La Catalanesca, the gold of Vesuvius born from a gift of love

by Umberto Rusciano

Every love story, for better or for worse, leaves a trace of itself: some remain in the hearts and memories of lovers, while others survive time, years, centuries, becoming part of the story itself, of the traditions and habits of the territory. This is the case with Catalanesca, an ancient grape that came to us almost by chance, a gift of love that is renewed every time we take a sip.

Alfonso of Aragon and his gift of love

The protagonists of this love they are not just any two lovers but then King of Naples Alfonso of Aragon and the young woman Lucrezia d'Alagno, a young Vesuvian girl, beautiful enough to make the king lose his head at first glance. The two would have met during the traditional Feast of San Giovanni Battista al Angevin market and over the years the king showed his love with homages and every type of gift, including that of a special cuttings of grapes made to arrive especially for her directly from Spain and planted on Monte Somma. unluckily theirs was an impossible love but that grape variety from the Spanish region of Catalonia, which it took the name of Catalanesca, took root perfectly on the volcanic soil and the Vesuvian pedoclimatic environment, where it is still cultivated since 1500.

Bunch of Catalanesca with the typical golden color - photo of the vineyard of the Azienda Cantine Olivella

The prestige and fame of the past

There Catalanesca was, in its first centuries of life and up to the whole of the nineteenth century, a grape and a very appreciated wine, given that every masseria and villa in the area produced, supplying the nobles clubs and villas of the Golden Mile. As early as 1848 Vincenzo Semmola wrote in his report on Vesuvian vines and wines: "TheCatalan grape, alone, after being dried in the sun for a few days, produces a very exquisite wine, and combined with the Greek, it brings strength and flavor"And already in 1880 was recommended by the restaurateurs of San Giorgio a Cremano, Portici and Ercolano on" seafood first courses ". In its long history has shown strength and resilience also resisting the devastating attacks of powdery mildew and phylloxera, which have hit and devastated viticulture throughout Europe.

From table grapes to rediscovery

However, over time it has lost its fame to the detriment of more economically productive and more easily "tamed" grapes, going into a decline that has led it to be relegated to a simple "table grape" that cannot be used for winemaking. Fortunately though, the passion and pride of enthusiasts and local scholars, led to a great mobilization for the revaluation of this real heritage of Vesuvius, so much so that in 2006 it was recognized and included in the list of wine grapes and, since 2011, it protection was approved and denomination of “IGT Catalanesca del Monte Somma”.

La Catalanesca, the gold of Vesuvius born from a gift of love
Glass of Catalanesca in purity "Summa" Of Olivella cellars paired with peasant bread with piennolo tomato del Vesuvio DOP and true octopus soup.

La Catalanesca today

After many dark years, Catalanesca today is experiencing an enological renaissance. In fact, thanks to the love and stubbornness of the Vesuvian producers who have chosen to focus on their territory, on their history and on their heritage, Catalanesca is today exported and drunk all over the world. According to the specification to boast the IGT it must be produced in the territories of Sant'Anastasia, Somma Vesuviana, San Sebastiano al Vesuvio, Massa di Somma, Cercola, Pollena Trocchia, Ottaviano, San Giuseppe Vesuviano and Terzigno, all falling within the province of Naples and surpassing itself, year after year, with more and more amazing quality especially in terms of longevity, proving that the whites of Vesuvius can express themselves and give their best even after years. In the glass it is straw yellow with golden reflections and to the nose it evokes intense aromas typical of the territory, fromapricot with broom, accompanied by the important minerality, typical of the wines of this area.

So the next time you take a sip of Catalanesca, remember that you are not just drinking wine but staying renewing passion and love that for centuries have characterized it: that of the King for his beloved, of the Vesuvian producers towards their heritage, of nature that has given a perfect place for this grape, and the love towards you in giving yourself a glass!

- Umberto Rusciano

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