Italian Indigenous Varieties: Ancient Asprinio From Campania

This is the last article in my Italian indigenous grape variety series of grapes starting with the letter “A”. I can’t believe how many there were.

Asprinio Bianco is a little known indigenous Italian white grape variety that hails from the Campania region in Southern Italy. Asprinio wine has very particular viticultural and vinification traditions The grape variety is grown on local poplar trees and can rise up to 30-45 feet in the air.

Asprinio’s origins are not entirely clear and two different hypotheses have been put forth. The first places Asprinio in the pinot family of wines which includes Pinot Grigio, Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco. The second sees the vine as related to the grape Greco. The latter seems to have won out in the debate but there are still some who maintain that Asprinio has something in common with pinots.

The grape is very ancient and is said to have made the transition from a wild grapevine to a domesticated one during the Etruscan period which lasted from about 800 BC to 500 BC. The Etruscans were a pre-Roman civilization that dominated central and parts of Southern Italy.

Asprinio is grown largely only in Campania, in the province of Caserta but can also grow in Apulia. Asprinio is grown around the town of Aversa, some 15 kilometers from Naples. Caserta is the most widely known city in this area. Caserta is famous for its Royal Palace or the Reggia di Caserta. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mirrored on Versailles, it was actually built in the 18th century by Luigi Vanvitelli. The building is enormous and houses more than 1200 rooms and wonderful expansive gardens.

This wine has very particular viticultural and vinification traditions The grape variety is grown on local poplar trees and can rise up to 30-45 feet in the air. The vines grow up the trees and then are bent onto wires that are strung between the poplars. This was apparently an Etruscan technique. This vine wall is quite a sight. This system is called vite maritate (married vines). In order to pick these grapes, the growers have to climb very high in the air on thin ladders called scale napoletane (Neapolitan ladders).

To read the rest of the article, please check out Alta Cucina.

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One thought on “Italian Indigenous Varieties: Ancient Asprinio From Campania

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  1. Susannah:

    NIce text on Aspirinio, one of my favorite indigenous varieties in Campania (and there are lots of them!). Readers should know that several local producers, such as I Borboni, make a lovely passito version of Aspirinio.

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