Feudi di San Gregorio believes that wine and art share the same creative process, a belief that shows in their impeccable style.
Wine is much more than a simple product. It’s the story of the producer, of the family, the land, and the cultural and environmental influences that shape it. All of this, bottled up in a 0.75 l vessel, makes for pretty powerful stuff—a product, certainly, but one with many layers. Feudi di San Gregorio, a leader of southern Italian wineries in Campania, has little doubt as to what these layers are made of: “A bottle of wine and a work of art share the same creative process.”
True to their belief, the winery demonstrates this in the stylish design that pervades every aspect of their winery, from the bottle to the cantina.
Wines of Campania, from ashes and earthquakes
Feudi di San Gregorio is located in Sorbo Serpico, the territory of Irpinia in the province of Avellino. It’s about one hour east of Naples and Mount Vesuvius, whose ashes buried the wine amphorae of Pompeii in 79 AD: winemaking has been an important part of this region for centuries. By the 20th century, though, production had declined due to a lethal combination of the market crash in the 1920s, phylloxera, and disruption of the wine market during and after World War II. Not until the late 60s to early 70s did prospects begin to turn around.
Feudi di San Gregorio was born from upheaval to become a forward-thinking winery in one of Italy’s oldest winemaking regions. In November 1980, one of Italy’s worst modern-day earthquakes destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and took thousands of lives in the lush, mountainous interior of Campania. The crisis was the impetus for Campania native Enzo Ercolino to return from Rome to his homeland and help rebuild together with his wife Mirella Capalbo and brothers. In 1986 with 30 hectares of land, Feudi di San Gregorio was founded, one of less than a dozen wineries in the area.
Stylish and contemporary
From the very beginning, Feudi di San Gregorio wanted to change the wine landscape of Campania and bring its wealth of native varieties to the world’s attention. At a time when the wines of Campania were unknown and international grape varieties were the flavor of the day, Feudi boldly began producing modern-style whites with native varieties like fiano, falanghina, and greco.
Today run by Antonio Capalbo, the winery owns 300 ha (740 acres) of vineyards, and they continue to emphasize the many native grapes of the region. They have been instrumental in launching the rebirth of high-quality whites in Campania, which, as Ian D’Agata asserts, “vie with those of Alto Adige and Friuli Venezia Giulia for top spot on Italy’s list of quality whites.” Not only whites, but excellent reds, too—like the wonderful Taurasi, known as the “Barolo of the south,” which Feudi produces to express powerful yet elegant nuances; and sparkling wines made by the traditional metodo classico.
Feudi di San Gregorio has revolutionized Campania wine production through their contemporary interpretations of the centuries-old winemaking traditions of Irpinia. And this eye for the avant-guard, a fine-tuned ability to be stylish but never “trendy,” is seen most clearly on the labels and in the winery itself.
Judge a wine by its label
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to wine, the label is more indicative of the vino inside than you might think. Unlike a book, which you can turn over to read the back, read about the author at the end, or surreptitiously browse the first chapter before buying, the wine label is the producer’s first and only impression. So, it’s got to express the producer’s style and philosophy as well as give all relevant information on that little sticky adhesive.
Feudi di San Gregorio has got style in spades. The winery has teamed up with Italian designer Massimo Vignelli, who lives and works in NYC and whose work has been shown at prestigious galleries around the world, including the MoMA. Vignelli has designed all the labels, and the attention he gives to carefully-selected color palettes, detail, and embossed gold all leave an unmistakable impression of contemporary wines made from traditional grape varieties.
Dazzling, state-of-the-art design has become vogue for modern wineries, and Feudi di San Gregorio was one of the first to look after all the details, interior and exterior, of how the cantina would be presented to the world. This kind of attention also assumes the central role of a winery visitor. The cellars are for crafting great wines, of course—and Feudi is anything but lacking, with their cutting-edge technology and meteorological system in each vineyard plot—but also to bring wine lovers into the fold of the heart of winemaking.
Vignelli and his wife Lella designed and decorated all interiors of the new winery, whose construction began in 2001; and the structure was designed by Japanese architect Hikaru Mori and her Irpinian husband Maurizio Zito. They focused the design on minimal environmental impact, with extensive gardens and the use of pre-existing framework and material to construct the new winery. Inside, there is the Michelin-starred restaurant Marennà, where chef Paolo Barrale creates traditional Irpinian and Campanian fare with a contemporary twist.
The name of the restaurant brings the visitor back to the heart of their hospitality: Marennà comes from Latin merere, “to deserve,” as a worker in the vineyards deserves a good meal and rest after a long day’s work—just like a true wine lover deserves to taste the best quality and most authentic flavors of Campania.