The name Tufo was once synonymous with the sulfur mining activity that characterized the local economy from 1866 until the 1960s. Yet today, the name of this municipality in Avellino is predominantly – perhaps exclusively – associated with viticulture.
The history of the Muto family is emblematic of this journey, which is now encapsulated in their Greco di Tufo Miniere, a wine characterized by distinct mineral and flintstone notes, along with scents of orange blossoms and lemon juice. Angelo Muto, who runs the winery alongside his wife Franca Troisi, explains: “My grandparents were both miners at the sulfur mine, but this activity alone was not enough to sustain the family. When the amount of sulfur released due to the explosions was too much, miners would sometimes have to go weeks without work. So, agricultural activity was an important supplement to their income, ensuring that a large family like ours could survive.”
Greco and Coda di Volpe
The cultivation of grapes is traditional here, and alongside the more famous Greco – which experienced a real boom in the 1990s – there was also Coda di Volpe, an ancient white grape variety characteristic of Campania, but which traces its roots back to ancient Rome. The Muto family continues to cultivate both varieties. While it is entirely obvious for Greco, which is the emblematic variety of the region, in the case of Coda di Volpe, it is anything but straightforward.
“We are the only ones still cultivating this light, soft, less structured grape variety in the village Tufo. Not only that. While the Greco di Tufo regulations allow a blend of up to 15% with Coda di Volpe grapes, we offer this grape variety in purity because we believe it is a way to proclaim the identity of the territory, as well as to safeguard our family traditions.” Notably, the winery’s Coda di Volpe is dedicated to Angelo’s grandfather, who cultivated it alongside Greco grapes; as a wine it is both fresh and savory, with floral and citrus notes.
In paying homage to his mining and winemaking grandfather, there is also a profound sense of gratitude for the valuable lessons received. “What my grandfather transmitted to me was indispensable. For years, he had me gain experience gradually so that I could learn all the different operations involved in agricultural work.”
Among the most valuable teachings, in addition to the many practices of natural winemaking that Angelo still adopts in the vineyard, are some more “philosophical” insights. “My grandpa argued that if you want to live solely from agriculture, then you don’t stick to a single plot. Diversifying allows you to be more resilient, readier to face problems.”
Deviating from the family tradition, which produced grapes that were sold to others, Angelo decided to vinify independently starting in 2006. His 6.5 hectares of vineyards are located in two plots, partly in Campanaro and partly in Torrefavale. The Campanaro vineyard is located just above the ancient sulfur mines of Polveriera, and consequently, the wines derived from it have a pronounced minerality.
The Torrefavale vineyard is, for those fortunate enough to reach it, the most adventurous and heroic part of the company. Angelo tells me: “Getting to Torrefavale is a real journey. You can reach the vineyard by jeep, on foot, or with a tractor.”
- 6.5 hectares – 22,000 bottles
- Fertilizer: green manure
- Plant protection: copper, sulfur
- Weeding: mechanical and manual
- Fermentation: spontaneous
- Grapes: 100% own
- Certification: none
- Angelo Muto’s deep love and respect for the land, coupled with his attentive listening and interpretation skills, translate into wines with a strong territorial connection and recognizability. Top Wine and Slow Wine for Greco di Tufo Torrefavale Ris. 2021. The nose is broad with earthy notes and small red fruit, hints of quince and citrus peels. The palate is thick and savory, closing with an impressive extension of candied fruit.
Love for the Territory, Respect for the Land
At Cantine dell’Angelo, the work conducted both in the vineyard and in the cellar – under the guidance of winemaker Luigi Sarno – is inspired by the utmost naturalness. “My way of practicing viticulture is inspired by a feeling of love. A love for the natural production process and for our vines, which was transmitted to me by my grandparents. Vines are living beings, and our work primarily involves understanding their needs and intervening punctually where there are issues. The company’s size also allows us to maintain full control of our vineyards, monitoring them with the utmost attention.”
This is especially true in recent years, since the climate crisis makes adaptation more important than ever. “Understanding, studying, observing are all fundamental actions for the natural production process of wine, whereby we work together with the vines, guiding them without forcing them, to obtain the best quantitative results.”
And the vines, for their part, are fully justifying this approach.
di Silvia Ceriani, email@example.com
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The industrial history of the town began when sulfur deposits were discovered by Francesco di Marzo, who founded a mining company that, together with the Società Anonima Industrie Minerarie di Altavilla Irpina, constituted a huge labor pool for the area. The activity lasted intensely for almost a century, gradually declining in the post-war period. In Tufo, the mines remained active until the early 1960s, and extraction continued until 1972, while the final liquidation of the company occurred in 1992. The presence and availability of sulfur benefited the explosion of vine cultivation throughout Irpinia, giving rise to the so-called sulfur technique, which protects the clusters from external pathogens.