In the region of Campania, a wine is made that is a very nice every day wine that sells for a fair price and, in the hands of a few wineries, presents a very good buy. The really fun thing about this wine, however, is the name. I am speaking about Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio. Long before winemakers started putting cute animals on their labels or giving their wines fanciful names in order to market them to the general public, Lacryma Christi wines were flourishing. Lacryma Christi means “the tears of Christ on Vesuvius.” There are two versions as to how this wine got its name. Both stories go back hundreds of years.
The simpler story tells us that when Jesus was ascending to heaven, he glanced down at the earth and saw the Bay of Naples. It was so beautiful that he wept tears of joy. His tears fell on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. A slightly different version relates that when Lucifer and the fallen angels were cast out from heaven, they grabbed a piece of it as they were forced to leave. As Lucifer fell, chunks of paradise landed on Mt. Vesuvius. When Jesus, up in heaven, saw what had happened, he wept tears of sadness. Under either tale, when Jesus’ tears hit the ground, vines miraculously sprouted in those spots on the slopes of the volcano. Those are the vines from which Lacryma Christi is made. Without casting aspersions on the legend, it is, at the least, a beautiful marketing strategy for an Italian wine.As it happens though, the story actually predates Christianity. In an earlier version, it was the Roman God Bacchus, who upon seeing such beauty wept, thus creating the vines. You have to admire a producer who is willing to change with the times.
Winemaking has been taking place in Campania for more than 3,000 years. There may have been grape cultivation before the Etruscans but the Greeks certainly brought vines with them to the area. Campania is in the south of Italy (at about the shin on the boot). Its largest city is Naples and the volcano, Mt. Vesuvius looms over the region. This is the same volcano famous for the destruction of Pompeii. Obviously the mountain is covered with volcanic soils. The climate is mild and tempered by Mediterranean breezes. Grapes grow easily in this environment.