Brothers Vincenzo and Gianluca Ippolito are the youngest in five generations of Ippolito grape farmers and wine growers (founded in 1845). Their 100 hectares or so is divided between about 70 on the Mancuso hillside (Mancuso is slang for “left” because as you exit Cirò Marina, you turn left to get to the vineyard), and another vineyard very close to the sea. The clay-marl soils of the Mancuso hillside are planted to Gaglioppo, the clay quickly turning to a slippery-gooey mess when saturated by rain (and I still have the shoes I destroyed in the vineyard to prove it!). Their farming does not purport to be Organic, but is as natural and respectful of the land as possible.
Mancuso is a beautiful vineyard, the hillside sculpted with many expositions, the vines mainly trained on wires except for the old vine block at the very top which is bush-trained (Albarello, or “little tree” as this type of training is called in the south). The exposition is mainly south-east, the vines are fairly densely planted (6k plants per hectare), and the altitude ranges from 150-250 meters making it the highest vineyard in the region. The vineyard is entirely dry-farmed and hand picked. Did I say this is a beautiful vineyard? This is a beautiful vineyard.
Gaglioppo is interesting. Very “nebbiologente” according to Vincenzo - a grape that in the right conditions of later-harvests and long maceration can emerge from 20 years in the bottle almost resembling old Barolo. On the other hand, if vinified without extended skin contact, the profile may be more Pinot-noir like.
The seaside vineyard is about 12 ha and is planted to Greco Bianco, used mainly for their white wine “Res Dei”. The area floods regularly in the winter, and the extreme sandiness is a bizarre place to see grapes growing. The afore-mentioned lime present with the sand can fool the eye, evoking almost a snowy terrain. Obviously the white wines from this vineyard show profound marine influence. Waiting at a train-crossing in order to get to the vineyard, the red and white gate is switched down, but no train comes, and the sign “please wait for the train” is full of holes, shot up by an impatient motorist – this is Calabria!
The winery itself is very old, very large, and is located right within the seaside town of Cirò Marina. Interestingly, back say 1000 years ago when these southern coastal towns originally formed, the paese was usually on the hillside, away from the seacoast and hence from marauding navies and pirates. More recently, the “Marina” area is developed, hence “Cirò Marina”, on the sea.
Vincenzo and Gianluca are impressive young men – obviously very committed, very proud. Much of their production is sold locally in the Italian market. They are moving carefully but resolutely to modernize a winery in a very old, very poor part of Italy. That does not mean “modern” wines – macerations average 20 days or more for the reds, achieving extractions with very impressive tannins and dry extract – but it does mean that means are sought to work always better in the vineyards, to grow healthier fruit and to let the vineyard speak through the wines, to develop their export market, to understand what the future will bring.