“Maximum selection in the vineyard,” is the motto of Achille Della Porta, owner of Masseria della Porta in the Montaperto locality in Irpinia, Campania.
Achille believes in giving value to the Irpinia territory and producing wines that give an expression of the local micro terroir, its history, and tradition. Biodiversity and respect for nature lie at the heart of Achille’s philosophy, therefore, it is important for him to grow the grapes organically and have as little intervention as possible in the winery. He still vinifies at a friend’s winery as he does not have his own winery building yet. However, he favors wild fermentations, no fining, and no filtration. “If I am doing it [making wine], I need to do it rigorously,” says Achille Della Porta.
Lowering the yield has, furthermore, been very important for Achille to make high-quality wines that reflect the soul of Irpinia. He believes that it is key to make certain sacrifices such as lowering the yield and cultivating in suitable areas, to make great wines. He stresses that it is hard to produce great Aglianico wines as it is a difficult grape to tame. Aglianico matures late, has lots of tannins, and has good acidity, therefore, it is essential to work well in the vineyard to contribute to the necessary balance needed during the winemaking processes.
Aglianico is one of the great Italian red wines, in my opinion, even though many still struggle with making balanced Taurasi DOCG wines that do not need over 10 years to be drinkable. Many producers are working very well producing great wines, don’t get me wrong, but I still think that Irpinia needs to catch up on the management of tannins and oak. I do not mean that they should follow any trend or make the wines more trivial, but rather to make fresh, elegant wines with smooth and balanced tannins with better drinkability. I mean if the Barolo producers of Serralunga d’Alba can make more contemporary wines without forsaking structure, complexity, and longevity…why not Irpinia?
Masseria della Porta fits right into this picture. Achille della Porta says that he wants to make enjoyable and drinkable wines where the acidity is in harmony with the tannins and the alcohol without lacking structure and complexity.
Some History about Masseria Della Porta
Agronomist Achille Della Porta started in the early 2000s to recuperate the old vineyards of his grandfather, but it was only more recently that he decided to bottle wine. His grandfather was a farmer in its truest sense, working also at neighboring farms to make ends meet. Achille’s father chose to work in another sector manufacturing high-quality furniture, but Achille, who often spent time with his grandfather, felt a calling to try to return to the tradition and start making wine.
The small family farm comprises 10 hectares of land and the focus is on the 1.5-hectare Vigna Quattro Cerri vineyard with secular Aglianico plants. He produces only red Aglianico wines so far, but in 2019 he also planted a vineyard plot of Coda di Volpe that he harvested for the first time this year. The Vigna Quattro Cerri sits at 400 meters altitude where he grows the grapes for his two red wines: Quattro Cerri Irpinia Aglianico DOC and Quattro Cerri Taurasi DOCG.
In the 1.5-hectare hectare Quattro Cerri vineyard plot the soil changes considerably in a space of 100 meters from black, more loose, and volcanic soil in the upper part to more clayish, calcareous, and mineral soil in the lower part. When he discovered the difference in soil, he realized that he needed to make two different wines, namely Irpinia Aglianico in the upper part and Taurasi with the grapes from the lower part. More recently he has planted more Aglianico and since 2021 he has added those grapes to the Quattro Cerri Irpinia Aglianico DOC.
When I visited Achille at Masseria Della Porta in May, we tasted the vintages 2017, 2018, and 2019 of his Quattro Cerri Irpinia Aglianico DOC and Quattro Cerri Taurasi DOCG. 2017 was a very warm year, still, the Aglianico has maintained its acidity and freshness making both wines complex and elegant without any overmature heaviness despite the higher concentration. 2018 was cooler and more rainy, says Achille Della Porta, giving a more contemporary wine. I noticed a ferrous hint in both wines which could allude to youth or, as Achille thinks, to different nuances of fruit maturation. 2019 was a very good year also in Irpinia, it was a warmer year again but with more balanced weather conditions. Both 2019 wines had a distinct freshness, balance, and finesse.
Do you have a favorite Aglianico wine?