A wine maker once told me that this was the most dangerous place on earth. With the Phlegraean Fields, or Campi Flegrei, sitting aloft a smouldering cauldron of magma, it is little wonder. We all know the history of Pompeii and Herculaneum; Vesuvius is an active volcano.
Like many wine regions in the South of Italy, Campi Flegrei is rich in ancient history but as is also fairly typical, up until just a few years ago, the wines have been largely uninteresting.
Throughout the 80s, 90s and early 00s, wines from Campi Flegrei were best described as pizzeria wines, but in the age of cheaper technology, formal viticultural educations and flying consultants, producers have learned how to maximise the effects of local characteristics better than ever before and this is an area undoubtedly benefiting.
Campi Flegrei DOC is now considered an interesting territory for several reasons. Along the coast from Naples, it covers just seven communes, (including the wonderfully colourful island of Procida) and consequently is considered fairly small.
Viticulture in the area still possesses many of its traditional characteristics. The white Falanghina variety is often planted high up vertical poles, a method known locally as ‘puteolano’ or ‘spalatrone’. To a lesser extent, the area’s red variety Piedirosso is also seen cultivated this way.
Amazingly, there are also some producers still using plants with their original rootstocks, as phyloxera, the infamous vine pest, cannot survive in the area’s volcanic soils. In turn this leads to grapes reaching full ripeness with lower sugar levels, resulting in lighter wines.
Although there are only a handful of small growers producing wines here, it remains an area of high interest. La Sibilla, located in Bacoli, are known for their sustainable viticulture, while over is particularly interesting. Occupying an s is arguably the small stretch of land that sticks out into the Tyhreanean Sea.
It is here with, where volcanic, tuff and sandy soils jut out scenically into the Gulf of Naples and produce wines of such unique local typicality that understanding the decision to sanction the creation of a DOC in 1994 is a simple process.