Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wine, Yes Wine from Capri

Vineyard at Capri
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)

I have just returned from one of my most fruitful and enjoyable trips to Italy, visiting the regions of Puglia and Campania. I will be writing posts about my time there, from judging wines made from indigenous varieties in Pugila (as well as a small group of wines from Basilicata) to visting vineyards in Irpinia and enjoying some of Campania's finest cuisine.

For this first post back, I'd like to share my adventures in Capri. Everyone and his brother knows about the beauty of this island and as I was told by more than one Italian during my trip, "once you have visited Capri, you can die." In other words, life is complete!

I'm not entirely sure about that, but I do share the passion. It is a beautiful island, but it's also a touristy one. Get off the boat and you're immediately immersed in stores selling everything from gelato to perfume to t-shirts. It's the old adage- from the sublime to the ridiculous.

The obligatory shot of Capri Harbor
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)

I was with my friend Raffaele Pagano of Joaquin Winery and several of his friends and our goal was not to sightsee or shop, but rather to visit the small vineyard where he purchases Greco and Falanghina grapes for one of his white wines named "dell Isola". There are several other varieties in this vineyard as well, including Biancolella and Ginestra, as this was planted in the traditional style with numerous varieties in a field blend.

Raffaele Pagano, Joaquin Winery
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)

It's amazing after getting out of the tourist trap of Capri and Anacapri (another town up the hill) to see this estate. The vines are irregularly planted, with much of it in pergola, an overhead trellis to protect the grapes from the ever present sun. Some vines are so high, that a ladder is needed to pick the berries when they are ripe. The soils are primarily sandy and are relatively fertile.

We met Raffaele Maresca, a hearty 83 years old and working as hard as ever. He talked to us about his work and while I didn't understand everything (some of it in dialect), I could sense his passion. After he finished, each of us shook his hand, which at his age, after 60 some years in the vineyard, was as hard as steel. It's a memory I'll always have of vineyard work in Italy. This is a difficult and painstaking job!

Raffaele Maresca
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)

It will be impossible to find the finished wine outside of Campania, so while you may never taste it (I sampled the 2009 out of a tank at the winery), it's worthwhile to know that even in a remote island best known for its tourist attractions, the centuries-old work of tending the vine still goes on in Italy.


  1. Dear Tom, it was so moving reading your story.
    You perfectly gathered the meaning of Raffaele's challange, thank you for telling in a such evocative way.

  2. Paola:

    Thank you for your comment. It was such a wonderful adventure to visit the vineyard with Raffaele and you - what a memory of Campania!