So, Italy continues to be something of a gold mine in terms of serving up new (to me) varietals as I try to hit a century. I’ve been working through some whites as it’s still quite warm here, and today it’s the Tenuta Cavalier Pepe Nestor Greco di Tufo 2010.
From a country that can at times be quite challenging in terms of varieties, regions, and the names they use interchangeably in some cases for both, the details of this wine are refreshingly straightforward. First, Greco is the grape, Greco Bianco in this case. Secondly, the grape is believed to have originated in Greece, as one might reasonably expect from the name. Finally, this wine is from the region surrounding the town of Tufo, which amazingly takes its name from the type of soil in the area. Game, set, match – that’s what I call easy.
So Greco is actually a pair of grapes, Bianco and Nero for white and black, though when people use the term Greco on its own, they’re generally referring to Greco Bianco. Of course, I find that slightly annoying, in the same way that people talk of Pinot as though there is only Noir and no Gris or Blanc, or Cabernet as though there is only Sauvignon and no Franc. The same is true for regions – people refer to Bordeaux and Burgundy as though they are only red wines and Sancerre as though it’s only white. Sigh.
Getting back on topic, Greco Bianco is a white grape that’s best known from the wines produced in the south of Italy, particularly in Campania and Calabria. It’s known for it’s long, loose bunches and small round berries, with thin skin. It is a relatively hardy variety, and provides consistent cropping, with high sugar levels as well as acidity, though it can fall prey to downy and powdery mildew. It is believed to be the same grape as Asprinio, which is also found in Campania.
While the grape is permitted in a number of DOCs, it is best known as the primary grape in the Greco di Bianco DOC and the Greco di Tufo DOCG. Greco di Bianco DOC in Calabria is a dessert wine made from partially dried grapes in what’s called passito style. Greco di Tufo in Campania of on the other hand, this wine, is a dry wine with a strong aromatic character and texture that reminds some of Viognier. It’s also used to make a dry white on the island of Capri, blended with Biancolella and Falanghina. Greco Bianco has made it overseas and I know of at least one Australian producer in McLaren Vale who is making one, but more on that when I can get a bottle. Beyond that though, it’s not widely planted outside of the south of Italy.
Tufo is a town and commune in center of Campania, and the surrounding regions are the home to Greco di Tufo. A classic Mediterranean climate, the distinguishing feature is the namesake soil. I first came across this soil type in the context of the Loire Valley, where the area of Vouvray in particular is famous for the caves dug into what the French call tuffeau. In Italian it’s tufo, and apparently in English it’s tuff (news to me but I’m no geologist). More a rock than a soil, it’s volcanic in nature, relatively soft and one of the easier rocks to excavate.
Tenuta Cavalier Pepe is an Avellino producer with over 40 HA of vines, producing three DOC Aglianico red blends, an Aglianico rosato, a Fiano, a DOCG Aglianico, a Coda di Volpa (will have to look that up later), and an IGT Falanghina (in addition to this Greco di Tufo). Their plantings are intermingled with olive and nut trees in the hills of the region at an altitude of between 350 and 500 meters, with largely southern and southeasterly exposures, and they sit on clay loam and sandstone over the tufo. Their red wines are exclusively estate grown, which implies they buy in at least some of the grapes for their whites.
This wine was pale lemon green in the glass with thin quick legs. It was clean, of medium intensity, youthful, and had elements of peach, almond, apricot, white flower on the nose. On the palate it was dry, with medium minus acidity, medium body, slightly oily, with medium plus intensity, and medium plus alcohol. The palate matched the nose with stone fruit, almonds and white flower, though there’s a strong taste on the finish, stone fruit that’s gone a bit sour.
While I don’t have a great deal of context in terms of this grape or style, not having had Greco di Tufo before, it does come across as a very well made wine. While the flavour profile is not overly complex, the texture and intensity is where it shines.