Often my friend from Rome, perhaps while we are walking down the street to the supermarket on a grey Saturday morning, will abruptly stop, hold his hand over his heart, grab my elbow to jolt me back and say with eyes wide open in shock, “Did you see THAT? That’s IT! I AM IN LOVE!” Meanwhile, of course, his love walks by completely unaware of the near cardiac arrest just caused. To be honest, I often don’t see what all the fuss is about, but for a moment, at least, the day seems just a little brighter for it.
I have to be careful when we are tasting wine together. His sensitivity to beautiful things means he is often in raptures. That’s why, to tone down his enthusiasm about the good wine we tried from the Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC in Campania, I started to talk about rocks and soil types in vineyards.
In particular, the soil type of Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio – near the volcano Mount Vesuvius – which can often be found in most houses on the shelf next to the bathtub: pumice.
As much as I LOVE wines from volcanic regions, the pumice in the bathroom is the closest I have ever got to a real volcano. Stay with me! To understand the pumice soil of Lacryma Christi is to understand the taste of the wine. Like pumice, the wine has a porous, light quality to it, which keeps the fruit in check throughout an entire three-course meal. Whereas some non-volcanic wines from hotter climates can have slightly syrupy or baked characters (with the sun creating ripe fruit with high alcohol) which becomes too much after one glass, especially with a heavy pasta. It could be said it’s the difference in weight between an Aero bar and a plain bar of milk chocolate.
The ornate name, Lacryma Christi (Tears of Christ) del Vesuvio leads you to expect tears of hot, lava flowing with an opening blast of heat, followed by slow and heavy molten lava fruit. And that’s what you don’t get. To be fair, the lightness is not worse for it. Not at all. It is light as the feeling of joy is light. This is a wine that would be more than perfect in a little Italian restaurant with red and white checked tablecloths. It is highly romantic and yet modest, and it does what most good Italian wines do – it leaves space for food and a good story. It doesn’t quite pass by unnoticed and it is not quite as simple as a – ciao bello! SMACK! – but certainly makes the evening a little brighter for it.
Image: Sophia Loren 1961 on the Amalfi Coast, Life Magazine