Campania (Irpinia), Italy
Cantina Giardino may be one of the most unique and unusual wineries out there, but only in the best of ways. The winery was conceived as a joint venture between six friends with the particular goal to preserve old vineyards and native varietals in and around Irpinia, a mountainous area in the heart of Campania. Headed by charming husband and wife team, Antonio and Daniela di Gruttola, the project sources fruit from 5 main sites for a total of 6 hectares, including a 2.5 ha hill that the couple recently purchased. From the outset, Cantina Giardino sought to source older vines (50+) from growers who have been working traditionally for generations, but were at risk of having to abandon or uproot their land. Parcels are chosen with extreme care for their adherence to the strictures of organic faming.
The vineyards are all set at altitude and are planted over the region’s vibrant volcanic soils. Vineyard work is done by hand, with extreme precision and care, and only organically. The fruit is harvested only when Antonia and Daniela deem it is ready, and is often the latest harvest in all Italy. Among the varietals grown are the indigenous Aglianico, Coda di Volpe, Greco and Fiano, which are used to make a wide, constantly shifting range of reds, whites and a rosé, all bottled under elaborate labels designed by a crew of local artists, many of whom are personal friends of the di Gruttolas. In the cellar Antonio vinifies the wines almost instinctually, varying the process practically every vintage. Antonio currently owns a wide array of aging vessels, including oak and cherry tree barrels, demi-muits, stainless steel tanks, fiberglass and amphoras home-made by Daniela from clay taken directly from the vineyards themselves. Each year the wine ends up where Antonio feels it needs to be. The Aglianicos typically spend significant time in barrel (or amphorae), and skin contact for the whites is the norm, though this also varies from wine to wine, and vintage to vintage. If deemed necessary, a small dose of sulfur is added at bottling; otherwise the wine is bottled as-is.
In terms of flavour profile, it is almost impossible to describe the Cantina Giardino wines using conventional terms. They are utterly unique, each displaying the sort of purity often lacking in wines today. What they all share is a true sense of terroir and a complexity indicative of old-vines and non-interventionist winemaking. To understand them is to try them and once you do, you will never forget them.