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TERRA DI BRIGANTI SOCIETA' AGRICOLA SAS

https://www.terradibriganti.it/

THE BRIGANDS BACKGROUND. This Campanian estate is located in Casalduni in the Benevento province, nearby the Taburno massif where local “briganti” (brigands in English), during the years following Italian independence and unity, had several bloody clashes with official Italian troops. Brigands were often former Bourbons officers and soldiers defeated by the kingdom of Piemonte and Savoy, giving way to national unity in 1861. FROM GERMANY TO SANNIO. Meeting Toni and Romeo De Cicco is like taking a reverse path to the evolution of the territory, just like going back, or maybe we should say returning back to the homeland and the soil, after several years of emigration in Germany (the two brothers were born and raised in Dortmund by humble and hard working parents while the land was belonging to and cultivated by their Grandparents).
Just talk to the two brothers and you will find out that this corner of Sannio is always present in their mindset, even when conversation slips away to more fancy topics. Sannio spiritual presence is maybe an untouchable asset, but is always there, underlying a sense of mind rather than just a place where many historical misdeeds, often unknown to those who have turned their back on that period of history, perhaps in order to embrace a more accommodative vision of it. When Toni and Romeo talk about wine, their wine, they do not skimp historical details as well without being boring. They are not old school farmers at all, as they are well traveled and with a modern vision of their business with a quality driven approach. “Making wine doesn’t translate automatically in selling your beloved wine, the fruit of your relentless effort. ORGANIC MOVEMENT. Toni and Romeo are just more than two forty-something outgoing brothers who can easily entertain persons for hours. Already in 2004 when the newborn estate released its first vintage to the market, they chose to work with an organic certification. All this was a result not just of a philosophical vision, but a donation to future generation by preserving land integrity and territory. After several years the two bros did not regret this option as they always considered the only way to elevate their quality standards production. Right now Terra di Briganti estate is in the middle of the biodynamic certification process, strictly controlled by Demeter.
THE BRIGANDS BACKGROUND. This Campanian estate is located in Casalduni in the Benevento province, nearby the Taburno massif where local “briganti” (brigands in English), during the years following Italian independence and unity, had several bloody clashes with official Italian troops. Brigands were often former Bourbons officers and soldiers defeated by the kingdom of Piemonte and Savoy, giving way to national unity in 1861. Italy is a relatively young country compared to USA, Spain or France when it comes to national unity which, in the past, has been often perceived by former Southern generations as a cruel invasion that brought misery and humiliation to Southern Italian families.
In this untamed and raw area called Sannio, local brigands rested between clashes and ambushes in a triangle of land formed by barnyards in Contrada Colli, Fontana Greca and Ferrarise, all subareas which were the set of violence and extremely painful episodes affecting as well the local civil population. This triangle shaped area is still permeated by stories and legends, including the curse of the brigands treasure found by a local farmer who then suffered several family disasters for not sharing this fortune.
Obviously everything changed after 150 years and the brigands are gone, although old memories and historical researches keep these cruel past episodes alive within new generations with theater shows, educational and reenactment activities and historical roundtables.
Brothers Toni and Romeo De Cicco had their share in this pacific cultural counter information movement, naming this estate after the brigands with a deep sense of proud: “This is not pathetic Southern nostalgia, we just wanted to bring attention to some episodes in which the symbolic border between the Good and the Bad is often blurry. Social unrest, especially among the lower classes, occurred due to poor conditions, and the new self proclaiming “progressive” Italian State, at the end, benefited in the South only the bourgeoise vast-land owning classes. Promises for a better justice and wealth redistribution were soon forgotten. Brigands were not just the bad and ignorant criminals as official history wanted to represent the movement”.
FROM GERMANY TO SANNIO. Meeting Toni and Romeo De Cicco is like taking a reverse path to the evolution of the territory, just like going back, or maybe we should say returning back to the homeland and the soil, after several years of emigration in Germany (the two brothers were born and raised in Dortmund by humble and hard working parents while the land was belonging to and cultivated by their Grandparents).
Just talk to the two brothers and you will find out that this corner of Sannio is always present in their mindset, even when conversation slips away to more fancy topics. Sannio spiritual presence is maybe an untouchable asset, but is always there, underlying a sense of mind rather than just a place where many historical misdeeds, often unknown to those who have turned their back on that period of history, perhaps in order to embrace a more accommodative vision of it. When Toni and Romeo talk about wine, their wine, they do not skimp historical details as well without being boring. They are not old school farmers at all, as they are well traveled and with a modern vision of their business with a quality driven approach. “Making wine doesn’t translate automatically in selling your beloved wine, the fruit of your relentless effort. Because those who successfully make wine today in Sannio are not just wise farmers, in good and authentic sense of the term, but entrepreneurs opened to the outside world. Sannio is not like Piemonte and Tuscany and we work seriously the vineyards as we do not benefit of any terroir brand awareness in the international markets.” The brother find out themselves that foreign wine merchants often needed Naples as geographical reference point, but as Toni confesses “to be honest, we have nothing to share with Naples, its culture and even its wines, while Sannio was always being considered the more isolated and rural area in Campania”.
ORGANIC MOVEMENT. Toni and Romeo are just more than two forty-something outgoing brothers who can easily entertain persons for hours. Already in 2004 when the newborn estate released its first vintage to the market, they chose to work with an organic certification. All this was a result not just of a philosophical vision, but a donation to future generation by preserving land integrity and territory. After several years the two bros did not regret this option as they always considered the only way to elevate their quality standards production. Right now Terra di Briganti estate is in the middle of the biodynamic certification process, strictly controlled by Demeter.
And who would love invasive chemistry fertilizers maybe just beyond the vineyard where your children are running in the home back garden and playing with cats and dogs? Toni and Romeo have never faced the economical question of having lower yields compared to the bestower of maxi local co-op, as they were never tired of respecting organic protocols and vineyard tending, always considering the land protection the cornerstone of their passionate craftsmanship.
The estate is managed according to organic agricultural process and protocols, all practices certified by Suolo e Salute organisation. Fertilizations are carried out with green manure and pesticide treatments with just sulfur and copper, sprayed at low volumes so to avoid water wasting. Cover cropping is another relevant key element and, generally speaking, the estate vines present a beautiful and lively disorder. Hoers provide an efficient interrow management within vines by a soil tillage that does not damage the plant stem. Increasing and successful micro-vinifications experiments are rewarding the De Ciccos and, as a consequence, more recently, the two brothers are producing wines with lower levels of sulphites compared to some years ago (by the way just added before bottling) and with some types of wine offered to the market, even with no added sulphites.
NUMBERS & GRAPES. These are the key numbers: yearly production tops 40 thousand bottles farming 8 hectares all round Casalduni area, except some few parcels located round Torrecuso where local hero Aglianico grape develops on sandy soils showing its most authentic and powerful austere side. Late ripening Aglianico production is declined in different types including a Kosher version, the no added sulphites one and top tier Martummè, aged 12 month in new and second passage French barrique.
Beside Aglianico, Terra di Briganti produces among the reds Sciascinoso, an obscure variety very close to extinction, but recently replanted, and to lesser extent Piedirosso. There are no more than five estates tending Sciascinoso vines in Campania and marketing it a single varietal bottle. Within the white family Falanghina is most relevant grape followed by Fiano, capable to age with elegance and majesty, and Coda di Volpe (in English literally translated in Fox Tail).
PLEASED TO MEET YOU, SCIASCINOSO. Already appreciated and described by Pliny in his “Natural history”, this native Sannite variety is one of the few which also survived the phylloxera devastation. The Sciascinoso is best known in Campania with its synonym Olivella that derives from the elongated olive like shape. Today in Campania Olivella is widespread and in it gives way to two main groups of biotypes, although DNA researches are still going on. The term Sciascinoso, and all its variations, probably is now almost a trademark used only in Sannio and Benevento, while in the past Carlucci, in 1909, in his monograph on “Ampelographie of Viala et Vermorel” asserted that "Sciascinoso is widespread in the provinces of Avellino and Salerno, less in Naples and surroundings”. A century later the bottom line is that Sciascinoso grape is found in Sannio only with few producers bottling it as a single varietal and that Olivella biotype is a recognized grape in Naples, Avellino and Salerno where it’s always blended with Aglianico and/or Piedirosso. Modern studies confirm that Olivella and Sciascinoso are similar varieties, maybe with a common parent.
A BRIGHT FUTURE. The De Cicco bros feel pretty safe about on strategic key element: as long as they will continue to work with quality driven wines, sales crisis that often plague many Italian DOC appellations will never affect this little corner of Sannio: no exorbitant ex works prices , great healthy soils and lots of indigenous grape varieties. A good mix enhanced by the wisdom of the enologist Roberto Mazzer, a guy who prefers to respect the territory nature, rather than force it in something else. Terra di Briganti exports at least 60 % of its production abroad, especially in USA, Japan and Germany.
Falanghina 2015: this is the most produced wine by Terra di Briganti, roughly reaching 25% of the total production. The label represents Michelina Di Cesare sitting with a rifle, the brigand wife of Francesco Guerra, both killed in an ambush in 1868. The two bodies The two were dead bodies were stripped and displayed on the main square of Mignano as a warning to the local population.
GRAPE VARIETY: 100% organic certified Falanghina.
VINIFICATION: Manual harvest. Grapes are destemmed and fermented with indigenous yeast in stainless steel vats. Bottling takes place in April following the harvest. Total sulphites: only 26 mg/lt.
PRODUCTION AREA: Vineyards located within the production area of Sannio and Taburno DOC appellations. The wine is officially released as SANNIO DOP (where the P stands for Protected).
SOIL: Mainly clay and limestone with few rocks.
TRAINING SYSTEM: Guyot planted with 2500 vines/hectare density and yields at 80ql/ha at an average altitude of 330 above the sea level.
ALCOHOL by VOLUME: 14%. SUGGESTED SERVICE TEMPERATURE: 10-12°

Romeo De Cicco notes on Falanghina variety and the vintage: Vines are tended with a Guyot system with 2,500 vines per hectare density and averaging 18 years. It's a vineyard that gives us a lot of satisfaction and historically is part of the of the so-called Campanian Apennines cru. 2015 vintage was full of sunshine, a little humid, but with extreme variations in temperature between day and night that donated a floral olfactory phase that intrigues me a lot. We have collected Falanghina the last week of September at the peak of the ripeness and this has lowered slightly the acidity level that has always been predominant in our interpretation of this variety. The heat has dropped a bit of water and has influenced the alcohol content giving way to creamy fullness. It’s a rich wine for sure but with an harmonious freshness. I like to pair it with a grilled swordfish with capers and cherry tomatoes, so to speak. We have a lot of confidence in fermenting our wine with indigenous yeasts and this affects the length of the fermentation itself that lasted 30 full days. The wine is then racked with its noble lees with some batonnage action going on. We added a few milligrams of sulfites just before bottling. Overall this wine displays a delicate entry, with a balanced mid palate and a gorgeous length. It 'a great variety, in my opinion, very temperamental. It expresses the essence and strength of the brigand Michelina on the label. That's why we wanted her to give emphasis. There is a link, there is a connection between the variety and the woman: they have the same character.

NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW: according to famed wine critic Eric Asimov 2013 vintage was “Lively and persistent with earthy mineral flavors”. Terra di Briganti Falanghina has been sampled together with other Falanghina coming for different terroirs. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/17/dining/wine-review-falanghina.html?_r=0

Martummè 2012: This is the estate top notch wine. The brigands controlling the Matese mountains were led by Cosimo Giordano from Cerreto Sannita village, a former sergeant of the Bourbon army. The band consisted of about two hundred brave volunteers, devoted to death with an oath made before God. Deputy of Cosimo Giordano was a guy called Martummè (the real name was Mariano Mandolesi), who died shot by Italian troops in Gaeta in 1862, a year after the massacres of Pontelandolfo and Casalduni.
GRAPE VARIETY: 100% organic certified Aglianico.
VINIFICAZIONE: Selected neutral yeast. Traditional temperature controller fermentation in steel vats for 18-20 days, then in French oak 225 lt. barriques (new and second passage) during roughly 12 months. After bottling the wine quietly rests 12 more months in the cellar. Total sulphites level: 58 mg/lt.
PRODUCTION AREA: Vineyards located within the production area of Sannio and Taburno DOC appellations. The wine is officially released as SANNIO DOP (where the P stands for Protected).
SOIL: Mainly clay and limestone with few rocks. TRAINING SYSTEM: Guyot planted with 2500 vines/hectare density and yields at 60ql/ha at an average altitude of 330 above the sea level. PAIRINGS: Well cured cheeses, grilled meat (especially lamb) and aubergines, wild game, ammugliatielli (tasty lamb rolls, a legacy of the local cuisine that still displays a classic peasant culture and heritage). ALCOHOL BY VOLUME: 13,5%. SUGGESTED SERVICE TEMPERATURE: 16-18°
Toni De Cicco notes on Aglianico variety and the 2012 vintage: “It has been a dry, warm year with some healthy and beneficial rain at the end August, first week of September. Compared to 2011 (which has been definitely hot), this vintage gifted us with perfect phenolic ripeness marked by limited alcohol levels preserving at the same time freshness, both on the nose and palate, and overall drinkability. It’s an harmonious balanced wine that I really enjoy drinking with friends. Martummè it’s a discontinued wine being released only in the best vintages, usually when healthy grapes can mature on the vines till October 31st, a key date in our calendar. All this because Aglianico, in order to reach full ripeness, needs three key balanced elements: sugar levels, tannic levels and acidity. One of the main salient feature of this variety is that it releases a high content of polyphenols with tannins providing its uniqueness in terms of sourness and astringency. Our grandparents usually harvested Aglianico when leaves turned red, which meant that the tannins were already went into the plant because they had already reached an optimal balance in the grapes. We are currently working on the 2015 vintage, having skipped completely both 2013 and 2014. Martummè comes from a 16 year-old single vineyard trained with cordon system, but if we feel like the vintage is rewarding other plots of vineyards we could opt to combine grapes. This wine is fermented in steel vats and rests there a couple of months before being transferred into French new and second passage oak barriques for 12 months , then it is bottled resting at least another year in the cellar before market release. 2012 Martummè can gracefully age for a decade at least and still has a long life ahead".
WINE ENTHUSIAST on 2008 vintage (the 1st ever exported): 89 pts. Martummè is an austere Taurasi-style Aglianico (from the Sannio region, however) that places emphasis on richness, elegance and sophistication. Deep and penetrating in the mouth, it delivers a long succession of spice, leather, tobacco and black fruit aromas. Very nice.
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