Caprettone is a white grape that originates from the Campania region of Southwestern Italy, around the city of Naples. This region is heavily influenced by Mount Vesuvius (pictured on the wine label) and the volcanic soils of the area. Caprettone is almost entirely grown in the Vesuvio DOC (denominazione di origine controllata, meaning a wine of a specific geographic area made with predetermined grape varieties). Within this wine area, there is a subregion named Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio (meaning ‘the tears of Christ on Vesuvius’) that produces white and red wines with native grapes such as Caprettone (white wines) and Piedirosso (red wines). Until recently, the Caprettone name was used interchangeably with Coda di Volpe, but through genetic testing, these have been proven to be distinct grape varieties. The grape varieties used to be commonly blended (as they were also interspersed within the vineyard) but, as Caprettone has increased in popularity, it began being produced in single varietal wines.
The legend behind the name of Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio states that when Lucifer was cast out of heaven, he took a piece of it with him. When Christ saw the Naples coastline, he recognized it as the piece Lucifer took. Upon seeing this, Christ wept. The legend goes on to say the vines of the region grew where the tears landed. This legend illustrates the extensive history grape growing and winemaking have in this region. The bottle I selected is produced by the Matrone family, who have owned vines since the 1700s on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. Their vineyards are located within the confines of Vesuvius National Park. These vineyards had fallen into disrepair until cousins Andrea and Fransesco took it upon themselves to revive their grandfather’s old winery and begin to make wine there once again.
The wine I drank this week was a 2017 Bianco Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio from Cantine Matrone. It was a blend of 90% Caprettone and 10% Falanghina (known to add floral notes and some body). I found the beautiful deep gold color surprising and fascinating. The legs were thick and slow moving as they caressed the sides of the goblet. The buttery aromas were blended with lanolin, crisp green apples, lemon peel, butterscotch, blanched almonds, toffee, toast, and wet slate. The longer I let the glass sit, the more complex the aromas became. When I finally did taste it, the dry wine with a moderate acidity level, had a warming sensation that was greater than the level of alcohol on the bottle (12.5%) would indicate. The body was lighter than I anticipated but still significant. The flavors started out more bitter, the lemon peel was more pithy, but evolved back to peel as it hit the back of my palate. One by one, the other flavors would hold up their hand in the crowd but were overall well integrated. This wine was still in the process of developing, meaning its bright fruit is transitioning to a more dried fruit character, while other components were illustrating the aging this bottle has already undergone. It was aged in the bottle for a minimum of 2 years before hitting the shelves at my local wine shop, which was evidenced by its nutty flavors. These 2 varieties mark numbers 179 and 180. I’m so close to #200! I can’t wait to taste what’s between me and my doppel level certificate!