As per my Nuschese wine tasting post, Bruno de Conciliis’ invited me to visit his winery the next time I was in his neighborhood. For those of you who don’t know, Bruno’s winery, Viticoltori de Conciliis, is in Cilento in the Italian region of Campania.
Just recently, I decided to take Bruno up on his offer. As I was rather unfamiliar with Cilento, I decided to stay a few days so I can acquaint myself with this former Greek “colony.”
Our journey started in the city of Naples, where we rented a car with which to make our way to Bruno’s winery. For those of you who have not been to Naples yet, forget everything you learned in driving school and trust your instincts instead. There’s no such thing as a red light or a stop sign in Naples – at least not to the locals, that is.
As we made our way out of the city, through the more rural areas of the Salerno province and on towards Cilento, the heart of Campania, the urban stress we felt gradually lifted and in its place, we could feel something similar to what Jaime Oliver must have felt while driving through Italy.
Cilento captivated and drew the eyes with its picturesque scenery, its beautiful coastlines and the endless rows of olive trees that dotted the entire Mediterranean countryside. As we drove up the hill road amidst Cilento’s olive tree plantations, we saw glimpses of the vineyards facing the Mediterranean Sea. In this part of Italy, Aglianico, Fiano d’Avelino and Falanghina vines, which thrive in the area’s hot and sunny climate, are the most common varietals. As we pulled into the De Conciliis Estate, Bruno and his dog were there to greet us.
The Viticoltori De Conciliis Winery was founded by Bruno’s late father in 1996 after Bruno convinced him to abandon their poultry business and go into the winemaking business, instead. Bruno and his family then left Milano, where Bruno worked as an architect, to go back to his hometown. I mention this because many of the Italian winemakers I have visited or will be visiting in the future have either inherited the business or have been in viticulture for generations.
Today, the De Conciliis Winery is very successful and its wines are sold in numerous countries worldwide. This success is probably largely due to the uniqueness of the De Conciliis family. Bruno’s approach to winemaking significantly differs from that of other wine makers. He constantly changes his winemaking techniques, continuously adapting them to the needs of the times.
The De Conciliis are also great jazz fans. In fact, they have a wine called “Naima,” a tribute to the song of the same name by John Coltrane. There is also a De Conciliis wine called “Selim,” which is a semordnilap of “Miles” (i.e. “Miles” spelled backwards) and a tribute to jazz artist Miles Davis. By the way, Selim, which is 70% Fiano and 30% Aglianico, is the first ever sparkling wine produced in Campania and quite probably its finest.
The next morning, we set out to explore the estate. The beauty of the landscape and the friendly employees (most of whom are De Conciliis relatives) made our tour of the winery extremely enjoyable. Olive trees surround the De Conciliis Estate, and its vineyards share its side of the hill with olive tree plantations.
After our tour of the winery and after sampling Bruno’s latest vintages and blends, we headed to the fresh produce market to shop for the dinner party we were planning to hold in the estate’s tasting room that night. At the market, we got just-picked vegetables plus still-squirming fish and calamari (squid) fresh off the fishermen’s nets.
Back to the estate, I, Bruno and Dino Tantawi (president and owner of Vignaioli Selection, the NYC-based importer of fine wines) cooked on firewood stoves while jazz music played in the background. Meanwhile, our families mingled, chatted and sipped superb De Conciliis wines while waiting for dinner to be served.