Expected Spring 2024
Our tasting impressions
Difesa oozes class and distinction. Here too, Francesca found a way to improve on the incredible version she produced a year prior
(and certainly nature played a part). This version plumbs greater depth and offers richer fruit than the terrific 2018. The slight increase in Aglianico at the expense of Cabernet seems to impart more earthiness and fruit that leans more to red than dark. I continue to wonder how we would view this beauty were it not for Mèrcori. Difesa could so easily stand tall as a flagship and benchmark wine. It is an elegant, complex wine for enjoying now and for laying down to explore the wonders of its evloution.
About this wine
Difesa premiered with the 2016 vintage. The 2019 is a blend of 40% Aglianico, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Barbera, 10% other native varieties. They grow in calcareous soil with green and red clay and some sandstone at about 250 meters.
They harvest by hand usually on a second pass through the vineyards (the first is for Ersa) and carefully selected grapes are fermented in plastic vats. They macerate on the skins for 20 days with gentle punch-downs. The wine is moved into one and two-year old French oak barrels to age for 18 months. Then they rest in bottle for at least a year.
The wine is moved to neutral French tonneaux (some new, some up to 3 years old) to age for up to 2 years. The wine from each variety is blended in Botti and then transferred to tanks for bottling, where it rests for another year.
7,850 bottles were made in 2019.
About the grape
Aglianico is one of Italy's three most prestigious grape varieties - along with Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. Grown mostly in southern Italy, it is at its best from Campania and Basilicata. It thrives in a warm and dry climate. Cabernet Sauvignon, famous the world over, is hearty fruit that flowers and ripens late. It is highly adaptive to a wide variety of climates and soils. Its vines are capable of prodigious production, which must be restricted in order to produce the grape's best quality. Barbera is a dark-skinned grape from vigorously growing, easy to manage vines. It is high in acidity, low in tannins and light-bodied. Principal among the other native varieties is Aglianicone, which, despite its name and genetic similarity to Aglianico, is actually a version of Ciliegiolio. The other grapes are unclassified and even Francesca doesn't know the names of some of them.
Francesca's thoughts on the vintage
The winter was quite dry with temperatures often above the seasonal norm. Spring arrived a little early and, from mid-March, the beautiful sunny days and a significant increase in temperatures resulted in the enlargement of the buds. But, in April came a substantial drop in temperatures and return of the rains. The rest of spring was rather unusual as prevailing north winds brought rains and cold temperatures. The end of May and June saw favorable conditions with sunny days, normal temperatures and excellent ventilation (especially at night).
At the end of June, temperatures soared that fortunately lasted only a short time. July and August were typically hot, except for the last week of July which was sultry. Immediately after mid-August there were refreshing rains which helped to the vines and grapes to thrive.
On your table
Pair it with Kurobuta pork chops, cremini mushrooms in a wine and shallot pan sauce.
Francesca Fiasco is young, passionate and driven. Since 2015, she has relentlessly worked the land and cellar her grandparents started many decades ago in the beautiful Cilento National Park (a preserve that prohibits any industrial activity). Everything she knows about farming and wine she learned from her Nonno. More than 90 years old, Luigi still tends the vines.
From the 6.5 hectare farm (comprised of various small vineyards), Francesca produces less than 20,000 bottles per year from a mixture of traditional local grapes, some typical of other regions of Italy and one conspicuous interloper from France - Cabernet Sauvignon. Production of her 4 wines is unconventional - it's Nonno's way - but the results are remarkable. The expectation from a farm like this, in an area like this, is that the wines will be rustic, simple and honest. Instead, we find sophistication and complexity without compromising a clear expression of the place they come from.
To say that this is manual labor is an understatement. It starts with the grapes for each wine being harvested separately and concludes with Francesca writing notes on each case of wine leaving her cellar. Her devotion and determination are undeniable. The wines from Paestum may not be well-known or highly regarded but don't tell her that - nor does anyone who has tasted her wines much care. Wow, what a discovery! Only the great story of this family and Francesca's project can outshine her wines.