The wines of Capri, the taste of the old

Capri is a place chosen to carry itself through the time when wine was made. About thirty kilometers south of Naples, facing the Sorrentine Peninsula, this small green island – the sirocco from the south-east, the libeccio from the south-west – offers the traveler stability off the beaten path to the ability to appreciate the full agrarian landscapes Virgilian beauty. How many lands are planted, how many plots of vines, how many centuries of olive trees, how many carob trees, agaves and palm trees… How much white, ocher and yellow… . And these beautiful flowers… Botanists have counted 800 different species while traveling the 10 square kilometers of the island. Capri is a paradise “green-gray, green-sili, green-lemony” where the same peace emerges, woven with taste, spices and pleasures, which Félicien Marceau recognized in his book Capri petite île, published by Gallimard in 1951 Everything changed. from this unstable period after the war in Italy, but there is nothing in this beauty that is wild and structured, fragile and irreplaceable. In the ancient light of the Tyrrhenian Sea, one is impressed by the smart and beautiful agricultural system developed over the centuries.

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Raise the vine to the sky

The treatises of the great agronomists of the Roman Republic and the first century of the Empire, Cato the Elder, Columella and Pliny the Elder, allow us to better understand its stability and its development before consumption demands of mass tourism. global warming and the intensive practice of monoculture. In Capri, where a dry, elegant white wine is produced with the comfort of agricultural rusticity, there are fewer vines today than in the past. In the great blue of the Tyrrhenian Sea, Vitis vinifera has to face tough competitors, namely the lemon trees, which originated in Asia, which have established themselves as a symbol of Capri. On the island, you can find limoncello in all the restaurants, all the grocery stores and all the souvenir shops. There are drawn lemons on tables, lemons on hats, paper lemons, lemon shaped glasses, lemon cushions and porcelain lemon trees.

This is what makes Capri the island of lemons. We almost forget that this is not always the case. From Sorrento to Salerno, on the Amalfi coast, and on the three islands of the bay, Capri, Ischia and Procida, the cultivation of the lemon tree is present. It was built in the 18th century, under the guidance of Charles de Bourbon, who restored the kingdom of Naples. To protect the lemon trees from the harsh climate that exposes the flower to the cold winds, the farmers of Campania have taken to growing them in pergolas, with the flowers far from the ground, protection removed from the leaves, allowing heavy fruit to ripen. to mature. In Capri, pergolas are also used to raise the vines in the sky, to reach the light. Vitis vinifera benefits from cool weather and good rainfall. It makes good use of the support of the pergola to grow at the end of winter and grow until September thanks to its summer leaves. It can be seen on the hills covered with white houses of Anacapri, the small town inside the island.

If they are not competitors in commercial terms, the vine and the lemon tree can provide a good example of “companion plants”, to use the language proposed by the agronomist Yves Darricau and his daughter Léa in a book called Histoire et future of plant companionship. (Rouergue). From the top of the Piazetta, where the Clock Tower begins to chime the hours in the quiet of the morning and evening, you must go down to the sea through Marina Grande and in Marucella to observe this connection between the vine and the lemon tree. . In the Scala Fenicia area, two plants share the small space available between the white-walled buildings. At the entrance of the “Phoenician Steps” that connected the cities of Capri and Anacapri since ancient times, there is a great example of the coltura promiscua, or planting agriculture, which gave good values ​​in of the context of an agricultural business and optimization is required. of space under very restrictive ground conditions.

Before starting the odyssey of climbing 1.7 kilometers of stairs built around the 7th and 6th centuries BC. JC. for the Greeks, it is a joy to live in the vineyards of the Scala Fenicia region, located on limestone cliffs that descend to the sea with a beautiful view of Vesuvius. Located in the north of Capri, above the Baths of Tiberius, this family house has been established on the island for half a century in the restoration and restoration of the wine growing culture. Knowing that only 3,800 bottles are sold per year, we understand that a bottle made by a winemaker in Capri is not a pleasure intended for tourists equipped with drugs selfie. A duty for the connoisseur. Made from biancolella (20%), greco (50%) and falanghina (30%), three typical autochthonous grape varieties of Campanian viticulture vinified in stainless steel barrels, the white wine bottles are not offered from the Scala Fenicia is worth the extra costs. , but hard to find. From a small Anacapri vineyard worked with care, Gerardo Perillo draws 2,000 bottles of white wine every year, including biancolella, greco and falanghina … , you have to drive to find a bottle . Created in 1977, the Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) Capri is the smallest in Campania. They produce between 6,000 and 7,000 bottles a year. Today, more is produced on the neighboring island of Ischia (5,000 hl/year).

Don’t miss this rarity. Capri is a dream, its history and its wine will blow you away. Because what can you do in the gardens and vineyards of this island if you don’t think about it? From the Marina Grande, where the boats landed, to the Marina Picola, where the Romans landed, we walked dreaming of the refined food of Augustus and Tiberius, the wines they served to their friends. Among all, the kings liked the spice with the good spices of the wines of Falerno, produced in the north of Naples, around the city of Caserta. During their stay on the island, Suetonius and Tacitus are fun and scary, Augustus and Tiberius ate hares, wild boars, geese, pheasants, nightingales, peacocks, clams, mussels, clams, octopus, oysters, oysters. the best hams and the best fish. One of the best French legends, seen at the beginning of Asterix’s journey, misleads us that the taste of roast pork is only for the Gauls. Because wild boar is found all over Italy, and on the islands, in Sardinia, in Capri, Ponza and Ischia.

Greco, the white grape variety of the legendary Falerne wine

Capri is not the island of goats (capreae) but the island of wild boars (káproi) whose natural wealth surprised the Greek colonists who came from the Ionian Sea in the 8th century BC. JC. Known for their food, their menus are not enriched with wild boar. The káproi is a wild animal that the emulators of Odysseus and Achilles, born into the Greek nobility, learned to fight and kill, but not to eat. Serving roast pork on a spit is a Roman innovation. According to Apicius, the king of gastronomes during the time of Augustus and Tiberius, the method was established in the 2nd century BC. JC. by Publius -Servilius Rullus, the father of the tribune of the plebs, in 63 BC. JC. asked for an agrarian law related to the sale of the lands of the ager publicus, collective farms, before giving the proceeds of the sale to the people. In his book The Culinary Art, Apicius left us two recipes for roast pork and three for boiled pork. According to him, the game should be cooked in sea water, with laurel branches.

This food should be prepared at the water’s edge. It was probably favored by the cooks of Augustus and Tiberius when they lived in their villas on Capri – according to the Roman historian Tacitus there were twelve of them. Forgetting the Greek practice of the symposion, the second part of the festival dedicated to drinking and drunkenness, the Roman emperors and their soldiers drank at the same time, lying on the chairs in the triclinium. In Capri, there was more wine than it is today. The Greeks established the vine on the island after cultivating it in the volcanic lands of Campania and on the slopes of Vesuvius. Ampelography, the daughter of botany and oenology that deals with the types of grapes, their origin and their characteristics, is a dangerous science. Due to an oral tradition that they do not slow down, the wine growers of Campania do not always learn from books. They say, however, that Aglianico and Greco were taken to Italy by the Greeks – apparently the latter spoke well of them on board the ship. Adapted to the rising sun, aglianico does not grow in Capri, where Vino rosso Capri DOC is mainly produced from piedirosso, a red grape that produces sour and tannic wines, good with pig. But Greco, the white grape of the Falerne wine of kings, is mostly in areas where the vineyards of Capri do not offer lemon trees or a hotel with a sea view.

There are things you have done once in your life; on the menu of the restaurant or on the pages of a winery, see, at the end, a bottle of Vino bianco Capri DOC; drink and slowly put the greco inside you. And remembering Capri, the great joy of living there.

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