When it comes to buying wine, everyone has different tastes and priorities. Maybe you’re looking for a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino from 1945 (assuming you have €6,000 lying around) or a Château Lafite Rothschild from 2012 (a relative bargain at €880). Or maybe you’re looking to spend only a few euros on a bottle of good wine to drink with friends at a barbecue. Whatever the case, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for at Enoteca Partenopea, which has one of the widest selections of wine in the whole of southern Italy.
In 1951, Raffaele Mangia (nomen omen, or “the name is a sign,” as the Latins would say) founded what would become the wine shop, although it was initially a trattoria where you could also buy wine. “And already in the 50s, the selection of wines was wide,” says Rosario Russo, 55, Raffaele’s grandson and the current owner of the business.
“It was my father, Antonio, who in 1972 transformed the place into a real wine shop, giving it the name of Enoteca Partenopea,” he adds. “These were the years in which a new wine culture was affirmed in Italy – the drink went from a symbol of festivity and drunkenness to an object of study, with stories of grapes, of people, of methods.”
Nowadays Rosario works with his children Paola, 27, and Antonio, 26. In fact, his son has introduced his own particular passion to the shop – amidst rows of wine you can also find guitars and amplifiers. They began to appear in 2010, first as decoration and then later to be sold. And so the “guitar cuvée” project was born.
“Just as cuvée means an assembly of different vintages of wine, a blend, a blending, the cuvée of Enoteca Partenopea is made up of wines, spirits and guitars!” says Rosario, the maître de cave (the person who decides how the cuvée should be assembled). And so they sell guitars, amplifiers and guitar accessories alongside wines and liquors – a dream that father and son managed to turn into a reality.
“Just as cuvée means an assembly of different vintages of wine, a blend, a blending, the cuvée of Enoteca Partenopea is made up of wines, spirits and guitars!”
“But in this cuvée, in my assembly,” Rosario is keen to reiterate, “you won’t find everything! Here you will find only the wines we have selected and tasted. We try them all and select only the ones we think are the best. From each producer, we select only one or two labels. And this is a guarantee for the customer, we stake our reputation on it.”
“If you want all the options, buy online, on large e-commerce portals. With us you will only find the things we select and rely on,” he adds.
The shop is large and seemingly never-ending, with one room coming after another. After the smaller street level space, the large and pleasant lower level is a charming surprise. Everything is perfectly ordered and well divided so that everything is clear to the customer. “My father, Antonio, was a maniac of order and I inherited this trait,” says Rosario.
The Italian wines on offer are divided by region. Obviously wines from the Campania region feature prominently. We spot the Taurasi DOCG from Matroberardino, one of the oldest and most prestigious wineries in Campania. There is Villa Matilde’s Falerno del Massico Rosso, which is grown in Cellole, in the province of Caserta, and is heir to the vinum falernum, an ancient Roman wine praised by Pliny. There are also great local wines made with grapes of Greek origin: aglianico and Greco di Tufo.
Outside of the local favorites, their shelves also feature great Italian and foreign wines. Rosario shows us to a small vault, which contains all the exclusive national and international labels. There are wines from Gaja, one of the most famous wineries in Italy. There are bottles of Bordeaux locked in cages, worth hundreds and thousands of euros. “Since 2020, we have made the choice to increase the number of international labels. For us it was an enormous effort, selecting excellent Israeli [kosher], French, Armenian, New Zealand, Spanish and Greek wines,” he tells us.
For wine collectors, the two oldest bottles in the shop (and perhaps in all of Naples) will be of note: Lheraud Bas Armagnac from 1915 and one from 1918, which survived both world wars and now go for €2,430 euros…each.
“We have contributed so much to the culture of wine in southern Italy. We have been promoting meetings, tastings and presentations for years. Only Covid stopped us. 2020 is a year to forget; 60 percent drop in turnover and the end of all live meetings. But we will do it again, everything will start again soon,” Rosario says.
And for teetotalers? The shop also sells chocolate, tea, infusions, jams and Telese water. Yes, this is one of the few places in Naples where you can find Telese’s sulfuric water, which Neapolitans have used for centuries to make the perfect digestive drink (sulfuric water, lemon and bicarbonate). Just one more way that Enoteca Partenopea lets you taste the terroir.
Editor’s note: Inspired by our Wine Clubs in Tbilisi, Lisbon and Athens and the grape harvest season, we have asked our correspondents to share the stories of winemakers and wine shops that are making a splash in their city for our Wine Week 2020.
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