Southern Italy is really an interesting place. Besides the enormous amount of influence they have given to the Italian gastronomic world, the history of the area is immense. Most likely the Greeks originally came over and settled in what is modern day Basilicata, Puglia & Calabria, also establishing the port of Naples, in Campania, which was very important for trade at the time. They would have migrated north towards Rome. There they would have encountered the Itali tribe, where the country takes its name, and the Etruscans, who would build the mega city of Rome. When these Greek tribes came here they brought with them culture, architecture, stories, that would become part of Ancient Rome, and two very important grape vines to southern Italy called Greco, this has many synonyms throughout Italy, and Aglianico, or as they referred to it as Hellenica. Their influence to this area was crucial. Our story today brings us to the area of Sannio, just outside of Naples, where the tribe of the Samnites roamed. Their name was given Pentri, a Greek name for “peak” as they dwelled in the hills towards the center of the peninsula of Italy.
Fast forward to the modern day and if we are to explore the region of Campania we see many of the elements alive and well. Most importantly through the world of wine, and our estate on focus is aptly named, I Pentri. This family owned estate showcases these ancient varietals. They farm organically and this aspect will be featured on the labels with the new vintages. They also make three massale selections, passing through the vineyards once for the best grapes and separating these and a second and third time, making sure only the best grapes are used in the wine production. This is a boutique winery focused on high quality and green farming.
The majority of their production area is in Sannio, located around Mount Taburno and dedicated to the production of a white wine called falanghina. For the most part this white wine could easily be forgotten and only really drunk when you are in Naples, but I Pentri has really focused in and created what is possibly the best the falanghina ever bottled and even a contender for one of the great whites of the entire southern Italy. The wine is fermented and rests in stainless steel, followed by a year in bottle before release. The structure and power this wine is able to achieve, makes many in the business refer to it as good as white Burgundy. This is possibly one of the greatest compliments a wine from Southern Italy could get. More so, I love the stone fruit, white flowers, herbs and touch of truffle that makes it an amazing pairing to the classic grilled seafood of the area.
In addition, this family makes some great Aglianico, Fiano and even a Passito of dried Fiano and Malvasia, but the next surprise is their Piedirosso. One of Italy’s oldest varietals and it is referring to the base of the vine that is reminiscent of a Pigeon’s red feet, properly named as it literally translates to “Red Feet”. It is usually a simple red wine that is blended with another varietal called Code di Volpe (“Tail of the Fox”) to make the wine named Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio (“Christ’s Tears of Vesuvius”). In fact there are only three producers of 100% Piedirosso wine. I Pentri’s version is outstanding, combining a complicated palate of depth and a graceful finish of bright simplicity. These 20-year-old vines are in soils of clay and limestone at an exposition of south by southeast sitting 1,000 feet above sea level. The wine begins in steel and then sits 1 year in bottle before release. Now that could easily be the best part of the story but we continue.
At Eli’s we believe in showcasing the ability of fine wines to age, and so we feature this 2005 version of Piedirosso. The vintage 2005 was a massive vintage and rightly so produced wine, which in many cases needed years to open up and be approachable. At 12 years old we believe this piedirosso has entered the development of its third stage and at its peak.
And so, I Pentri in producing these ancient varietals has rightfully brought the foundations of these ancient tribes to the joys of the modern world.