Return to the castle wine

castello vinoSet in the ancient village of Celsa, the Aragonese Castle. Ancient stronghold dating from the time of Geron, in 476 BC. What that seems to be a fascinating two-dimensional postcard from a distance hides a small world full of art and lively life. The narrow tunnels, the stairs climbing over the towers, the ancient walls, still today are able to evoke the charm and the magic of this ancient noble residence.

Centuries have passed since the Castle was an impregnable stronghold. Yet it retains all its charm, guardian of treasures of inestimable value. Like the hanging garden, looking at to the southeast the beautiful Capri, southwest the enchanting Cartaromana Bay while behind the ancient Royal Palace and the thick walls of the convent that defend the vegetation from the impetuous winds from Northwest. The path, adorned by horticulture and small trees, opens up to a spectacle made of leaves, branches and wild cirrus. An enchantment of greenery, the reverb of a vineyard: La Vigna del Castello.
It is a small oasis; the plants are rooted on a bed of volcanic matrix rich in pumice and lapilli, a vineyard warmed by sun and all the luck to which the winemaking technique hopes. Raffaele Mazzella, the sharecropper, takes care of the vineyard for 10 years, a lucky vine that requires only care in full respect of nature. In fact, the stronghold, even though has lost its defensive function, continues to protect its riches, making the garden a site so little anthropomorphized where even pathogenic agents do not reach.
Let’s go back. About thirty years ago, driven by the will to recover the island’s vine identity, Gabriele Mattera and his wife Karin with the help of Andrea d'Ambra and Luigi Amalfitano, called ‘Guarracino’, decided to plant a vineyard. The choice falls on the White Biancolella. The project starts with the grafting of “La Vigna dei Frassitelli”, a design that aims to restore the ancient and visceral tradition of making wine on the Castle. A long-standing desire in a drawer never completely closed.
Thirty years after the planting of the vineyard, Nicola and Cristina, Gabriele’s children, thanks to Andrea’s availability, decide to resume their old project.
From the planting of the vineyard to the present, wine has always been produced, but craftily, obtained from a small press near the vineyard. Nicola and his family, all over the years, have tasted the Vigna del Castello product, always hoping that wine has, one day, public evidence.
Thus, this year, the vinification goes to Casa Ambra, a temple of Ischitan wine, in the form of Doc. The Wine of the Castle - Ischia Biancolella Doc 2016- forged by the edges of a Rhine wine, with a label and all the crises that the oenological chain imposes, will ultimately be accessible to the public. The 600 bottles, like a relic, will only be present in the restaurant of the Castle, which, keeping faith in the logic of self-production, with its own wine in paper, finally closes the circle of the ‘farm-to-table’.
The Castle’s wine not only has the flavor of a recent past, but also that of a millennial history, the indelible trace of the people who have followed and who have identified the island as a crossroads of viticulture.
On the island in general, but in the Castle, in particular, have always been dedicated to Enoic art, the traces are irrefutable, witnessed by the discovery of ancient millstones, dating back to Roman times and probably used centuries later by an immemorial tradition peasant. Andrea D’Ambra, who has always been involved in the valorization of local varieties and the recovery of historical identity, recounts the Enochian dynamics of a time. The result of the first pressing, the most precious-flower was destined for sale, while the result of the overpressing of the marc, now called ‘marked, was destined for the self-consumption of sharecroppers. The product of the second pressing, less noble, was called ‘saccapane’. Wine’s connotations, as well as dietary preferences and lifestyles, were a bit different compared to today. In fact, the wine hardly exceeded 7% and was added seawater that had the function of diluting wine and increasing the range of conservation.
Fortunately, times have changed and refined nautical techniques. Winemaking of Castle Wine is entrusted to Monsieur D'Ambra, an esteemed oenologist on the island. His deontological faith always takes him to prefer a simple winemaking, made of small things, the ones that the oenological knowledge makes available: temperature control, static decantation and refinement on fine lees. According to the principle that raw material must only be guided, during the vinification process, and not manipulated, the Castle Wine is born.


By Roberta Raja 

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Info on Ischia island

  • Surface: 46 Kmq
  • Hight: 789 mt
  • Lat.: 40° 44',82 N
  • Long.: 13° 56',58 E
  • Periplus: 18 miglia
  • Coasts: 51.2 Km
  • Cities: 6
  • Inhabitants: 58.029


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