The wines of Vesuvio have a long and storied history, but local specialties like the dramatically named Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio (“Christ’s Tears on Vesuvius”) have fallen into relative obscurity in recent decades. While southern Italy’s other notable active volcano, Mount Etna in eastern Sicily, has developed a thriving and internationally acclaimed wine scene over the past 15 years, Vesuvio has yet to… explode.
Massimo Setaro is seeking to transform the zone’s reputation and bring the wines of Vesuvio the modern-day recognition he feels they deserve. Heir to the renowned Setaro pasta-making enterprise, fourth-generation Massimo founded Casa Setaro in 2004, beginning with his family’s small pre-phylloxera holdings around their hometown of Trecase on Vesuvio’s southern slopes. Massimo has since planted new parcels, and today the estate totals 12 hectares–notably, of exclusively own-rooted plant material, as this zone’s unforgiving volcanic sand is inhospitable to phylloxera. He works only with indigenous varieties: Piedirosso and Aglianico for his reds; and, while he does grow terrific Fiano and Greco, the characterful and hyper-local Caprettone is what drives his imagination and forms the basis of his most distinctive white wines.
Caprettone—which takes its name, according to Massimo, from the fact that Vesuvio’s vineyards face the tiny island of Capri to the west (some believe it refers to the beard of a goat, or capra, which Caprettone’s bunches are said to resemble)—was only identified as a separate variety in 2014. Previously, it was thought to be simply a clone of the local Coda di Volpe. Caprettone in Massimo’s hands achieves a dynamic combination of ripe, round fruit and vigorous acidity, underpinned by a strong and appetizing smoke-salt interplay; one senses these vineyards’ proximity to the sea even as volcanic-soil-derived notes bellow for attention.