Neil Duarte's Vino e Cucina d'Italia

Il Cancelliere – A Romano Family Winery

Situated on the clay slopes of Montemarano, a small village in the Irpinia area of the region of Campania just east of Naples lies the Il Cancelliere Azienda Vitivinicola di Pizza Rita. This winery was founded by the grandfather of Soccorso Romano and today is run by Soccorso and his wife Pasqualina. The Romano family has been growing grapes and making wine here for themselves for over 150 years. However, it was only in 2005 that at the urging of Soccorso's son-in-law and daughter that commercial production and sales began. Today, Il Cancelliere is still overseen by the senior Romanos but the daily vineyard operations are managed by their agronomist son Enrico while daughter Nadia Panetta handles marketing and her husband Claudio is responsible for sales. The winemaking effort is assisted by the superb Campanian oenologist Antonio di Gruttola.

Il Cancelliere grows only Aglianico grapes and produces approximately 20,000 bottles /year of both Irpinia Aglianico and Taurasi wines, the latter being perhaps the best known type of Aglianico wine. On a cool, sunny spring afternoon we visited Il Cancelliere along with Antonio and Daniela di Gruttola. There we met the entire Romano family and toured the vineyards, hosted by Claudio Panetta and Enrico Romano. The hillside vineyards were very well kept and Claudio explained Il Cancelliere's philosophy of organic grape production and winemaking. None of Il Cancelliere's wines are subjected to filtration or clarification.

owners in barrel room
Soccorso Romano, Antonio di Gruttola and Claudio Panetta in the cellar during the barrel tasting. Photo: Terry Duarte.
Moving on to the winery we were afforded the opportunity to barrel taste several of Il Cancelliere's young wines. Our first such taste was the 2010 Gioviano Irpinia Aglianico DOC drawn from a 35 hl. wood cask. The 2010 Gioviano was very nice and offers great promise. The second wine that we barrel tasted was the 2010 Nero Né Taurasi DOCG drawn from another 35 hl wood cask. If the first Gioviano was impressive the second wine was even more so. Given several more years of aging, the 2010 Nero Né will be a superb wine.

We moved out to the terrace where other members of the Romano clan had assembled for the bottle tasting phase. Accompanying this, the family provided several amazing local cheeses, a Caciocavallo (cow's milk) and a fantastic Pecorino (ewe's milk). An added treat was provided by Enrico's wife, Rita, whose delicious Aglianico grape preserves were served with slices of cheese between wines.

The first wine served was a 2009 Gioviano Irpina Aglianico DOC, a 14% alcohol wine made from 100% Aglianico grapes. This wine, made from 15 year old vines as are all of the Giovianos, is not yet on the market but should soon be available. This Gioviano uses natural fermentation with about 20-30 days maceration at room temperature. The aging process has 1/3 of the wine in old small oak barriques, 1/3 in stainless steel and 1/3 in chestnut 26 hl casks for 12-16 months followed by 4-6 months in the bottle. The result was a light purple color with a pleasant nose and a nice smooth finish. This wine will get better with a few more years and I gave it an 88 rating.

The second wine was a 2008 Gioviano Irpinia Aglianico DOC that is currently on the market. Made in the same manner as the 2009 Gioviano, this 14% alcohol wine had a similar coloring, a nice light fruit nose and a longer smooth finish. This was a nice wine that I rated an 89.

A 2007 Gioviano Irpinia Aglianico DOC followed. Another 14% alcohol offering with similar coloring and nose, the 2007 Gioviano had a longer and slightly smoother finish. This was a very nice wine that I rated a 90. Unfortunately, this wine is sold out.

Next we sampled Il Cancelliere's flagship Taurasi wine. Our first wine was a 2008 Nero Né Taurasi DOCG that is currently being sold. Made from 30 year old vines this 100% Aglianico wine is 14.5% alcohol. Alcoholic fermentation with natural rising is followed by approximately 30 days maceration at room temperature. Aging is done in 35 hl Slovanian oak casks for 24 months followed by 12 months in the bottle. The result is a wine of purple color, strong leathery nose and a long and strong finish. I liked this wine a lot and gave it a 91 rating.

Our last wine was a 2007 Nero Né Taurasi DOCG. This wine, also made from 30 year old vines, is not yet released as the principals at Il Cancelliere feel it is not ready, a feeling with which I expressed my disagreement. The process was the same as for the 2008 Nero Né but the result was a longer and more pleasant finish. I really thought that this wine was the star of the day and I rated it a 92.

The hospitality we were shown at Il Cancelliere was most gratifying and I offer my sincere thanks to the entire Romano extended family. Their wines are excellent and I urge anyone who has the opportunity to purchase them to do so.

Il Cancelliere is represented in the USA by Critical Mass Selection/T. Elenteny Imports in New York and Flavors of Italy in Hawaii.

April, 2014

Back to Neil Duarte's Vino e Cucina d'Italia