During a recent trip to Milan, I participated in a pretty exciting (well, at least if you are into Italian wine!) event organized by the Milan chapter of the Italian Sommelier Association: a vertical tasting of six vintages of Fiorduva, the most awarded and acclaimed wine in the portfolio of coveted niche producer Marisa Cuomo.
About the Estate
Marisa Cuomo is a small winery controlling just 18 HA and producing about 109,000 bottles a year in an extreme and fascinating stretch of the Amalfi Coast in the Campania region in Southern Italy, near the towns of Furore and Ravello. Here the vines grow in narrow strips of land on the steep cliffs overlooking the Tirreno Sea, which make any kind of mechanical harvesting all but impossible. Commercially growing and harvesting vines here is an heroic challenge, with everything to be done exclusively by hand. Some of the older vines still grow horizontally instead of vertically, coming out of the stone walls that separate a strip from the one above it: this was an ancient local tradition that allowed land owners to have a vineyard and at the same time to grow vegetables in the narrow strips of land, shaded by the overhead vines. In those extreme conditions, every inch of land counts!
The team behind the winery is made up of Marisa, a strong woman who is in charge of the winemaking and bottling processes of their wines, Andrea, Marisa’s husband, who is the PR man of the winery and “Zio Luigi”, one of Marisa’s uncles who is in charge of maintaing the vineyards and harvesting the grapes.
About the Grapes and the Wine
Fiorduva is Marisa Cuomo’s flagship white wine, a blend of roughly equal proportions of three almost extinct grape varieties indigenous to the Campania region called Fenile, Ginestra and Ripoli.
All three are white-berried grape varieties that are indigenous to and highly localized in the Amalfi Coast area in Campania. Fenile is said to derive its name from the Italian word “fieno” (hay) due to its straw yellow color. Fenile’s DNA profile is unique. It is an early ripening variety with high sugar levels. Ginestra draws its name from the homonymous Italian word which means broom, because of its dominant aroma. It is a late ripening variety with high acidity levels and with aging the wines made from these grapes may develop kerosene-like aromas similar to those that may be found in certain Riesling. Ripoli is a mid-ripening variety which is genetically close to Falanghina Flegrea and presents high sugar levels and moderate acidity (information on the grape varieties taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012).
It is noteworthy to mention that the average age of the vines devoted to the Fiorduva production is 80 years: you could certainly call them “old vines”! The appellation of Fiorduva is Costa di Amalfi DOC, subzone Furore. Among its many awards, Fiorduva has won the 5 clusters top rating in the ISA wine guide and the 3 glasses top rating in the Gambero Rosso wine guide.
Our Detailed Review and Vertical Tasting
Now, let’s get down to the vertical tasting of Fiorduva: as I said, we have been offered the opportunity to taste six vintages, starting from the latest (2011) all the way back to 2006. I found Fiorduva (which I had never had before, despite being aware of all the praise it received) a very special and “seducing” wine, definitely worth investing in a bottle if you come across one. Incidentally, Fiorduva is available in the U.S. where it retails for about $50, certainly not an inexpensive buy.
Among the six vintages that I tasted, in my view by far the best, most intriguing one was 2006, the oldest in the range, which vouches for the good aging potential of Fiorduva for a white wine. The vintages 2007 to 2009 were also extremely good, with 2008 perhaps having a slight edge over the other two. Finally, 2010 was good, but would certainly benefit from at least one more year in the bottle, and 2011 was pleasant, but not entirely balanced yet, with acidity and minerality tending to overwhelm the smoothness of the wine: definitely too young to be enjoyed at its fullest.
Now, to make you understand a bit more what kind of wine to expect should you lay your hands on a bottle, below is my review of my personal favorite: Marisa Cuomo, Costa d’Amalfi Furore “Fiorduva” DOC 2006 ($50).
My review is based on a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting sheet (for more information, see my previous post that provides a detailed overview of it).
In the glass, the wine poured a luscious golden yellow in color, and it was thick when swirled, indicating a good structure.
On the nose, its bouquet was intense, fine and complex, with aromas of apricot, peach and banana coupled with minerals and hints of petroleum and nail polish (by the way, these last two descriptors are not to be intended as negative and do not signify any flaws in the wine, they just indicate certain peculiar aromas that can be found in the Fiorduva – hints of petroleum, for instance, can often be found in certain Rieslings).
In the mouth it was dry, with high ABV and smooth; acidic and tasty: definitely a balanced wine with a full body. There was also a good correspondence between the mouth flavors and the bouquet. It had a long finish, with the wine’s intriguing flavors lingering in your mouth for a long time. In terms of its life cycle, I would call 2006 mature, meaning that I think the wine is now at its apex and would not benefit from any additional aging.
The Bottom Line
Overall, Fiorduva is an outstanding, intriguing wine which is the heroic expression of a harsh land, human tenacity and a sample of Italy’s treasure chest of indigenous grape varieties. Certainly worth a try if you come across a bottle.
Rating: Outstanding and definitely Recommended – $$$
(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)
Really, really good write up, Stefano. Thanks so much for sharing! We have friends that own a house at the Amalfi coast (talk about being lucky) and we keep talking about visiting them one of these years. I will try to remember this winery. Seems like absolutely worth a visit!!
Thank you very much, Oliver 🙂
Yes, you should definitely plan on going to visit your friends on the Amalfi Coast: if you skip August and manage to make some sense of Naples, it is beautiful land. Ravello is particularly pretty and very close to Marisa Cuomo’s winery. I think that, if you end up going, you should email them ahead of time and make an appointment to visit the winery and the vineyards – it must be quite something. Andrea is a very nice, talkative man, while Marisa is very shy and says little, but you can tell she must know everything about their vineyards and how to make good wine as she is in charge of all the winemaking process.
I’ve never ventured further South than Rome, although I spent a lot of time in Italy as a child. So, I definitely want to explore more.
Reblogged this on Food Arts & Travels and commented:
That’s wonderful blog post. Really enjoyed it.
Thank you very much both for your comment and for the reblog! 🙂
I know very little about wines but like art I know what I like. I will look out for this wine – the label is certainly distinctive and rather beautiful. If I find a bottle I shall certainly be trying it thanks to your write up.
Thank you very much for your comment: I am sure that, if you happen to try out Fiorduva, it will not let you down!
All the best
Nice tip and it looks wonderful there!
Thank you, Sofia: yes, the Amalfi Coast is quite impressive a place indeed!
Sounds like a fun trip and event Stefano! I must say that I am also a fan of your dictionary of wine terms. Very helpful for those of us that aren’t as familiar with the terminology!
Thank you, Heather! I am glad you are finding my glossary useful: it has been a huge project, but the whole idea was just that – to serve as a quick point of reference for anyone who were interested in finding out more about a wine term.
Thanks again! 🙂
You certainly have been very busy this year, Stefano! 🙂 I’d think this trip to the beautiful Amalficoast sounds like a big highlight with a lot of fun and pleasure. Execellent review, my dear. Envy, envy, envy, envy!!!!
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Big hug from us in Norfolk
Klausbernd, Siri & Selma und Dina ♥
I had the pleasure of discovering this wine when dining at Ristorante Morini in NYC last night , vintage 2011. Delicious! It is as if you can taste the care and love that goes into making it. It does not have that mass produced taste that even some of the better French wines can have. I enjoyed reading about what it composed of and how it was made. Your excellent article made sense of all the wonderful tastes I enjoyed sipping this unique wine.
Thank you for taking the time to drop this comment: Osteria Morini is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in the City!
I am so glad that you had an opportunity to try a wine that is as special as the Fiorduva at so good a restaurant!
I am also glad that you enjoyed it and you picked up its many layers of aromas and flavors. You really had a unique experience!
Thanks again and Happy Holidays,