Camerlengo

Rampolla, Basilicata

Camerlengo, a grand name found from 1250 when the people of Rampolla fought fiercely (and successfully) on the side of the Pope against the Swabians (Germans) and were rewarded by the Camerlengo with land.  Parts of Rampolla are still recognisable from that time, though the population has moved above ground, cave dwellings, like those in Matera (Sassi) are now mostly used for storage, or in the case of Camerlengo as a cantina.

The cellar is tiny, created and worked by Antonio Cascarano, a larger than life character who was once an architect whose life is now devoted only to his farm.  Antonio inherited the vineyard and cellar from his grandfather, Giovanni Falaguerra, who was a famed producer of wine and oil in the 60’s.  The limited space is crowded with concrete fermentation tanks, botti, barrique and bottles; there is just enough space for the annual production of 18,000 bottles to be made.  There is no space on the floor for a tasting room, that rocks precariously on a mezzanine over the workspace.  The walls are decorated blue thanks to an active (and colourful) mould, there is a single light well, otherwise the cantina is in darkness year round at a constant temperature of between 10-15®C.

The vineyard lies on a southern slope of the dormant volcano, Vulture, at an altitude of 500 metres. Of Antonio’s 10 hectare farm, just 2.5 hectares are vineyard; the balance is woodland, olive grove and fruit trees.  The philosophy is to create a balanced environment, beneficial to both nature and quality wine production.  Al the vineyard work is manual and organic, and biodynamic principals are followed.