Tags / Wine
October 15, 2014
While Italy is caught in a seemingly endless economic recession, some people are finding success by turning their backs to the disappointments of modern jobs and reverting to agriculture and traditional activities.
In Pozzuoli, near Naples, a crater lake that ancient Romans considered to be the gate to the Underworld has become the entryway to a new life for descendants of sharecropping farmers, turned producers of amazing wines.
Lake Avernus, one of the many craters of Phlegraean Fields (“Campi Flegrei”, “Burning Fields”) volcano, was so deadly in ancient times that birds flying over it were said to fall dead because of poisonous fumes. An oracle, the Cumaean Sybil, lived in a cave by the lake, and prophesized while intoxicated by exhalations. Later, the Romans used it as a training base for their warships, building temples and thermal baths on the hot springs, the ruins of which still dot the crater. In September 1538 CE a sudden eruption, lasting just one month, raised a new 133-meter tall crater, the Monte Nuovo (“New Mountain”) on the eastern side of the lake. Less than 4 kilometers away, the still active Solfatara crater is a tourist attraction, with its sulfurous fumaroles.
Today, the Lake Avernus area is a lavish green oasis that lies in amid a heavily urbanized area, although sometimes mysterious bubbling kills scores of fish. Joggers and cyclists trail around the lake and on holidays families from nearby Naples flock to the area, part of the natural park “Parco Regionale dei Campi Flegrei”.
Thanks to the fertile volcanic soil and Mediterranean climate, the region is famous for its varietal wines, produced under the Campi Flegrei D.O.C. appellation (“Denominazione di Origine Controllata”, Controlled Designation of Origin). Almost half of the surface inside the Avernus crater is covered with vineyards.
Like much of the Italian farmland, it was neglected and gradually abandoned for decades because farming was not lucrative enough.
For the larger part of the 20th century, Italian governments pursued an industrial development strategy in the region. All that remains of it are an abandoned steel mill that stretches over an enormous area near Naples and an empty information technology facility in Pozzuoli.
Emilio Mirabella and Umberto Guardascione were both children of unrelated families farming vineyards in Lake Avernus, the aristocratic owner of which lived far away and seldom visited it.
Predictably, both Umberto and Emilio chose jobs and ways of life different than those of their parents: while Emilio was fascinated by the sea and became a sailing yacht skipper, Umberto was an electronic technician.
They were doing well, but just before the economic crisis started to ravage the Italian economy, both of them received a call from their respective parents. The owner wanted to sell the land and they were asking for their children’s help to buy it and farm it on their own.
They faced a tough dilemma. Either they let their parents down by abandoning the town where they were born and raised or they had to give up their careers and everything they had done. Emilio had just gotten married and his wife had soon discovered she had seasickness. After a brief heart-wrenching discussion, they decided to sell the boat and buy his father’s share of the land.
“I miss the sea,” the sailor turned winemaker confides. “But this lake is like a small Mediterranean. Here is everything I could wish for.”
For Umberto the choice was easier: “I always loved farming the land and making wine – especially making wine. When I was a boy it wasn’t possible to make a living with it, but when my father called I saw a great opportunity.”
Times had changed indeed and Italian winemaking had gained worldwide appreciation, becoming lucrative and popular. In post-industrial times, the Phlegraean Fields area was trying to preserve what was left of its farming, winemaking and typical food traditions.
The trend led to a rediscovery of farming culture, which included traditional music and dances. Until the 19th century, croppers harvested grapes to the sound of improvising bands. As in many other agricultural societies around the world, the harvest season was also a time for courting. Musicians, who were mostly farmers or croppers themselves, played the romantic “Canti della Vendemmia” (“Harvest Songs”) and were paid with wine.
The winemakers of Lake Avernus are trying to revive these traditions, inviting folk music bands to perform in the vineyards, at the banquets they host and during the harvest.
Meanwhile, the former croppers, now neighbors, began a slow but successful improvement of the vineyard and the wines with the help of professional oenologists.
The vineyards of Lake Avernus have a rare distinction: they are some of the very few wines in the world that survived the devastating “Phylloxera Plague” of mid-19th century, which wiped out most of Europe’s vineyards. The sandy, sulfuric soil of the volcanic crater was too resistant for the vine-killing aphids.
“A few plants were affected, but most survived,” Emilio Mirabella explains.
Both the Mirabella and the Guardascione Vineyards can sport the appellative “historical,” and for a good reason.
“Unlike almost all the vineyards in Europe, we do not need to graft the plants on American vines, to make them resistant to Phylloxera,” he added. Ungrafted vines can live much longer.
“We have been visited by officials from the regional authority recently. They counted more than 1,900 historical plants, some of which are them 150 years old,” Umberto Guardascione, who owns the oldest surviving part of the original vineyard, said proudly.
Lake Avernus wine production is very small; Emilio only produces 4,000 bottles per year and Umberto sells his wine mostly to locals. But both have bigger plans. While Emilio is restoring one of the buildings to offer accommodation, like a real “agriturismo” destination, Umberto has finally accomplished his dream of obtaining a restaurant license to offer his homemade food to visitors.
But the fight through the quagmires of Italian bureaucracy has been exhausting.
“Bureaucracy is the real problem for economy in Italy,” Umberto complains. “After I worked hard to comply with thousands of regulations, an inspector claimed that I was disposing waste frying oil into the lake. In spite of contract and records with a disposal company, I had to pay for a report to prove my regularity.”
Umberto, however, will not give up.
“We will go on. We owe it to our ancestors; we owe it to the land,” he said. “After all, this place has produced wine for thousands of years, nothing could stop us - not even volcanoes.”
Pozzuoli (Italy): The Lake Avernus crater with the vineyards visible in the foreground. The slope visible on the left is the Monte Nuovo, a volcanic cone that sprouted with a furious eruption in only one month, in 1538 CE. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Pozzuoli (Italy): An extremely old grapevine loaded with grapes of the Falanghina variety in one of the Lake Avernus vineyards. The volcanic soil on the lake's banks is sandy and very rich in sulfur, so the plants survived the "Phylloxera Plague" and do not need to be grafted on American vines, growing much older than the commonly grafted ones. The average age of Lake Avernus vineyards' plants is 50 years, but some are more than 150 years old. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Pozzuoli (Italy): Umberto Guardascione, owner of the Guardascione Historical Vineyard, in the Lake Avernus crater, in his ancient cellar. He sells a portion of his grapes to the Mirabellas, but he also makes his own wine that he sells unbottled to locals. His banqueting facility is called "Il Canneto dell'Averno", "The Avernus Rushes". (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Pozzuoli (Italy): The vineyards on the banks of Lake Avernus, with the crater rim reflecting on the water surface. The crater is part of the natural park "Parco Regionale dei Campi Flegrei" and it's a very important green area for locals and wildlife. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Turkish wines are the latest and most promising appearance on the international wine market. However, the conservative policies of Islamist inspired Prime Minister Recip Erdogan have placed increasing restrictions on alcohol consumption and distribution. As a result, the burgeoning Turkish wine industry now faces its biggest challenge yet.
Bilge and Reha Ogunlu are a successful Turkish-American couple who abandoned their comfortable life in Ann Arbor, Michigan to become winemakers in their native Turkey. Pursuing their lifelong dream of winemaking, they sold their Michigan house in the early 2000’s, before the real estate bubble burst, and bought land in Urla, a small town in western Turkey’s Izmir province. They then established their vineyard, which they named Urlice, and began producing quality wines.
However, just as Bilge and Reha were making a name for themselves as wine producers, Recip Erdogan’s Islamist inspired Justice and Development Party began interfering in the wine industry. Along with a new economic path ironically similar to that of the pre-2008 United States, characterized by exponential growth of shopping malls and an inflating real estate bubble, Erdogan promoted an increasingly restrictive policy on alcohol consumption.
Purportedly, the restrictions are intended to protect public health by staving off alcohol addiction. However, the average Turk consumes only about 1.6 liters of alcohol per year, the lowest rate in Europe. In fact, an overwhelming majority of Turks claim not to drink at all. Regardless, yearly tax hikes have made wine more and more expensive, curtailing the interest of potential consumers. In 2013, a new law banned any kind of advertising for any alcoholic beverage, outlawing even wine fairs and wine tastings. Now, Bilge and Reha fear for the future of their dream winery as Erdogan’s power in Turkey remains strong and his anti-alcohol policies show no sign of abating.
Urla (Izmir) Turkey – Reha Ogunlu (left) and Bige Bengisu (right), the co-owners and co-founders of Ulrice Winery. The couple left Istanbul in the 1980s and went on to successful careers in Ann Arbor, USA, where Reha was the manager of a Borders book shop and Bilge was an architect of shopping malls. Though being beer lovers, they learned to appreciate wine and good cuisine. They initially studied winemaking for fun. Eventually, they grew disillusioned with their careers in the United States, because they felt they were destroying the small bookshops and local markets that they loved so much. To escape their careers, they moved back to native Turkey to become professional winemakers.
A screenshot of Urlice vineyard's website, only accessible for those over 18 years of age. Other wineries, like the Turkish wine giant Corvus, have preferred to close their websites altogether, to avoid any legal issues.
A shop sign containing the logo of Efes beer, a popular Turkish brand, is partially painted over to conceal any reference to alcoholic beverages. The common practice of having shop signs sponsored by alcohol brands has been banned by the new laws restricting alcohol promoted by Prime Minister R.T. Erdogan’s government. As a compromise, the government has allowed shop owners to paint over alcohol advertisements rather than replacing their signs entirely. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
A bar’s curtain, depicting a full glass of beer, shows a hole where the label of Efes beer has been cut out to comply with the new laws restricting alcohol. The alcohol law promulgated by Prime Minister R.T. Erdogan’s government has banned any direct or indirect advertisement of any alcoholic product. This is creating serious problems for bars and small markets, which so far could rely on sponsorship from alcohol producing companies for things like signs, curtains, umbrellas and chairs. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
A seasonal employee in the Corvus wine shop stands by three bottles marked with health warnings. Health warnings are a mandatory feature on alcoholic beverage bottles now required by the new anti-alcohol legislation. Further restrictions are now being discussed by the government, including the banning of brand names on the bottles and mandatory photos on the label depicting the harmful effects of alcohol, much like cigarette packages. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Urla (Izmir) Turkey – A collection wines produced at Urlice. In the wake of Bilge and Reha’s passion and success, other locals are following their example. Many other landowners are now becoming winemakers after coming to realize the potential of their region. In spite of all difficulties, Bilge and Reha claim to be optimistic about the future of winemaking in Turkey. As a result of the new interest of their fellow villagers in wine, one of their major goals, to turn Urla into a wine producing hub, is slowly being realized. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Urla (Izmir) Turkey – Ms. Feray Yildirim (center), a chemist working with Urlice as their Operations Manager, presents Urlice's wines to some guests. Urlice has become an attraction for wine loving travelers, many of whom learned about Ulrice through word of mouth. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Urla (Izmir) Turkey – Bilge Bengisu (third from right), co-founder and co-owner of Urlice winery, offers her Clairet wine to some visitors in her home. As new anti-alcohol legislation bans public wine tastings, Bilge and Reha must do wine tastings in their home to avoid any legal trouble. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Pouring a glass of Ulrice wine.
On the last strip of the Tuscan Region, overlooking Lazio, is Etruscan land. This is charming Maremma, standing out of Pitigliano cliff. An ancient village with perched houses, Pitiglian is also known as “little Jerusalem”. The resemblance with the Holy City is noticeable, as it can be seen observed arriving from the sea.
The narrow and steep alleys leading to the ancient Jewish quarter are another mark of the connection between Pitigliano and Jerusalem. In the 800s the ghetto of Pitigliano was inhabited by hundreds of Jews, and for this reason the village took the name of “Small Jerusalem”. Jewish migration towards Maremma started four centuries ago, and the Synagogue was built in 1598. It collapsed due to a landslide in the 60's, but was was re-built by the Municipality in 1995. Today the Synagogue, the Kasher butchery, the Milkvè bath, the bakery of the “Azzime” and the winery, are all part of a touristic itinerary. There is also a Museum managed by the "Small Jerusalem" association,“ that gives 20% of its revenue to the Municipality.
Every day tourists visit the Jewish complex to buy kosher products in the souvenir shops of the hamlet. The kosher wine is produced in the local wine factory, and is on sale in every shop of Pitigliano. The shops also sell kosher olive oil, azzimo bread and traditional Jewish “sfratto”cake.
The cake is made in the shape of a cane, and was prepared in the past to remember the 17th century tradition of knocking on doors intimating the edict of the Grand Duke Cosimo II, and announcing to Hebrew people that they were obliged to leave their homes and move to the ghetto of Pitigliano. It is now considered a Christmas cake. During the summer, “bollo” cakes of the Sephardic tradition are prepared, made with lemon and anise.
Pitigliano is the historic location of the cultural meeting between the Christian and Jewish populations. This kinship was sealed in 1799 when the population of Pitigliano embraced pitchforks and compelled the soldiers to flee instead of pillaging the ghetto. Years later during the Holocaust, Pitigliano again defended its Jewish dwellers.
Cava and Servi are common names of the Jewish families that were restrained in the Roccatederighi's camp, sent to Fossoli camp, and from there shipped to Auschwitz. Other Jewish families living in Pitigliano hid themselves in the countryside avoiding the endless Nazi roundups, thanks to the solidarity network of dwellers and farmers living nearby. In 2002, the Dainelli, Perugini, Bisogno, Simonelli and Sonno families were awarded with the honor of “right” amongst nations bestowed by the Institute Yad Vashem of Jerusalem.
“A human chain of solidarity preserved us. I remember the people who brought us foods. We lived in a cave me, my father, my mother, and mine of two sisters. To let us know that we were in peril we had a special sign agreed before. The farmer riding a black horse was the alarm sign”.
These are the words of Elena Servi, founder and chief executive officer of the Small Jerusalem association. She is 83 years old, and lived through Nazi occupation. She is cheerful, hearty, with a very clear memories of those youthful days when Fascists and Nazis constrained her to a bitter life.
Jewish inhabitants of the town have unique and extraordinary testimonials. Another is the story of Carlo Frischumann, a dentist in Pitigliano's during the war. A Jew from Eastern Europe, he arrived in Italy with his real identity concealed under the name of Carlo Schemmari. He never disclosed his real Jewish origin to the people of Pitigliano. He was killed by the American bombing on the 7th of June 1944 that hit the crowded old town and destroyed part of it. The tradition tells that he was killed in his medical study while he was curing a German soldier.
Another tradition tells that his assistant was wrongly brought his medicine bag to the office of Carlo Schemmari in Pitigliano and so the doctor was obliged to go to his office to recollect his bag. When the war was over, the population of Pitigliano was left astonished when the girlfriend of Carlo Frischumann, alias Carlo Schemmari asked to exhume the body of Carlo from the Christian cemetery and then she revealed this real identity.
Elena Servi is at the core of the Jewish community of Pitigliano, nowadays made up only by three people.
"My son Enrico is 50 years old and he is the latest Jewish people born in Pitigliano. There is no Rabbi in Pitigliano and the community goes to the Synagogue of Livorno, managed by the Rabbi Yair Didi. "
Elena was in Israel during the first Gulf war. She lived in the Holy Land from 1986 until 1995. She decided to live in a typical Israelis allocation. She lived in the kibbuts named to the memory of Sereni. In the kibbutz Elena was also in charge of managing the laundry service, amongst other duties. From that experience of life she affirms: “frankly if the kibbutz was not real, it should be surely invented”.
The other name of Pitigliano is "little Jerusalem".
To Read Full Article Go to: http://transterramedia.com/media/17634
Kosher products such as wine, unleavened bread, as well as cookies are for sale among the many other products found in "3/4", a shop at the entrance to "Little Jerusalem." In the past, where the shop is today, was the Jewish Ghetto in Pitigliano, Italy.
A kosher wine named "Pitigliano" which is produced in Pitigliano area is one of other kosher products for sale in the shop "3/4", in the entrance to "Little Jerusalem", in the past it was the Jewish Ghetto and today a visitor center in Pitigliano, Italy.
The entrance to "3/4", a shop that offers kosher products as wine,olive oil, unleavened bread and more. The shop is located near the entrance to "Little Jerusalem" , in the past it was the Jewish Ghetto and today a visitor center in Pitigliano, Italy.
Pitigliano also known as "Little Jerusalem" .
A basket with unleavened bread in the entrance to the shop "3/4" which offers kosher products as unleavened bread, wine, olive oil and more.
The shop located near the entrance to "Little Jerusalem", once known as the Jewish Ghetto and today a visitor center in Pitigliano, Italy which also known as "Little Jerusalem".
Pitigliano, Italy. Pitigliano is known as "Little Jerusalem."
In the entrance to the visitor center there is a shop for kosher products (wine, cookies, olive oil and more).
Pitigliano, Italy. Pitigliano is known as "Little Jerusalem." During the 19th Century 10 per cent of the Pitigliano population was Jewish. Today there are only three remaining Jewish residents.
Pitigliano,Italy, also known as "Little Jerusalem", the view is one reason for it, but not the main one, During the 19th Century 10 per cent of the Pitigliano population was Jewish and for that reason "Little Jerusalem".
The entrance to the wine cellar in the winery of the Jewish community of Pitigliano.
Today is part of "Little Jerusalem" visitor center, in the past the Jewish Ghetto.
On the sign on right it's written "winery" in Hebrew ("Yekev").
The entrance to the old winery in "Little Jerusalem" , today a visitor center, in the past the Jewish Ghetto.
On the wall (on left) part of The Declaration of Independence of the state of Israel is posted.
The old winery of the Jewish community of Pitigliano.
Now it's part of a visitor center named "Little Jerusalem" that preserve and present the Jewish community in the past.
Pozzuoli (Italy): Gisa Avino (Left), her husband Emilio Mirabella (Center) and his brother Nicola (Right), the owners of Mirabella Historical Vineyard, in the Lake Avernus crater, chat by an antique wine press. While Gisa and Emilio run the vineyard, Nicola also teaches at the Agricultural Sciences Faculty of University in Napoli. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Pozzuoli (Italy): Emilio Mirabella cooks for his guests during a banquet at the Mirabella Historical Vineyard, in the Lake Avernus crater. When he was a sailing yacht skipper, Emilio was used to cook for his boat's charterers, but now he can cook ingredients that he farmed himself. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Pozzuoli (Italy): Guests drinking wine produced at the Mirabella Historical Vineyard, in Lake Avernus crater. The commercial brand of Mirabella's wine, "Cantine dell'Averno" ("Averno's Cellars"), produces only 4,000 bottles per year. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Pozzuoli (Italy): Umberto Guardascione, owner of the Guardascione Historical Vineyard, in the Lake Avernus crater, points at a grapevine that, according to his father, is almost 100 years old. Umberto's vineyard includes some of the oldest plant of the crater, the ones which escaped the "Phylloxera Plague". (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Pozzuoli (Italy): Tourists by sulfuric fumaroles in the Solfatara crater. The Solfatara, like Lake Avernus, is a crater of the large Phlegraean Fields volcanic caldera. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Urla (Izmir) Turkey – The cellar of Urlice’s winery, under the main building’s floor. The boutique winery produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Syrah and Rosé wines. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Urla (Izmir) Turkey – Bilge Bengisu, co-owner of Urlice winery, harvests Chardonnay grapes from her vineyard. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
After six days of fiesta and exalting of the local wine, people dances and enjoy of the sunset.
After the traditional lunch, the authorities give the prizes for the 3 best Albariño wines from the last harvest. (From left to right: Juan Gil, President of the D.O. Rías Baixas, Rosa Quintana, Farming and Sea Affairs Minister of the Galicia Autonomous Government, Luís Aragunde, Major of Cambados, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, President of the Galicia Autonomous Government, Paloma Lago, Model and matron of honour, Jesús Vázquez, Education Minister of the Galicia Autonomous Government and Ana Turpin, actress.
Alberto Núñez Feijóo, President of the Autonomous Government, gives the prize to the responsible of the wine Gundian, Winner of the prize for the best Albariño wine of the year.
It is a tradition to celebrate yearly the reception named "Capítulo Serenísimo do Viño Albariño", inviting gastronomic and wine brotherhoods from Spain and abroad, and naming Gentlemen/Ladies of the Capítulo Serenísimo brotherhood. The act takes place in the parade ground of the Fefiñanes Palace, building that get this year the range of Patrimonial Good of Interest.
(From left to right) Luís Aragunde, Major of Cambados, Paloma Lago, honour matron, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, President of the Galicia Autonomous Government, Beatriz Mato, just named Lady of the Albariño Brotherhood, Ana Turpin, just named, Rafael Louzán, President of the Pontevedra Provincial Council and Juan Gil, Glez. de Careaga, President of the D.O. Rías Baixas.
(From left to right) Paloma Lago, matron of honour, Rafael Louzán, President of the Pontevedra Provincial Council, Rafael Anson, Pres. of honour of the International Gastronomy Academy, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, President of the Galicia Autonomous Government, Juan Gil Glez. de Careaga, President of the D.O. Rías Baixas, and Pedro Piñeiro, Chancelor of the "Capítulo Serenísimo..."