As winemaker Daniela de Gruttola explains, the hillsides of Campania are the fake south. You might expect big, rich wines from southern Italy, but here — with old vines planted to traditional methods at high elevation — the opposite is possible. The wines are all about freshness, acidity and purity. Take these natural conditions and pair them with an experimental, forward-thinking mindset, and you end up with the captivating cuvées of Cantina Giardino.
As guest writer Sarah May Grunwald says, this is A Mission to Preserve. She travelled to visit them and takes us there virtually.
Sarah May Grunwald is a wine writer and educator, specialising in the wines of Italy and Georgia. She is passionate about natural wine and viticulture, and is also a permaculturist, beekeeper and animal rescuer.
People: Antonio di Gruttola, Daniela De Gruttola, Davide De Gruttola, Luca De Lisio, Gerardo Calabrese, Raffaele Miano, Rocco Volpe, Fiorentino D’Amato, Antonio Giardino, Pasquale Giardino, Antonio Corsano, Nadia di Gruttola
Place: Campania, Italy
Varieties: Falanghina, Coda di Volpe, Greco, Fiano, Aglianico, Primitivo, Piedirosso
Did You Know? Amongst the vineyards they started with, some were pre-phylloxera, and several had been trained with the old system of raggiera avellinese, which consists of two plants whose trunks first run parallel and then crisscross at 170cm, allowing the clusters to grow on top and the vegetation to fall below. This is not to be confused with pergola, and these vineyards aren’t workable by tractor; instead worked and harvested entirely by hand.
They tend to use mostly wood vessels because they believe that steel, being much colder, produces wines that are too ‘nervous.’ They prefer to use different types of local wood, terracotta amphorae, and an amphora of grès (sandstone) and cement.
Cantina Giardino's name implies garden (although it’s actually the surname of two of the founders) — but indeed, their vineyards do resemble a garden — with fruits, trees, and bushes. In addition, they use barrels made from local chestnut, acacia, and mulberry wood.
They recently sent a barrel to the iconic Belgian brasserie, Cantillon, to make a beer with their wine named 'Sofia,' and then had their barrel maker make another one to replace it. None of the barrels have the same capacity; they’re all different, confirming that even a barrel is an artisan product, and is part of the terroir.
Antonio also tells us that they took up making their vessels using clay from their land for fun (so they’re not large). They also use grès because there’s a long tradition of this in the area. These vessels are more standardized than the terracotta vessels; the grès is made with a specific, unvarying recipe. Terracotta, meanwhile, is less predictable because of the different clays and changes that occur when they’re made.