Once a year, on the 13th of August, my little village in Italy hosts the annual 'Festa del Cabernet', which is Italian for a three-day festa of drinking huge amounts of our local wine. There's a long wine-making tradition that stretches right back to pre-Roman times. My village, Gallinaro, sits right in the middle of a large valley called the Comino Valley.
Once a year, on the 13th of August, my little village in Italy hosts the annual 'Festa del Cabernet', which is Italian for a three-day festa of drinking huge amounts of our local wine. There's a long wine-making tradition that stretches right back to pre-Roman times. My village, Gallinaro, sits right in the middle of a large valley called the Comino Valley. There are twelve towns in the valley and all of them have a long tradition of wine-making, but what makes my little village different is the Cabernet Sauvignon grape.
Back in the nineteenth century the Visocchi family brought Cabernet Sauvignon vines from France to our valley and they settled well on the south-westerly slopes of Gallinaro. But apart from this unusual grape in this part of Italy, the production methods have been unchanged for centuries. Most families plant enough vines to make about 1,000 litres, about a year's supply for the average family. People never grew grapes for commerce, only for making their own wine. Consequently you can drink 70 reds in Gallinaro and no two will be the same. Yet still there is a similarity between them and the reason isn't hard to find. All our wines are organic in the truest sense of the word - nothing is added to the brew. Unpasteurised and unfiltered, these wines would break every Strasbourg diktat if they were sold but fortunately that never happens, they're more likely to be given as a present.
Simple home-made wines that are created with the most simple of equipment have a charm all of their own, and a charm that you can never find unless you go to where they are made. There's a particular taste; of earth, of cellar, of elderly barrel that's hard to find outside of rural areas. But even our valley is moving with the times. We have a new DOC that covers all of my village and it's called Atina DOC. All over Italy small producers have formed co-operatives and are now marketing their wines themselves instead of selling their grapes to big companies.
In the south of Italy, Apulia, much the same has happened but on larger scale. There was always a huge production of grapes here, but they used to get sold in bulk to commercial wine-makers of the north. Now the Apulians are making wine from their own grapes, using new technologies mixed with traditional methods. Many producers are working with a grape that has long been used in the area, the Primitivo, which may be the ancestor of the Zinfandel. It makes a lush, full wine that soaks up the terroir.
I Monili, Primitivo di Tarantino, Pervini. 2001