The region of Campania makes some of the best white wines in Italy, and Pasquale Cenatiempo’s wines from the island of Ischia are yet another demonstration of this. He uses mostly Biancolella and Forastera, two grapes whose origins are unclear but which are both now widely grown on the island. Ischia is a volcanic island, and the whites do show the characteristic ‘struck flint’ character of volcanic terroirs. They are distinctive, zesty, exciting wines that I am delighted to add to my selection.
Pasquale Cenatiempo’s production is about half from his own grapes, which are biodynamically farmed, the rest coming from other growers. The vineyards range from around 200′ to around 1,300′ above sea level. The wines are made by classic Italian white-wine-making; the grapes are hand-picked, crushed with no prior skin contact, fermented at cool temperatures in stainless steel, with no malolactic fermentation or use of wood, and bottled in the spring following the vintage.
Pale yellow, green glints; aroma of herbs, wet stones, hints of apple and white peach; on the palate bright, fresh, great fruit/acid balance, long. Absurdly good wine for the price. 40% Biancolella, 45% Forastera, 15% other local varieties such as collionara and biancolellone (more or less, these are all old mixed plantings), from the island of Ischia.
Pale yellow in color; fatter and more peachy than the Ischia Bianco and Lefkos, almost creamy. 100% Biancolella.
In effect a turbocharged version of the Ischia Bianco, and it tastes like it; made from Pasquale’s best vineyard, the wine shows the same balance as the regular bottling but with more intensity (white peach, green apples, floral and herbal hints) and at the same time somehow more elegance. Beautiful wine.60% Biancolella, 40% Forastera. Grown at around 1,300′ above sea level.
The varieties: Biancolella is of unknown origin, Pasquale says that Corsica, Sardinia and Greece have all been suggested. It is used in blending on Capri and the Amalfi Coast, but (as far as I know) only found unblended here on Ischia. Forastera is named as being from elsewhere (‘fuori’ in Italian means ‘outside’, the name in effect means ‘outsider’), and again is only found unblended here on Ischia. Forastera has a very distinct bright mineral character (at least when grown in this volcanic soil), with herbal and citrus notes.
The island: Ischia is a ‘complex volcano’ just off the coast of Campania, near Naples. It is reached by ferry from Naples.
Above are words from Oliver McCrum – www.omwines.com