I’ve offered my research and opinions on the wines of the Campania region in several previous columns. My goal was to imbue in you the excitement and appreciation I’ve gained for these wines.
I’ve also selfishly regaled you with my enthusiasm for Cantine Ciani, an ancient winery 62 miles east of Naples, in which I have recently invested.
My ardor culminated a few weeks ago in a long-planned visit to the area and Cantine Ciani with my wife and our dear friends, the Russells. As I sit here at my keyboard, I feel rather ebullient, filled with a building sense of unabashed enthusiasm and a groundswell of irrational verboseness.
I encourage you to revisit my columns penned earlier this year as a backdrop to our visit. (E-mail me for copies.)
Here are several highlights of our visit to Cantine Ciani.
–Enjoying the facilities, including the aforementioned state-of-the-art winery and the modern event space and guest rooms built over it. This winery dates back to 1378; to see it transformed left an indelible memory for me to cherish. I was able to capture, in a small fashion, the life of those before us.
–Arriving on the first day of harvest of the Fiano grapes, an engaging time at every winery operation.
–Meeting owner and winemaker Armando Ciani, his wife Rosita and their winemaking team, all immersed in the hubbub of harvesting grapes in the field into the wee hours of the morning, then transporting them to the winery for the crush. Although Armando was unable to share much time with us as he was flitting about his property, it was quite clear that he cherished the nine-generation family heritage at Cantine Ciani.
The annual harvest is a ritual he has carried on since childhood, first under the tutelage of his grandfather and father, then taking over the helm, first alongside his siblings, then on his own. His dedication, enthusiasm and pride were captured in each conversation with him and in watching him engaged in the rigors of his winery.
–Standing in awe in the modern cellar housing dozens of stainless-steel tanks and oak barrels. A number of barrels contain aging Aglianico wine, resting while developing the trademark fruit and tannins of the wine.
Other barrels, many brand new, are waiting patiently for the fermented juice of the current harvest of grapes. Today, Ciani produces about 2,500 cases of seven different wines, from Fiano, Greco and Aglianico grapes.
–Gazing at the glass-enclosed vestiges of the ancient structural walls of the original subterranean winery, preserved as a tribute to the many generations of winemakers who toiled and plied their trade in this hallowed space.
–Jogging on the winding ancient roads of the hilly terrain surrounding the winery and then in the Ciani vineyard, plucking a few clusters of ripening Aglianico grapes. I enjoyed their flavor as a new experience, knowing I most likely won’t be drinking the fruit of these vines until the wines are released a decade from harvest.
–The weather. The weather? We woke up on our last day at the winery to clear blue skies and crisp, invigorating air. As the day progressed the weather was stable, with temperatures rising nearly 20 degrees, typical of this area of the Apennine Mountains (and critical for the maturation of the Aglianico grapes).
As the afternoon progressed, I noticed a few dark clouds in the distance. Not to worry, I thought; the air was calm and the clouds were well off to the north. Wrong. In the next few minutes the dark clouds advanced to sit on top of us for 45 minutes, unleashing a torrent of driving rain, gale-force winds and a burst of hail. And just as suddenly as the storm had advanced, it moved on. Armando assured us the hail had not damaged the ripening grapes.
We left Cantine Ciani with a deep understanding of the rigors of managing a winery and the deep-rooted pride felt by those who laid the groundwork for this 21st century successor.
Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 20 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member of the Wine Media Guild of wine writers. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sharingwine.