Asprinio's origins are not entirely clear and two different hypotheses have been put forth. The first places Asprinio in the pinot family of wines which includes Pinot Grigio, Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco. The second sees the vine as related to the grape Greco. The latter seems to have won out in the debate but there are still some who maintain that Asprinio has something in common with pinots.
The grape is very ancient and is said to have made the transition from a wild grapevine to a domesticated one during the Etruscan period which lasted from about 800 BC to 500 BC. The Etruscans were a pre-Roman civilization that dominated central and parts of Southern Italy.
Asprinio is grown largely only in Campania, in the province of Caserta but can also grow in Apulia.. Asprinio is grown around the town of Aversa, some 15 kilometers from Naples. Caserta is the most widely known city in this area. Caserta is famous for its Royal Palace or the Reggia di Caserta. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mirrored on Versailles, it was actually built in the 18th century by Luigi Vanvitelli. The building is enormous and houses more than 1200 rooms and wonderful expansive gardens.
This wine has very particular viticultural and vinification traditions The grape variety is grown on local poplar trees and can rise up to 30-45 feet in the air. The vines grow up the trees and then are bent onto wires that are strung between the poplars. This was apparently an Etruscan technique. This vine wall is quite a sight. This system is called vite maritate (married vines). In order to pick these grapes, the growers have to climb very high in the air on thin ladders called scale napoletane (Neapolitan ladders).
In terms of vinification, traditionally the wines had been stored in cellars carved 10-15 meters deep into the local tufa stone. Storing the wine is this fashion brings a bit of carbon dioxide and creates the fizzy nature of the wine. The wine can be made into Aversa Asprinio DOC or Aversa Asprinio Spumante DOC.
In terms of its taste profile, the wine is very dry with hints of almonds and floral notes. It is quite particular and works well with local pasta dishes, charcuterie and pizza marinara .
Asprinio is available in the United States, both on wine lists and in retail outlets. One of the most popular brands is called I Borboni. The family has been using the ancient traditions and grows the vines in the same way that they have always been grown. They also had a cellar dug 15 meters into the earth to retain the ancient flavors and wine marking techniques. Both the still and the spumante version of the wines are available.