneum have so often helped archaeologists and scholars in placing time periods with specific products (at least in this blog series), frescoes display walnuts, and charred remains of nuts very similar to today’s walnuts have been found. Noce may also mean simply “nut.” In ancient Roman markets, foreign foods were assigned varying names that could be confused with one another, signifying origin, the town’s market, or even the seller of the product. The names of walnuts, chestnuts and hazelnuts were often jumbled together.
The Cultivar Sorrento is the most highly prized variety, from the Sorrentine Peninsula where the volcanic soil, ideal for so many grape varieties, has the perfect composition for walnut groves, too. There is also production in the regions of Nolano-Palmese-Sarnese, Campi Flegrei, Vesuvius, Vallo di Lauro e Baianese, Valle Caudina, as well as the Caserta Plain and the Irno Valley. This variety can be oblong and slightly pointed at one end, or small and round. Walnuts are harvested from June to September; those harvested first are used in the production of Nocino, a famous digestivo, or digestive, walnut liqueur. Manual harvest continues until October, and then the walnuts are dried on open-air trellises. IGP status has been applied for and is in the works for these particular walnuts, which will help popularity and consumption with rising international competition of other walnut varieties. Sorrento walnuts are popular in both sweet and savory dishes in Italy, in baked goods, candies, breads and sauces. The kernel, i.e. actual nut, is popular with the confectionery industries because it is easily extracted whole. Spaghetti con noce is a popular and simple recipe, as well as pane di noce.
This Agriturismo provides assorted digestivi made from Sorrento walnuts.
Azienda Agricola Il Convento
Via Bagnulo, 10
80061 Massa Lubrense, Naples
Telephone: 39 081-878-9380
Agriturismo Villa Chiara
80069 Vico Equense, Naples
Telephone: 39 081-80-9165
The restaurant of this hotel offers menu items that highlight the Sorrento walnut:
Hotel Ristorante ‘O Sole Mio
Via Deserto, 13
80064 Sant’Agata sui due Golfi
Massa Lubrense, Naples
Telephone: +39 081-87-0005
Last week, the Mastroberardino winery was highlighted as a famous and one of the oldest wine producers in Campania. This week, one Mastroberardino wine in particular shows the outstanding quality of the winery and its products: Naturalis Historia Taurasi DOCG. The Naturalis Historia was named after the famous work of the same name by Pliny the Elder, writer, scientist and acute historical observer born in 23 or 24 AD. The encyclopedic work is written in 37 books, and Pliny claims to be the first to systematically document the natural world in such extensive detail – including the first record of viticulture.
The wine is made of 100% Taurasi Aglianico grapes harvested exclusively from the vineyard Mirabello Eclano. These vineyards are near the site of the ancient Roman town Aeclanum, and known for its vines that are up to forty years old. Naturalis Historia DOCG ages well and represents the terroir of this ancient, volcanic soil in Irpinia. It is aged for 18 months in French oak barrels, and becomes an intense ruby red color with fruity and floral notes of violet, cherry, prune, raspberry and chocolate. It is full-bodied and richly flavored, with a velvety touch to the palate with strawberry jam, bitter cherry, spices and licorice notes. It has softer tannins than the usual Taurasi, and finishes with a long, sweet aftertaste. Naturalis Historia pairs perfectly with roasted game, steak and other meats, as well as highly flavorful and mature cheeses.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover Naturalis Historia Taurasi DOCG.
Aglianico “Naturalis Historia” Mastroberardino 1997 DOC. Call Me Wine.
Hehn, Victor. Cultivated Plants and Domesticated Animals in their Migration from Asia to Europe. John Benjamins Publishing Company 1976. Google Books.
Lengo, Arturo. Cucina Napoletana. New Holland Publishers 2008. Google Books.
Noce di Sorrento (Walnut of Sorrento). Taste of Sorrento.
Notizie Letterarie: La Naturalis Historia. 18 Nov 2008. Il Vino e Oltre.
Sorrento Walnuts. The Foods of Campania. 12 Nov 2010.
Mozzarella cheese has been carried around the world gracing the hot surface of pizza. But, real mozzarella is much more than the bags of shredded pizza cheese and the hard, flavorless, white balls of industrially-produced mozzarella. Mozzarella di bufala campana DOP is creamy, soft and moist, with a delicately stringy texture, and a milky, slight tangy flavor. Bufala means “buffalo,” and it is from the water buffalo’s milk, which is richer in fat and protein than cow’s milk, that the flavors and high quality derive.
Mozzarella is formed by curdling the milk with natural lactic acid bacteria already present and the addition of natural rennet (an enzyme found in the stomachs of bovines, or animals with four digestive stomachs). Industrial producers use citric acid instead of rennet, which extends the shelf life at the expense of texture and flavor. Once the whey and curd are separated, the curd is immersed in heated water, where it falls to the bottom in a mass and is gathered, stretched and kneaded with a paddle. This process creates a stretched cheese, called pasta filata. At this point, mozzarella-making becomes an art: the cheese maker must not stretch it too much, or it will lose butterfat, flavor and texture; nor too little, or it will be crumbly. It is simple to spot artisanal mozzarella: Once it is stretched perfectly, pieces are pinched off of the paddles (mozzare means “to pinch”). If pinched by hand, a Y-shaped seam is visible on the surface. Finally, mozzarella is packed in brine, water or whey in a vacuum-sealed container. Because it is a fresh cheese, it should be eaten within a few days and ideally not refrigerated.
Mozzarella di bufala campana DOP, granted DOP status in 1996, is a Campania specialty. The water buffalo was introduced to the region in the Middle Ages. Today, water buffalo population in Italy exceeds 100,000. It became widespread in southern Italy by 1700, its freshness making it impossible to transport much beyond that. It slowly gained recognition and popularity as a traditional pizza topping, and mozzarella made from cow’s milk gradually spread beyond Italy. Mozzarella di bufala is traditional and of highest quality, but there are many other delicious versions. These include boconccini, small balls marinated in olive oil and herbs; mozzarella affumicata, smoked mozzarella; manteca, mozzarella molded around butter; mozzarella burrata, a creamy conglomeration of shreds of mozzarella soaked with panna (heavy cream) and encased in a knot of mozzarella; fior di latte, mozzarella made with cow’s milk; and treccie, a rare form of mozzarella from Caserta that looks hard, but is full of cream.
One of the best ways to try many types of mozzarella is to attend a festa di mozzarella. Here are two annual festivals, one to put on the calendar for next year, and the other to attend in exactly one month:
Festa della Mozzarella
July 27 – 31
Associazione Socio-Culturale Pizzolano
2000 Via S. Lorenzo, 8 Fisciano (SA)
La Grande Bufala
May 28 – June 5
Via Matteotti, 30
84025 Eboli (SA)
Signs for dairy outlets are common alongside roads and highways in Naples. To be sure you are enjoying the highest quality, real mozzarella, watch for DOP.
Ristorante Pizzeria Bocconcì
Via Lepanto, 142
80045 Pompei, (NA)
The Mastroberardino winery is arguably the most well-known name in Campania wines, and represents one of the region’s best areas for growing grapes: Avellino. This winery was officially found in Atripalda in 1878, though has been in existence since 1750. Until very recently, the wines of Campania had not been well-known (or known at all) outside of the region. In 1970, in fact, only three wineries in Campania produced commercial wine. Mastroberardino was the only one known outside of Campania, and has been instrumental in popularizing some of the most traditional grape varieties. Before that, from the 1930s to the 1950s, some of the oldest grape varieties of Campania nearly did not have a chance to make a comeback, when the phylloxera louse and devastation from World War II led to the near-extinction of Greco, Fiano, and Aglianico. It is in large part thanks to the tireless efforts of the Mastroberardino winery that these grapes were given a chance to thrive and produce the top-quality wines they make today.
The mission of the Mastroberardino winery is to preserve the great wines of Campania and to produce the best wines possible from these grapes. The winery represents tradition in its ancient, indigenous grape varieties as well as in the structure of the winery itself, which has been run by ten generations of the Mastroberardino family. It also represents innovation. Piero, the current owner, is not hesitant to continuously experiment and improve with viticulture, blends, and even varieties and clones of grapes such as Coda di Volpe, Fiano, Greco di Tufo and Aglianico. The grape Aglianico, specifically the DOCG Taurasi Aglianico, has been the backbone of Mastroberardino. It is on this grape variety and its 100% varietal expression in their wines that the winery has built and maintained its reputation for high quality.
The estate produces a large variety of wines, including white wines Greco di Tufo Nova Serra, Fiano di Avellino Radici, and Falanghina Morabianca; and red wines Taurasi Naturalis Historia and Lacryma Cristi del Vesuvio, also a white wine. The DOCG wines are Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino, Irpinia, Sannio, and Taurasi.The Taurasi reaches full expression in the 1986 Taurasi Riserva DOCG and Rosso Radici DOCG. The Taurasi Riserva is the estate’s most historically significant wine. It is a full-bodied wine with an aroma of plums, raisins and anise, with floral notes that melt into dark fruits like cherry and plum spiced with black pepper. Rosso Radici DOCG has a rich, ruby hue with an aroma full of violets and spiced cherries, and flavors again of black pepper and fruits. The name Radici, which means “roots,” embodies Mastroberardino’s values of typicality and tradition.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover the wines of Mastroberardino.
Campana Buffalo’s Mozzarella Cheese. Mozzarella di Bufala.org.
Fillipone, Peggy Trowbridge. Mozzarella Cheese Types – Fresh Mozzarella Varieties. About.com: Home Cooking.
Kotkin, Carole. Burrata Mozzarella’s Creamy Cousin Makes a Fresh Impression. Wine News: Cuisine.
Mastroberardino. Italian Wine Merchants.
McCarthy, Ed. Campania: Southern Italy’s Great Wine Promise. Oct 2007. Beverage Journals.
McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. New York, NY: Scribner 1984, 2004.
Mozzarella History. The Mozzarella Company.
Spano, Susan. Italy’s Campania Region is Where the Fresh Mozzarella Roams. Los Angeles Times: Travel. 8 May 2009.
Storia e Origine. Mozzarella di Buffala Campana DOP.
The IGP limone of southern Italy, Campania is known as the best lemon in the country. Vibrant yellow with thick skins and juicy innards, especially rich in essential oils and Vitamin C, these lemons are versatile and distinctive. They make tangy desserts, such as tarts, babà al limoncello, granita and delizia to name just a few. They are the secret to Sorrento’s famous limoncello, which is made by soaking the lemon peel in pure alcohol. The Amalfi variety is often eaten sliced and drizzled with olive oil and vinegar for a refreshing salad, and is even consumed in the local espresso as caffè di limone.
These two lemons from the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento have more similarities than they do differences. The biggest difference is that the limone di Amalfi, of the variety Sfusato Amalfitano deriving from Femminella Sfusato, can grow as big as a grapefruit, has a slightly thicker peel, and is less acidic. The Sfusato Sorrentino is smaller, tangier, and with a sourer peel. Both have thick skins, the pane, pappa or albedo – the white pulp – also being quite thick. The juicy innards are almost seedless and, as already mentioned, delicious enough to be eaten in a variety of desserts and even, as already mentioned, as un’insalata (salad).
Another similarity is the traditional growing method still implemented today. Terraced groves are protected by pagliarelle, or straw huts built around the lemon trees like houses. Harvest happens nearly year-round, but the highest yields are from late May through July. They are picked with the stems and a few leaves still attached, so keep an eye on that spot of green among the yellow when shopping.
The lemons of Sorrento arrived in Italy at least as early as the first century AD, when murals depicting lemons are found painted in Pompeii and Herculaneum. The lemons of Amalfi arrived later, around the 11th century, imported by the Jesuits. By 1800, southern Italian lemons were a popular food item in Northern European and American markets; and by 1992, both lemons achieved IGP status.
Via Salette, 10
80079 Procida (Napoli)
39 081 896 9918
I Giardini di Cataldo
Corso Italia, 267
+39 081 878 1888
Via San Cesareo, 49/53 – 80067
+39 081 878 5348
The DOC wines of Lettere, Sorrento grow on the terraced land of the northern peninsula in lush, green vineyards where mules still traverse the rocky paths bearing bunches of biancolella or falanghina in baskets on their backs to the pressers waiting below. Lettere wine gained DOC status in 1994. The wines of Lettere and of nearby village Gragnano are specifically known for a fizzy red wine that has recently lost a bit of production and popularity due to the expansion of other Napoli wines.
The Lettere Rosso is ruby red, medium-bodied and tannic, though not overpoweringly so. The grape varieties Piedirosso, Sciascinoso, Aglianico and others compose this wine that pairs well with eggplant, cuts of roast meat, red pasta sauces, and gnocchi alla sorrentina. Lettere Rosso Frizzante Naturale is less dry and of the same rich, red hue, though contains more intensely fruity aromas. The same red grapes are used, though here Piedirosso is the dominant variety. It pairs well with the simple pizza margherita and salsiccia e friarielli. Finally, the Lettere Bianco is straw yellow, with delicate and pleasant aromas. It is dry and balanced. Falanghina, Biancolella, and Greco are the prominent grapes used. Try this wine with risotto and seafood.
While not famous, Lettere wine has a few prominent and enthusiastic followers. Pliny, Galen and Strabo have all extolled their praises for it, and Italian author Mario Soldati favors Lettere wine for its “literary” characteristics. Lettere wine is like a wine from a novel, with the small village of just a handful of families tucked into a rugged and lush Alpine setting, producing something of high quality and quite favorable characteristics – Lettere DOC wine.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover Lettere Penisola Sorrentina DOC.
Amalfi Coast and Sorrento Lemons. Unique Costiera.
Limone Costa d’Amalfi IGP. Regione Campania Assessorato Agricoltura.
Limone di Sorrento IGP. Sapore di Campania.
Penisola Sorrentina: Gragnano, Lettere, Sorrento DOC. Regione Campania – Assessorato Agricoltura.
Penisola Sorrentina. Sorrentine Specialties.
Scotese, Amanda. Lemons in Italy. Rick Steve’s Europe.
The Lemon of Sorrento. Bellevue Syrene: Sorrento Mag.
Wines of the Campania Region. Friends of Sorrento.
The kaki vaniglia fruit, also spelled “cachi” or “caco,” is a persimmon. Persimmons range from bright yellow to deep orange to red-orange, with slight variations in size: oval and longish to round and circular, bringing to mind a slightly orange tomato. Kaki can be found in the United States in supermarkets, but are sold unripe due to their fragility when imported as mature fruits. In Italy, however, they are destined for local farmers’ markets, and so are cultivated and sold in small quantities and irresistibly ripe.
The kaki of Campania originated in Japan, and was first cultivated in Florence in 1971, though by other accounts in Salerno. By the early 1900s, Campania was already the highest-producing region in Italy of this succulent fruit, and remains so today with 50% of national production. In particular, the regions of Naples and Salerno produce the most. 90% of production is of the Diospyrus kaki, a non-astringent variety. This means it is sweet and pleasant to eat before and after it ripens, whereas the astringent variety contains alum, lending a tannic taste and a truly odd, grainy mouthfeel if eaten even slightly under-ripe.
When kaki fruits ripen in September and October, the orbs of yellow and deep orange are pretty spots of color in an otherwise brown, autumnal landscape. The kaki is heavy with juices, with thin skin not unlike that of a tomato, translucent and giving slightly before breaking. A kaki fruit is often cut in half, and the bronze, gelatinous innards are scooped up with a spoon. It is not overly sweet and a bit seedy, but full of nutrients and healthy for digestion. This fruit is not only delicious fresh, but can be cooked into cakes, on a mountain of panna (heavy cream), grilled with honey, or made into jam. Or, as a savory variation, kaki slices can be served over a green salad drizzled with olive oil, vinegar, and slices of smoked meat.
The best places to buy kaki is the local farmer’s market in October or September. I’ve listed two that are popular in Naples, as well as an agriturismo that cultivates them and features them in a few desserts.
Pignasecca Market – Via Pignasecca, Naples, Italy
This market sells fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood, and other tasty items.
Mercatino Antignano – Piazza Antignano, 80127, Naples, Italy
This open-air market sells fresh food as well as clothing apparel. It is popular with the locals.
Open: Monday to Saturday – 8:30 am to 1:30 pm
Agriturismo il Giardino dei Ciliegi
Località Vesolo, Sanza
The white wine Ka! Paestum Passito IGT is produced by the De Conciliis winery in Cilento, which was previously highlighted in this ABC blog series. Ka! is a dessert wine made from moscato and malvasia grapes, with fruity, specifically peachy and flowery notes. Passito means that the grapes were first dried or semi-dried before the production process of the wine, and so the flavors and sugars are concentrated. This method of production is called rasinate, not unlike “raisin.”
The moscato grape is one of the most widely cultivated grapes in Italy. It tends to produce a wine with low alcohol content and fragrant floral notes, and is usually light gold. It can be naturale (flat), spumante (sparkling), or frizzante (frothy). Interestingly, Ka! has a high alcohol content at 16%, which does not, however, overwhelm the sweetness of the dessert wine. Moscato does not benefit from oak-barrel aging, and so is normally aged in steel vats. With another small, innovative step from the norm, De Conciliis ages Ka! in acacia barrels for six months and in the bottle for one year. Malvasia lends this wine fresh, fruity peach and pear flavors, with a hint of spiciness, while also exhibiting the floral aromatics of moscato.
Because it is so sweet, the Ka! dessert wine pairs well with fresh fruit and pistachios or other light pastries that complement, rather than compete with, its sweetness.
Vineyard Adventures is happy to arrange tours to discover Ka! Paestum Passito IGT.
Cachi – Persimmons. About.com.
I Frutti di Stagione: I Cachi. Uomini Casalinghi. 11 Oct 2005.
Insero, O., A. de Luca and P. Rego. Evaluation of Persimmon Cultivars in Campania (Italy).
Insero, O., R. Parillo and M. Petriccione. Persimmon Cultivation in Campania (Italy): Production and Marketing.
Ka! Viticoltori De Conciliis.
Monastra, F., et. al. The Present Situation of Some Underutilized Crops in Italy.
Smith, Ormond. Sicily and Paestum. Le Confrerie des Compagnons Goustevin de Normandie.
Susan. Porcini Chronicles. 15 Oct 2006.