There are many impressive things about Giuseppe Pagano and his wine company, San Salvatore–a winery 100% powered by solar panels; their constant drive to lower CO2 emissions; their use of wine boxes made from recycled paper; the fact that they provide restaurants and a local luxury beach hotel with the variety of organic produce that they grow–among others. But the one thing that outdoes them all is the location of their vineyards within the UNESCO site, the Cilento National Park. The park is surrounded by the Tyrrhenian Sea with San Salvatore’s vineyards sitting amongst forests, ancient olive trees, and volcanic rocks shooting up from the earth.
San Salvatore 1988
Giuseppe Pagano started San Salvatore in 1988 but did not have the first harvest for his vineyards until 2009. From the very beginning he only used organic practices for his 272 acres of land in the province of Salerno in Campania, Italy. The vineyards take up around 58 acres and the rest are used for olive groves, orchards, vegetable gardens and woodland, because according to Giuseppe, “it maintains a natural balance in the earth.” Giuseppe talked about the native old varieties that are firmly rooted in the history of winemaking in Salerno such as Fiano, Greco, Falanghina and Aglianico. One of their largest vineyards, located in the Cannito area of Salerno, is breathtaking as it is situated at the foot of Mount Calpazio which also protects the vineyards from the elements with a southwestern exposure towards the Tyrrhenian Sea.
A special aspect of the San Salvatore vineyards is the roaming of over 450 Italian buffaloes that provide milk to make the highly prized Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO. One day Giuseppe was walking around his land and he found himself eye to eye with a buffalo and it deeply moved him. The slogan for his winery is, “I’ve seen a buffalo through the grapevines and I’ve drunk wine. I’ve seen a buffalo and it has seen me.” He decided, after that memorable meeting, that he would leave a significant part of the land as forest so he could safeguard the havens where animals find food and make their home. All of San Salvatore wines are certified organic and some biodynamic practices are used; they bury horns filled with the buffaloes’ manure and the buffaloes naturally mix straw and manure with their hooves creating an organic fertilizer that is further used in the soil.
While I visited the San Salvatore vineyards, the buffaloes were in a spacious gated area, and my group was only allowed to see them from our bus because they get very nervous when a big group of people approaches them. But most of the time they are free to meander as Giuseppe loves these animals, evident by their photos gracing the winery walls and a drawing of a buffalo that is always present on each bottle’s label. The land belongs to these creatures as much as to Giuseppe, and he is thankful to have the means to protect them as well as to be a proper custodian to the Cilento National Park. Giuseppe believes that the beauty of his San Salvatore wines come from the idea that it is made from grapes that are grown in complete harmony with their surroundings.
Riches Mean Nothing If You Can’t Protect What Matters
Giuseppe says that he tries to encourage all of the local youth in the province of Salerno in Campania to leave and find success in the outside world and then come back to Salerno to make their home better, as no other person will know how to find the balance of respect for the tradition and preserving what is important with innovation better than those born and bred there. Bringing that success back will give opportunities to those who could not get out as well as protect those who do not have a voice.
Everyday Drinking Wine (less than $15)
2017 Feudi di San Gregorio, Falanghina del Sannio DOC, Campania, Italy ($12.99): 100% Falanghina. This is from another producer in Campania that is widely available on the market because San Salvatore’s premium wines, above $15, are the only ones that I could find in the US market. Feudi di San Gregorio was established in 1986 by two Irpinian families that have their roots in the province of Avellino in Campania. A pretty white wine made from the local variety of Falanghina that has citrus and floral notes with a crisp finish; offers very good value considering the price.
Special Occasion Wine (from $15 to $50)
2018 San Salvatore 1988, ‘Pian di Stio” Paestum Fiano IGP, Campania, Italy ($26.99): 100% Fiano and certified organic. This is a great representation of the local white grape Fiano, that is packaged in a distinctively fun 500ml bottle. There was lots of minerality with hints of wet stones intermixed with honeysuckle that had an underlying note of tropical pineapple flavors on the finish.
2016 San Salvatore 1988, “Jungano”, Paestum IGP Aglianico, Campania, Italy ($29): 100% Aglianico. Jungano is a local name for the town of Giungano, a town near the San Salvatore vineyards. This red wine was made from the local Aglianico grape and ages 12 months in 40% second year Tonneau, 40% third year Tonneau and 20% stainless steel. A delicious wine that had layers of flavors that expressed themselves as dark cherries and ripe blue fruit with spice cake and smoky minerality with well-manicured tannins; over-delivers for the price.
Fantasy Wine (over $50)
2013 San Salvatore 1988, Joi (labeled “Gioì” in Italy), Spumante Brut Rosé (Rosato), Campania, Italy ($56): 100% Aglianico and certified organic. This is a traditional method sparkling rosé made from Aglianico that ages 24 months on the lees in bottle. After disgorgement, the wine ages for an additional three months. This wine is symbolic of Giuseppe’s belief that one should always strive for the highest quality but never be content with any result, and so he is always experimenting and testing the limits. This sparkling wine had pristine apricot notes with vibrant cranberry flavors that had aromas of cherry blossoms and crumbly rocks that had fine bubbles along the elegant, long finish. Only 8,000 bottles produced.