The Caprese wine: the Red and the White
Fruit of the “vine full of radiant clusters” imported, according to legend, in a cask by the Byzantine bishop San Costanzo, during the times of the Roman emperors, the Caprese wine, filled with sun and flavor, was diluted and used as a refreshing beverage “to flavor the snow”, according to the use that continued up until a few decades ago. It was especially the gluttonous monks of the Certosa who spread the use of drinking pure local wine in great quantities, given that the white wine was considered “light and quite delicate” and the red, always produced in minimal quantities, “smooth, full-bodied and dry.”
Exported between the two wars even to America and Argentina, the white wine of a pale straw color is obtained from Aglianico, Biancolella, Fiano and Greco grapes and reaches a medium level of 11% proof. The red Capri, which is ruby, intense and processed from the vineyard of Piedirosso, reaches 12% proof.
Ideal for accompanying both fish and land recipes, the Caprese wines were the claim to fame of the historic Caffè Morgano, later called Zum Kater Hiddigeigei in memory of the cat who was the protagonist of the poem by Victor Scheffel “Der Trompeter von Saekkingen”.
In addition to being the heart of the island’s social life between the 19th and 20th centuries, this “Caffè” quenched the thirst of its most famous regulars. These included the Count Zeppelin, who, on Mt. Solaro, “so close to the sky got the idea in his head with Capri Bianco to fly a blimp!” Excluding Norman Douglas, who was never a great lover of Caprese wine (even though he downed it at the “Trattoria da Peppinella”), the generosity of the wine of Anacapri has always seduced: from Augustus and Tiberius to Rilke and Wilde, from Krupp and Zeppelin to Lenin and Gorkij.
“We sat for a little under the pergola to drink a glass of white wine. Then we slowly strolled towards Capri along the beautiful street, admiring the view of the lush mountain that spread under our feet”, wrote Axel Munthe, remembering nostalgically the winding path between his Villa San Michele in Anacapri and Capri, which is still dotted with vineyards.
On New Year Eve’s of 1906, Rilke, who was still forcing himself “to become a pure and absolute poet, at any cost”, arrived at the Piazzetta drunk on white wine called “Lacrime di Tiberio” (“Tears of Tiberius”) and was dazzled by the tarantella dance: “What a dance… as if it were designed by satyrs and nymphs, the wild nature, the wiles, the honest wine.” He loved to walk among the vineyards of
Anacapri, like Lenin, the guest of Gorkij in 1908 and 1910, who consoled himself for his poor takes fishing (it is said that he pulled the line too soon) playing chess and emptying carafes of White Capri so much so that his wife, Krupskaja, later revealed that, during his Caprese stays, Lenin only remembered the beauty of the sea and the goodness of the local wine.
Graham Greene, the author of “The Third Man”, was a great drinker of the young wine.
He frequented the former “Osteria Aniello” with dedication, in whose guest book he scratched drawings and wrote notes, including culinary ones.
In English, of course, because, despite his long stay in Capri, he always refused to learn Italian. Not so with Norman Douglas, unconventional writer and great drinker: “What can we say about wine? It’s been praised as an ally to lovers… it lets defenses fall away, frees us from our reins and gives cheer, placates every fear in fearful souls and melts frigidity. Wine can’t do any more, but, in the hands of a master, its effect is enough…”