Saturday, July 18, 2015

White Wine Grapes, Part 9: Coda di Volpe

This post is another slight detour from the white blending grapes theme here this summer.  While Coda di Volpe is most certainly an Italian white blending grape, it is notable, if it's notable at all, for just one historically mediocre white wine, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio.  We're writing about it here because we will soon be stocking a new and exceptional Lacryma Christi, another example of what can result when a private capital infusion meets traditional European wine making.

Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio is best known as a light dry white wine from the Campania region of southern Italy.  There are also red and rose Lacryma Christis as well as sparkling and fortified dessert wines made from these vineyards.  Naples is the largest city within the appellation and that would ordinarily be the go-to for recognizable place names there were it not for Mount Vesuvius and its horrific volcanic legacy.  It is on those lava-enriched Vesuvian slopes that Lacryma Christi grapes take root.

Written references for Campania wines date back to the twelfth century BC and Coda di Volpe may have been around at that early date. Coda di Volpe, by the way, means "tail of the fox" and refers to the shape of the grape bunch as it hangs on the vine.  The Vesuvian soils benefit Coda di Volpi vines in two prominent ways: they impart acidity to this low-acid grape type and they thwart the phylloxera aphid which apparently doesn't care for acidic soils.  The breezes from the Bay of Naples also facilitate the acidity and freshness of the wines.

The Vesuvio appellation received its DOC in 1983 when interest in Lacryma Christi promised a revival of these ancient wines.  By Italian wine law, Lacryma Christi must be 30-80% Coda di Volpe with the remainder being some combination of Verdeca along with an allowance for smaller portions of Falanghina, Caprettone, and Greco di Tufo.  With its current popularity, some Lacryma Christi is actually 100% Coda as are other varietally named local wines.

Lacryma Christi and those other varietal Coda di Volpe wines marry well with seafood in any form, pasta, and appetizers.  Coda wines feature a pale yellow color, pear aromas, and flavors of pineapple, white peach, and licorice.  These wines offer moderate body, minerality, and the aforementioned pronounced acidity.  They should be drunk young, within two years of bottling.

Lacryma Christi means "the tears of Christ" and any article on the subject would be remiss not to explore the meaning of the name.  The two most common explanations feature Christ shedding tears either in joy during the ascension when he looks down and sees the beauty of the Neopolitan countryside and bay or in sadness when during the fall Satan snatches a piece of heaven which then becomes that same beautiful bay and countryside of Campania.  Either way, where Christ's tears fall, vines begin to grow.        

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