Of Ancient Tradition and Borboun Kings, Why the Wines of Caserta are Special

Caserta, located in northwestern Campania, is not just a destination for architectural marvels like the Royal Palace of Caserta. It’s also a haven for wine enthusiasts, boasting a rich tapestry of wine varieties that reflect the region’s diverse terroir and centuries-old winemaking tradition. The wines that come out from Caserta’s heterogeneity are vibrant and distinctive from spirited to robust reds with excellent aging potential to crisp and aromatic whites, a portfolio is as varied as it is delightful with remarkable quality.

Among the notable red grapes produced in Caserta are the powerful Aglianico, known for its rich tannins and excellent aging potential, or the less tannic and fruity Piedirosso which is distinguishable for its red stems when the berries ripen. There is a wide diffusion of the Pallagrello Nero which was highly-prized by the Bourbons especially by the king and widely famous until the nineteenth century. There is also Casavecchia, an old variety discovered in an old house (thus the name) which has survived the phylloxera in the 19th century.

On the white wine front, Caserta shines with varietals like Falanghina, Palagrello Bianco and Asprinio. Falanghina, one of the region’s signature grapes, offers a delightful combination of crispiness and refreshing citrus and floral notes, making it perfect for enjoying on a sunny afternoon. Pallagrello Bianco, like its red counterpart, was regarded highly by the Bourbons which gives forth balance and good aromatic length of crispy fruits. And the very curious Asprinio of Aversa whose old vines are still trained in ancient tradition with big poplar trees alongside them, reaching until 10 meters in height.

The Denominations of Caserta

Falerno del Massico DOC

Falerno del Massico stands as a testament to Italy’s rich winemaking heritage, tracing its roots back to ancient Roman times. This esteemed wine, celebrated by poets like Tibullus and revered by figures such as Pliny the Elder and Cicero, holds a place of honor in the pantheon of oenological excellence. Falerno was produced in northern Campania, in Ager Falernus in ancient times, which presently corresponds to the same area in the province of Caserta the current municipalities of Mondragone, Falciano del Massico, Carinola, Sessa Aurunca and Cellole where today Falerno del Massico DOC is produced.

Crafted from grapes grown in the sun-drenched vineyards of Caserta in Campania, Falerno del Massico embodies the essence of old tradition and terroir. For the DOC red wines, the blend typically features Aglianico (minimum 60% and maximum 80%) and Piedirosso grapes (40% maximum), contributing to its robust character and complex flavor profile. Aglianico, known as one of Italy’s noble grape varieties, lends depth and structure, while Piedirosso adds layers of ripe fruit and aromatic complexity. Primitivo, another prominent grape in the region, may also make an appearance, further enhancing the wine’s depth and richness. In contrast, the white wines of Falerno del Massico DOC showcase the vibrant Falanghina grape, renowned for its refreshing acidity and aromatic intensity. These whites, characterized by their crispness and bright fruit flavors, offer a delightful counterpoint to the boldness of their red counterparts.

Aversa DOC

Aversa DOC wines are crafted primarily from the Asprinio grape variety, ensuring a true expression of the region’s terroir and character. For the still Aversa Asprinio, a minimum of 85% Asprinio grapes is required, allowing for up to 15% of other non-aromatic white grape varieties to contribute to the blend. This wine, cultivated in selected municipalities in the provinces of Caserta and Naples, showcases the unique flavors and aromas of the Asprinio grape, complemented by subtle nuances from other local varieties. On the other hand, Aversa Asprinio sparkling wine is obtained exclusively from 100% Asprinio grapes, ensuring purity and authenticity in every bottle. This sparkling expression captures the essence of the Asprinio grape, with its crisp acidity and lively effervescence. The grape production area for Aversa Asprinio wines underscores the importance of terroir in shaping the character and quality of these wines, reflecting the unique microclimate and soil characteristics of the region.

The Asprinio grape thrives in the volcanic soils of Campania, benefiting from the region’s warm climate and coastal influences. Its high acidity and low sugar content make it ideal for producing a vibrant, dry wine that is perfect for warm-weather sipping. In terms of flavor, Aversa Asprinio offers notes of green apple, citrus, and floral undertones, with a clean, zesty finish. Its versatility makes it a delightful apéritif or accompaniment to light seafood dishes, salads, and antipasti. While perhaps not as famous as some of Italy’s other sparkling wines, Aversa Asprinio is cherished by those who appreciate its distinctive character and regional charm.

What makes this wine interesting is the training method of the Asprinio vines. Aversano Alberata, also known locally as vite maritata (married vines) give the spectacular appearance of tall walls of green foliage that can reach as high as 10 meters tall. The training method that dates back from ancient tradition of the Etruscans, use tall poplar trees for the old grapevines to be supported with the help of iron wires. This solution was an effective use of the land during the old times, sending the vines upwards into the sky and leaving the ground free for other crops. The harvest takes place with long ladders leaning against the trees which is a job left for specific experts who harvest Asprinio grapes from the tall vines.

Galluccio DOC

The Galluccio DOC showcases the rich viticultural heritage of its namesake village in the northern Alto Casertano region of Italy. Established in 1997, this denomination encompasses a range of wines, including white, red, and rosé, each crafted to exacting standards from grapes grown within the delimited production area. For white Galluccio wines with its delicate, fruity and dry fresh flavor, Falanghina reigns supreme, constituting a minimum of 70% of the blend. Additional non-aromatic grape varieties can complement the blend, adding complexity and character.

Meanwhile, red and rosé Galluccio wines use Aglianico as their main grape, comprising at least 70% of the blend. The red wine presents a ruby red color which tends to become garnet with age, delicate, dry and harmonious while the rosé wine has an bright cherry pink color with inviting fruity and floral aromas. Similar to the white wines, other suitable non-aromatic grape varieties are permitted, contributing to the wine’s depth and structure. The production area of Galluccio DOC is characterized by its volcanic soils, alternating with clay-limestone and clay-sandy layers, fostering optimal grape-growing conditions. While Aglianico dominates the landscape, other red varieties like Piedirosso, Primitivo, Pallagrello Nero, Casavecchia, Sciascinoso, and Montepulciano thrive alongside it. For white varieties, Falanghina leads the way, accompanied by Fiano, Greco, Coda di Volpe, and Pallagrello Bianco.

Roccamonfina IGT

Roccamonfina wines, bearing the geographical indication of Alto Casertano, offer a diverse range of expressions reflecting the volcanic terroir of the region. Established in 1995, this denomination is named after the village nestled on the slopes of the extinct Roccamonfina volcano, forming the heart of Alto Casertano’s viticultural landscape. Serving as a complement to the Falerno del Massico and Galluccio denominations, Roccamonfina shares their production area while encompassing additional municipalities in the northern region. The ampelographic base comprises renowned varieties such as Aglianico, Piedirosso, Primitivo, and Falanghina, with contributions from Coda di Volpe, Fiano, Greco, and Sciascinoso, all meeting the specifications outlined.

Under the Roccamonfina IGT, a diverse array of wines is produced, including whites, reds, and rosés, each showcasing the distinctive characteristics of the territory and grape varieties. For wines bearing the specification of a specific grape variety, such as Aglianico, Falanghina, or others, at least 85% of the blend must originate from the corresponding vines, with the option to include up to 15% of other non-aromatic grape varieties suitable for cultivation in the province of Caserta. Roccamonfina wines encompass a broad spectrum of styles, from still to frizzante, and sweet to passito, catering to diverse palates and occasions. Notably, wines featuring the Falanghina grape variety are also available in sparkling and passito styles, adding further depth and versatility to the offerings of this esteemed geographical indication.

Terre del Volturno IGT

Established in 1995, this denomination encompasses around eighty municipalities, showcasing a broad mosaic of terroirs and grape varietals. From the foothills of the Molise Apennines to the Tyrrhenian coast, Terre del Volturno offers diverse microclimates and soil compositions. Terre del Volturno wines, around fifteen types in total, range from bold reds to crisp whites. Notable varieties include Aglianico, Casavecchia, and Pallagrello Nero for reds, and Asprinio and Falanghina for whites. From still to sparkling, sweet to dry, Terre del Volturno wines cater to diverse tastes. Whether enjoying a refreshing Falanghina under the Mediterranean sun or savoring a velvety Aglianico by the fireplace, Terre del Volturno offers something for every palate. As Terre del Volturno continues to gain recognition, wine enthusiasts can anticipate discovering new expressions of Campanian viticulture.

Revival of the King’s Vineyard at the Royal Palace of Caserta

The tale of the vineyards of the Royal Palace of Caserta is one steeped in history, prestige, and the timeless allure of viticulture. From the heights of the Bourbon monarchy to the modern-day revival efforts, the journey of these vineyards is a testament to the enduring legacy of winemaking in the region of Caserta. Dating back to the 18th century, Ferdinando di Borbone, King of Naples and Sicily, held a deep appreciation for the wines produced in the region, particularly the revered Pallagrello wine. With its exquisite flavor profile and esteemed reputation, Pallagrello wine graced the tables of royalty, earning a place of honor among the finest vintages of the Kingdom. The monarchs, known for their discerning taste, went so far as to plant Pallagrello vines within the gardens of the Royal Palace of Caserta, ensuring a direct supply of this cherished wine for their royal feasts and gatherings.

However, as dynasties fell and eras changed, the once-thriving vineyards of the Royal Palace fell into disrepair and obscurity. For years, these historic vines lay dormant, their legacy fading into the mists of time. It wasn’t until recent years that efforts to resurrect the vineyards began to take shape, spurred on by a desire to revive not only the wines of yesteryear but also the cultural heritage they represented.

In 2018, a pivotal moment arrived when the former director of the Reggia di Caserta, Mauro Felicori, initiated a project to breathe new life into the forgotten vineyards. Entrusting the task to the esteemed Tenuta Fontana winery of siblings Raffaele Fontana and Mariapina Fontana from the village of Pietrelcina in the Sannio region, plans were set in motion to restore the Pallagrello Nero and Pallagrello Bianco vines to their former glory. With meticulous care and attention to detail, Tenuta Fontana embarked on the arduous task of revitalizing Vigne del Re (King’s Vineyard) carefully tending to each vine with the hope of a bountiful harvest. The vineyard spans almost 1.5 hectares in the Bosco di San Silvestro, a part of the Royal Palace’s garden.

Guided by the expertise of renowned oenologist Francesco Bartoletti and agronomist Stefano Bartolomei, the project gained momentum, drawing closer to its goal of resurrecting the historic vineyards. Today, the fruits of these labors are beginning to emerge, as the Pallagrello vines once again thrive in the fertile soil of the Bosco di San Silvestro using organic farming methods. The winemaking and refinement is done in terracotta amphorae which yields to Terre del Volturno IGT, proudly bearing the mark of the Royal Palace of Caserta. In 2021, the first harvest was celebrated. The first wine, the white called OroRe Pallagrello Bianco IGT, was tasted the following year while the red, OroRe Pallagrello Nero IGT has completed a longer refinement process in amphorae and was tasted at the end of 2023.

VITICA Consorzio Tutela Vini Caserta

The VITICA Consorzio Tutela Vini Caserta, based in Caserta, was established to safeguard the wines of Aversa, Falerno del Massico, Galluccio, Terre del Volturno, and Roccamonfina regions. Founded on May 4, 2004, it holds the distinction of being the first wine consortium officially recognized by the Ministry for Agriculture in Campania. Its mission is to elevate the Caserta area’s wine industry, encompassing producers and bottlers alike. By preserving the rich diversity of local grape varieties, it safeguards centuries-old traditions and heritage. The Consortium’s primary objective is to support both emerging wineries and established industry players, fostering growth and recognition domestically and internationally.


Website: https://www.vitica.it/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/viticaserta/