sabato 3 agosto 2013

An interview with Francesco Domini

Francesco Domini is Director General of Feudi di San Gregorio (, the most important winemaker in Avellino and one of the most renowned winemakers in the whole Campania region.

For thousands of years, the slopes of Vesuvius have produced some of the best-tasting and most interesting wines in the whole world.  Falanghina, for example, is descended from the famous Falernian wine (vinum Falernum), one of the most prized wines in Ancient Rome.  And what can one say about Lacryma Christi, a wine enjoyed by Dumas, Voltaire, Marlowe, Hawthorne, even the prince in "Three Coins in the Fountain"? Bacchus himself preferred these slopes, according to Martial: “Haec iuga quam Nysae colles plus Bacchus amavit.” (“Bacchus loved these hills more than his native hills of Nysa.”)

(The following is an English translation of our interview.)

LC: You come from the province of Salerno, is that correct?  In what town were you born?

FD: I come from the province of Salerno.  To be exact, I was born in Polla, in the Vallo di Diano, but I grew up in Eboli.  

LC: At what age did you know that one day your profession would be that of a vintner?  

FD: I entered into the world of wine immediately after my university studies in economics and marketing, even though my family always had a farming business which, however, produced things other than wine.  

LC: We don't have time to talk about all of the stupendous wines that Feudi produces.  Let us choose two of them.  Tell us something about the history of Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio and Falaghina.

FD: Both Falanghina and Lacryma Christi represent the history of Southern Italian enology, insomuch as they deal with historic vines, dating back to the Roman era, which for centuries have appeared on the tables of our ancestors and which even today are still a valued commodity of our Campanian territory, surely one of the most sought-after regions for the production of great wines from indigenous vines.

LC: Where do the grapes which Feudi uses for Lacryma Christi and Falaghina grow?

FD: Falanghina comes from the hinterlands of Campania, to be exact the provinces of Benevento and Caserta, while Lacryma Christi is made from “Coda di Volpe” and “Piedirosso” grapes, which come from the slopes of Vesuvius in the province of Naples. 

LC: What is it in the terrain and climate that give distinct flavors to Lacryma Cristi and Falanghina? Obviously one cannot make these two wines in California and obtain the same results.  Even if the climate is similar, there is the question of the volcanic soil ...

FD: The area where Lacryma Christi is produced is very particular in that it comprises soil of volcanic origin, rich in minerals, which confer elegance, richnesss, and minerality to the wines. The terrain of Falanghina, of the other hand, is more clayish and chalky, elements which confer greater freshness and acidity to the wines.

LC: Are there special challenges in producing an old, historic wine, like Lacryma Christi or like Falaghina?

FD: Surely the most fascinating and difficult winemaking area is that of Vesuvius, where Lacryma Christi is produced.  It is a rather mountainous area, with small vineyards, where cultivating the vines is a very complex process.  For this reason, Lacryma is a wine rich with allure and history.

LC: The wines that Feudi di San Gregorio produces today, are they different from the wines that the company produced during the ownership of founder Enzo Ercolino?  If so, what are the differences?

FD: The Feudi company, which represents one of the best examples of the art of winemaking in Southern Italy, has always sought to value its native varietals in all of Southern Italy, not just Campania (Greco, Fiano, Aglianico, Falanghina, Primitivo, etc.). Currently Feudi produces wines not only in Campania but also in other regions of the South, like Apulia (Primitivo and Negroamaro) and Basilicata (Aglianico del Vulture). For this reason we can say that today, unlike in the past, Feudi is working very hard to build an appreciation for all of Southern Italy, from an enological point of view. 

LC: According to my taste, Feudi is the best winemaker in Avellino, and undoubtedly one of the best in all of Campania.  What are the factors which give your wines their superiority?

FD: I believe that from the beginning Feudi has tried to produce its own wines, respecting tradition but also seeking to modernize the means of production. That which distinguishes Feudiʼs winemaking is the painstaking care with every detail, from the product itself to the marketing to the communication.  

LC: Do you have a favorite wine?

FD: My favorite wine is Taurasi and all of the wines based on the Aglianico varietal, which I maintain is one of the most noble varietals that we have in Italy, along with Nebbiolo and Sangiovese.
Aglianico grapes

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