Before Mount Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii in 79 AD, its volcanic vineyards produced unique wines that the ancient Romans enjoyed at lavish banquets. Modern drinkers can savor the same flavors with the historic wine known as Lacryma Christi.
Although its name translates to “tears of Christ,” the wine’s origins go back further than the time of Jesus. In the fifth century BC, Greek settlers came to the Naples coast and planted Italy’s first vineyards. The Romans happily followed, named the land Campania Felix (“fertile countryside”), and said Bacchus wept tears of joy over the beautiful terrain, causing vines to flourish. Later, wine-making monks would revise the story and replace Bacchus with Christ, who wept over Vesuvius because Lucifer had dropped a stolen piece of Paradise there.
Both origin stories celebrate the area’s ideal grape-growing terrain. The mineral-rich volcanic soil and mild, breezy Mediterranean climate still produce the same grapes enjoyed by ancient drinkers. Wineries abound in the area, producing red, white, rosé, and sparkling Lacryma Christi. The deep-ruby Rosso (made primarily from piedirosso grapes) has a full-bodied, earthy flavor of wild berries and minerals, while the Bianco (made from Coda di Volpe grapes) is golden in color and tastes of citrus and spice.
Lacryma Christi is a delicious, low-cost wine, and pairs wonderfully with the specialties of the Campania region: pizza or pasta with red sauce made from local San Marzano tomatoes.
Need to Know
Lacryma Christi is available worldwide in wine stores and online. The highest qualities are labeled according to European Union standards: DOCG, the Italian abbreviation for “Guaranteed Controlled Destination of Origin.” Top Lacryma Christi producers include Villa Carafa, Mastroberardino, and Terredora di Paolo.
Where to Try It
Sorrentino Vinivia Fruscio 2, Boscotrecase, 80042, Italy
The family-run winery, set on the southwest slopes of Mount Vesuvius, offers vineyard tours and tastings with lunch at their restaurant, including stunning views. A perfect stop after a morning touring the Pompeii ruins.
Mastroberardino WineryVia Manfredi, 75-81, Atripalda AV, 83042, Italy
They offer wine tours and tastings.