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The Glass of Wonders

Like an island, the agricultural Coast has preserved the ancient wealth of biodiversity: from Vietri to Positano there isn’t one grape of Cabernet Sauvignon, of Chardonnay, Trebbiano or Sangiovese.

The invaders and the conquerors of history never had time to leave their grapes because the territory  and the sun resisted all their assaults and made all attempts of contamination futile.  Not even phylloxera, which did arrive in Campania much later than elsewhere, thanks to the volcanic soil which defended the plants, managed to attack: between Furore and Tramonti, there are still vast extensions of vineyards with free standing production.

There are very few European wine territories which can boast this unique characteristic:  in the glass, modern oenology presents unique decisive flavours, well-defined varieties, which leave a clear impression even on those who are not experts.  In a word, Campanian wines are always recognisable, a precious feature in a world of monotonous taste governed by phobic hygienists.  Both the simple peasant and the expert will speak to you of unique vines, such as Aglianico, grown in Campania and in the Vulture area, marked by international recognition and success, but also of  Piedirosso, Sciascinoso, Tintore and Tronto all red grapes and the white grapes of Biancolella (San Nicola), Falanghina, Fenile, Ginestra (Biancazita), Pepella, Ripolo.  As often happened all over Italy, these varieties were present in the same vineyard; the single grape vineyard is a recent phenomenon since vines and wines have become nationally important.

The grape, already cultivated in Roman settlements, such that it was defined the Latin grape as opposed to Greek, has always had to fight for space and, for this reason, in the Land of the Sirens, the trellis was devised as a way of doubling the cultivation on two levels of terracing: above grapes and lemons and below other cultivations.

Grape-growing was for many centuries a presence in the garden, but definitely not a characteristic of the countryside, as the lemon tree has been since the second half of the 17th century giving rise recently to the production of limoncello liqueur. So, we have lemons and other citrus fruits, olives, vines, fruit trees, vegetables, prickly pears and, gradually, going up towards Scala and Tramonti beyond Ravello, chestnut trees.

The vertical landscape contains many different seasonal varieties and cultivations within a few kilometres, the autumn mists envelop the woods of the Lattari mountains populated with elves while the Sirens were singing to Ulysses, here lemons were imported by the Arabs, and, high up, there are woods of  chestnut trees thanks to which the mountain people managed to survive without grain or potatoes. Grapes became successful when the first hotels opened in Ravello and in the other towns, visited by more and more wine-lovers, at first the intellectual artists and students, then the well-off and finally the explosion of mass tourism. Then, in the trattorie and hotels, travellers started to drink the wine of the area: easy to drink, lively, usually white, not very alcoholic but with clear flavours of citrus fruits and yellow broom flowers.  Red grapes were grown in the Tramonti area and Neapolitan traders began to buy in bulk in order to sell in the city markets.

The Valico di Chiunzi was the focal point: from here the women, carrying wine flasks and baskets on their heads, climbed over the mountain tops to the Nocera side to encounter the professional merchants.  So, first of all, wine for home consumption, then from the second half of the 17th century, the production increased for hotels and restaurants along the coast, mostly white wine, whereas the great metropolitan market of Naples, the largest in Italy since the Second World War, drank red wine from Tramonti.