Vertical Tasting of Marisa Cuomo's Fiorduva

Marisa Cuomo, Costa d'Amalfi Furore Bianco "Fiorduva" DOCDuring a recent trip to Milan, I participated in a pretty exciting (well, at least if you are into Italian wine!) event organized by the Milan chapter of the Italian Sommelier Association: a vertical tasting of six vintages of Fiorduva, the most awarded and acclaimed wine in the portfolio of coveted niche producer Marisa Cuomo.

About the Estate

Marisa Cuomo is a small winery controlling just 18 HA and producing about 109,000 bottles a year in an extreme and fascinating stretch of the Amalfi Coast in the Campania region in Southern Italy, near the towns of Furore and Ravello. Here the vines grow in narrow strips of land on the steep cliffs overlooking the Tirreno Sea, which make any kind of mechanical harvesting all but impossible. Commercially growing and harvesting vines here is an heroic challenge, with everything to be done exclusively by hand. Some of the older vines still grow horizontally instead of vertically, coming out of the stone walls that separate a strip from the one above it: this was an ancient local tradition that allowed land owners to have a vineyard and at the same time to grow vegetables in the narrow strips of land, shaded by the overhead vines. In those extreme conditions, every inch of land counts!

Marisa Cuomo, Vineyards in WinterThe team behind the winery is made up of Marisa, a strong woman who is in charge of the winemaking and bottling processes of their wines, Andrea, Marisa’s husband, who is the PR man of the winery and “Zio Luigi”, one of Marisa’s uncles who is in charge of maintaing the vineyards and harvesting the grapes.

About the Grapes

Fiorduva is Marisa Cuomo’s flagship white wine, a blend of roughly equal proportions of three almost extinct grape varieties indigenous to the Campania region called Fenile, Ginestra and Ripoli.

Marisa and Andrea in their wine cellar

All three are white-berried grape varieties that are indigenous to and highly localized in the Amalfi Coast area in Campania. Fenile is said to derive its name from the Italian word “fieno” (hay) due to its straw yellow color. Fenile’s DNA profile is unique. It is an early ripening variety with high sugar levels. Ginestra draws its name from the homonymous Italian word which means broom, because of its dominant aroma. It is a late ripening variety with high acidity levels and with aging the wines made from these grapes may develop kerosene-like aromas similar to those that may be found in certain Riesling. Ripoli is a mid-ripening variety which is genetically close to Falanghina Flegrea and presents high sugar levels and moderate acidity (information on the grape varieties taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012).

It is noteworthy to mention that the average age of the vines devoted to the Fiorduva production is 80 years: you could certainly call them “old vines”! The appellation of Fiorduva is Costa di Amalfi DOC, subzone Furore. Among its many awards, Fiorduva has won the 5 clusters top rating in the ISA wine guide and the 3 glasses top rating in the Gambero Rosso wine guide.

Zio Luigi working in the vineyard

Our Detailed Review and Vertical Tasting

Now, let’s get down to the vertical tasting of Fiorduva: as I said, we have been offered the opportunity to taste six vintages, starting from the latest (2011) all the way back to 2006. I found Fiorduva (which I had never had before, despite being aware of all the praise it received) a very special and “seducing” wine, definitely worth investing in a bottle if you come across one. Incidentally, Fiorduva is available in the U.S. where it retails for about $50, certainly not an inexpensive buy.

Among the six vintages that I tasted, in my view by far the best, most intriguing one was 2006, the oldest in the range, which vouches for the good aging potential of Fiorduva for a white wine. The vintages 2007 to 2009 were also extremely good, with 2008 perhaps having a slight edge over the other two. Finally, 2010 was good, but would certainly benefit from at least one more year in the bottle, and 2011 was pleasant, but not entirely balanced yet, with acidity and minerality tending to overwhelm the smoothness of the wine: definitely too young to be enjoyed at its fullest.

Now, to make you understand a bit more what kind of wine to expect should you lay your hands on a bottle, below is my review of my personal favorite: Marisa Cuomo, Costa d’Amalfi Furore “Fiorduva” DOC 2006 ($50).

My review is based on a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting sheet (for more information, see my previous post that provides a detailed overview of it).

In the glass, the wine poured a luscious golden yellow in color, and it was thick when swirled, indicating a good structure.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, fine and complex, with aromas of apricot, peach and banana coupled with minerals and hints of petroleum and nail polish (by the way, these last two descriptors are not to be intended as negative and do not signify any flaws in the wine, they just indicate certain peculiar aromas that can be found in the Fiorduva – hints of petroleum, for instance, can often be found in certain Rieslings).

In the mouth it was dry, with high ABV and smooth; acidic and tasty: definitely a balanced wine with a full body. There was also a good correspondence between the mouth flavors and the bouquet. It had a long finish, with the wine’s intriguing flavors lingering in your mouth for a long time. In terms of its life cycle, I would call 2006 mature, meaning that I think the wine is at its apex and would not benefit from any additional aging.

The Bottom Line

Overall, Fiorduva is an outstanding, intriguing wine which is the heroic expression of a harsh land, human tenacity and a sample of Italy’s treasure chest of indigenous grape varieties. Certainly worth a try if you come across a bottle.

Rating: Outstanding and definitely Recommended Outstanding – $$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

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0 thoughts on “Vertical Tasting of Marisa Cuomo's Fiorduva

  1. Pingback: [My belated notes from ] Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri Event | Talk-A-Vino

  2. frankkwine1982

    What a great occasion to add a tasting to your Milan trip! While I never had a wine from M. Cuomo, I am a little bit skeptical since I consider $50 for an Italian white wine to be quite a lot. But what do I know.. I’m not the sommelier 😛

    On a different note: I’d love to go to the Amalfi coast for vacation. I heard that it’s really beautiful there. Your post just reminded me of that 😉

    1. Stefano Post author

      Yes, attending that vertical tasting event was quite a treat!
      I hear you regarding the price tag, which is quite high. However, you know that I said several times that I believe Italian whites are a little bit underappreciated. While I agree that some are nothing to get excited about, there are quite a few that, in my view, are really excellent and would deserve better press. On future posts I will review a few more in the hope to entice you (and others) to try out a few that I like and see what you think about them 🙂
      Back to the price tag of the Fiorduva, once again it is certainly not an everyday wine, but it is a very good and unique one and, besides, the sheer cost the winery has to face to produce it (considering the harsh geography, the all-manual harvesting and the very limited quantities they make) is one important factor in its pricing. Plus, as I said in response to an earlier comment, personally I am all for supporting these iniatives that aim at safeguarding Italy’s wealth of little known, almost forgotten indigenous grape varieties which, let me add, offer wine enthusiasts a welcome break to the ubiquitous Chard, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio… yawn 😉
      Finally, yes the Amalfi Coast is very beautiful indeed (I am particularly fond of Ravello, which happens to be very close to Marisa Cuomo’s vineyards, so if you end up going you might as well drop them an email and pay them a visit!) – just stay away from August and… arm yourself with patience in Naples 😉

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, John, very kind of you 🙂 I am only trying to share some of what I learnt about wine (especially Italian wine) during the sommelier course and… well, quite a few years of my own “practical experience” 😉 Also, I think there is a lot of very good Italian wine that is unfortunately not widely known outside of Italy and I hope these posts can contribute to broaden my readers’ horizons beyond the “usual suspects” in the Italian wine world.
      Thanks again, and glad you are enjoying these posts 🙂

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, and glad to hear that you like Furore: it is not a wine that is so broadly available let alone well known, so it is great that you know and appreciate it! Besides, I tend to always support projects that aim at safeguarding indigenous grape varieties that would otherwise be doomed by the mainstream international varieties and market logics! 🙂

  3. apuginthekitchen

    Great review and an intriguing wine, I have never hear petroleum or nail polish as a descriptor and now will try to be aware of this. The wine itself sounds great, I love the Amalfi coast and can just imagine how rich in flavor this wine would be based on the area where the vineyards are. As always I learn so much from you.

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you very much, Suzanne: you are always way too kind 🙂
      Yes, the wine is really wonderful, even more so if you think about how much effort and love goes into making it! Its bouquet is really unique.
      Take care

  4. Bam's Kitchen

    Hello Stefano, what a lovely opportunity for tasting and trip. I did not know that you had 2 websites and will have to check out your clicks and corks.com as well. Just wanted to touch base with you to let you know I may not be showing up in your wordpress reader any longer as I have move to my own hosted site. If you get a minute please come and take a visit at http://bamskitchen.com. Take Care, BAM