De Conciliis: Reviving Ancient Traditions of Wine Excellence

Between the magnificent Greek temples at Paestum (read post) and the vast Cilento Nature Preserve, the De Conciliis family began a “renaissance” wine project in 1996 at their family farm on hills overlooking the sea. They have shown that this pristine area, once a center of ancient civilization, is an ideal spot for the three classic Greek products: wine, olive oil and figs.


When the three siblings, Bruno, Luigi and Paola along with Paola’s husband, Giovanni Cuni, began transforming the family poultry farm, they were pioneers. No one else had the idea of wine excellence here: an hour south of the Amalfi Coast and two hours south of Naples. Winemaking in Campania was concentrated two hours north and inland near Irpinia.

Paola is the agronomo, vineyard manager at De Conciliis. Her organic/biodynamic vineyards sit on hills a few kilometers from the sea.
vineyard valley
The soil looks almost white because it is calcareous (limestone) and clay. This soil combined with the closeness to the sea give the wines notable minerality, crispness. Cool sea breezes cool the vineyards in the torrid heat of summer and keep temperatures warmer in the winter.

Paola’s vineyards are certified organic, but she is increasingly using biodynamic methods. During the cooler months, she grows other plants among the vines and leaves the “green manure” to fertilize the soil. In the summer, however, she clears out the vineyards because of the extreme fire danger. This photo shows the vines with their tops not pruned to allow the plants to find natural balance.

She is especially pleased with recent experiments she has done to strengthen and protect the vines using bee propolis from her hives.

In this video, she talks about the vineyards and the biodynamic treatments she does with nettles, horsetail and other herbs. (Click on CC for subtitles in English.)

A lot of the magic in the grapes and the wines comes from the biodiversity surrounding the vines. Having many different kinds of plants is fundamental to biodynamic farming where vines are naturally strong, healthy and resistant to disease. The biodiversity also adds authentic aromas and flavors to the wine (instead of adding them via selected yeasts or other additives in the cellar).

Only about a quarter of the De Conciliis land is vineyard. The rest is olive groves…

olive tree

fig groves…

2015-06-11 12.17.22

Wild bushes, grasses, herbs, known in Italy as the “macchia Mediterannea” (Mediterranean growth).
maccchia medit

Here lining the road through the vineyard…

macchia + road

And then, spilling down the hill toward the woods and the sea.
next to vines

The De Conciliis cellars are modest buildings powered by solar panels. The winemaking process is simple, using indigenous yeasts, minimum intervention in the cellar and very low sulfite levels added only at bottling.

Back there, Paola’s husband, Giovanni, pictured here with us, poured wine for tasting.
Paola, GIov + me


The first was Selim, a sparkling wine Bruno, the oldest brother of the family, who was unfortunately in the US when I visited, is a jazz fan and named “Selim” for Miles Davis, Miles spelled backwards. The wine is “metodo classico” but instead of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the grape varieties are Fiano di Avellino and Aglianico. Fabulous. There are no other sparkling wines made in the region. Elegant but light and easy, Selim is a remarkable example of De Conciliis experimentation.


Donnaluna, 100% Fiano di Avellino, is a clean, fresh, natural version of the wine. The grapes stay about a week with the skins, fermenting with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel and aging in stainless steel for six months.


Donnaluna: an earthy but elegant Aglianico with 10% Primitivo added: rich and complex but not overly heavy largely because of the minerality of the soil. The grapes ferment with indigenous yeasts in stainless then half ages in stainless and half in large oak barrels.


Naima: 100% Aglianico from the estate’s oldest vineyards, Bruno named this wine for a John Coltrane song, Naima.
The wine truly embodies the music: rich, complex and authentically itself.

De COnciliis map copy

Viticoltori De Conciliis
Località Querce, 1
Prignano Cilento (Salerno)

At New York Vitners or on Wine-Searcher

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