It is in the heart of the Mount Vesuvius national park, overlooking the ruins of Pompei, the Gulf of Naples and the island of Capri, that Sorrentino produces a range of wines that speak of a unique terroir and passionate community of people.
Founded in 1953 and now with the third generation at the helm of the estate, Sorrentino has been led, from its inception, by characterful men and women who have become pioneers of the grapes and terroir of Mount Vesuvius. The first quality estate in the appellation, Sorrentino tends to 35 hectares planted to the indigenous varieties Greco (first planted in the area before being propagated throughout Italy), Caprettone, Falanghina, Catalanesca, Piedirosso and Aglianico, with viticultural practices tailored to each plot and variety and with an increasing focus on sustainability.
A family’s shared passion
Second generation Paolo Sorrentino and his wife Angela firmly set the company on a path focused on the preservation of the viticultural heritage that was handed to them. The volcanic soils have kept phylloxera at bay, thus preserving a heritage of old, ungrafted vines, perfectly adapted to the high altitude vineyards and the sandy soils of Mount Vesuvius. Such unique plots can only survive if their whole landscape is also preserved.’We look at the balance of our ecosystem and promote biodiversity in the vineyard, bringing balance to the land by co-planting apricot trees, tomato plants, fig trees and having beehives through the property.’ says Paolo.
The indigenous grapes grown on Sorrentino vineyards, many of which hardly known beyond the region, have evolved in tandem with this landscape forged by wind, sea and fire; a fascinating setting that constitutes one of Italy’s hidden jewels and is increasingly being recognised by sommeliers and critics as a source of unique wines with great ageing potential.
Today, Benny Sorrentino, the first female oenologist in Campania, leads the oenological team at her family’s estate, building upon the matriarchal legacy of her grandmother Benigna. Steering the winery alongside her brother Giuseppe, she has strengthened the commitment to a less interventionist, low impact and more terroir-focused approach, seeking a way of working that is at once more sustainable and more expressive of the grapes and vineyards. ‘Each wine we produce is like a small volcano,’ says Benny, explaining how the understanding of terroir has been crucial to her work. ‘Observing how our wines age and retain a very distinct freshness has been an important process, reconciling the theoretic expertise gained through my studies and the practical experience. The idea is to arrive at an harmonious balance that is based first and foremost on the vine, continues in the winery and culminates in the ageing process.’
Head-turning volcanic wines
By deepening the knowledge of their appellation and of how each grape performs in each plot, the Sorrentinos have enhanced the character of their wines, some of which have become iconic in their own right and now feature on the wine lists of some of London’s highest regarded venues, such as the River Cafe, 10 Greek Street, Norma, Franco’s or Angelina.
The Vigna Lapillo Bianco – Lachryma Christy Superiore DOC, an elegant blend of Caprettone (80%), Greco (10%) and Falanghina (10%) from a lapilli-rich plot at 500m altitude, was one of the first to turn heads and gain international recognition. Appreciation for its red counterpart, Vigna Lapillo Rosso – Lachryma Christy Superiore DOC (Piedirosso 80%, Aglianico 20%) followed, not least due to the increased interest in the region’s indigenous varieties.
The latter also explains the curiosity about Dòrè, the only single varietal sparkling produced with Caprettone grapes, which shed a new light on this grape (once thought to be a clone of Coda di Volpe) and on the potential to produce sparkling styles, with freshness and poise, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.
Discovering a unique terroir
The best place to discover Sorrentino’s wines is, indeed, against the backdrop of the vines and of Mount Vesuvius, which is why Maria Paola, Benny and Giuseppe’s sister, has developed the hospitality side of the estate. It includes onsite accommodation, a full programme of wine and food tastings, and a unique guided trekking route through the lava flows, for a vivid understanding of the viticultural history shaped by the different eruptions of Mount Vesuvius since Pompei (79 AD).
Even if the dormant volcano mostly evokes tales of Roman times, the landscape it created is a living terroir, where a singular collection of local grapes and old vineyards yield some of Italy’s most intriguing wines. It is the preservation and development of this wealth that the Sorrentino family strives for every day and vintage.
Sorrentino wines are available in the UK through Liberty Wines.
Discover more about Sorrentino