The wines from Campania are some of the most exciting being produced in Italy right now. While the region’s viticulture history goes back 3000 years, the present looks very different from the past.
Campania stretches along the Tyrrhenian Seacoast in the southwest of Italy, just south of Rome. It borders the regions of Basilicata and Apulia to their north.
Wine production in Campania is roughly 53 million gallons a year but a mere 6% is considered DOC status. Winemaking is hands-on, traditional and unobtrusive. International grapes and techniques have not penetrated the customs of the past.
The Greek, then Roman civilizations were the first to develop this region, brining a large scale production to the area and making it the center of their wine trade. However, with the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 which destroyed Pompei, it forced the empire to close the great harbors around Naples and seek to progress elsewhere.
The Mediterranean climate helps regulate the temperature from becoming too hot and provides ideal conditions to grow white and red varietals.
The Amalfi coast and the islands of Ischia and Capri are huge tourist attractions that produce some local wines that get consumed in the restaurants and bars during the holiday seasons. The one-dimensional Biancolella and Falanghina summer wines are the most popular. Interesting reds are made from the Piedirosso and Guarnaccia grapes. DOC law requires wines must be aged for a minimum of 90 days in bottle before release, these are usually light and unoaked, ideal for pairing with seafood.
For more respected wines, you need to look at examples from the Avellino and Benevento provinces. Fiano and Greco-based whites are crisp, dry and carry the minerality they achieve from volcanic-based soils. A little bit of sparkling is also produced from Greco.
Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino have both achieved the DOCG status for white wines.
Aglianico-based reds from Taurasi are the best representations for powerful, age-worthy reds. The vineyards are located on rolling mountains just 10-15 miles from the coast. Aglianico is often compared to Nebbiolo, due to the similarities in tannins, high acidity, and weight. There are some similar dried-fruit flavors, yet I find good Aglianico can show brilliant minerality, spiciness and earth in its’ youth. Aglianco del Taburno is produced in the province of Benevento and has recently been elevated to DOCG status for the rosé, red and riserva.
For value-seekers, you can find plenty from the designations Irpinia DOC and Vesuvio DOC, the latter best known for Lacyrma Christi, literally translates to “tears of Christ” from an old myth that Christ, crying over Lucifer's fall from heaven, cried his tears on the land and gave divine inspiration to the vines that grew there. The white wines are mainly made from Verdeca and Coda di Volpe grapes, with a little Falanghina and Greco.
Wine growing in Campania, as in other parts of southern Italy, struggles with economic and social hardships found in the regions. With an increase interest for unique wines with terroir and value, wine lovers are seeking out top producers. Most of the quality wines are still made by family-run wineries, small and unfamiliar with the complex landscape of exporting their wines around the world and presenting to international critics. The select producers that have put Campania on the map include Feudi di San Gregorio, Mastroberardrino, Montevetrano and few others.
Today the emerging producers are delivering an impressive lineup of wines, meritorious of any wine list in the world.
These are a few available from Tenzing's importers.
Cantina del Taburno, located at the mountainside of Taburno, is owned by the agricultural Consortium of Benevento. The Consortium was established in 1901, and it had an extremely important role in the development of agriculture in the Sannio area. The winery was built in 1972 in the township of Foglianise and it is a point of reference for viticulture, due to its production philosophy and for its positive impact on the economy. The grapes that are vinified at Cantina del Taburno are grown by 300 viticulturists associated with the Consortium. The total vineyard extension is approximately 600 hectares within the zones of towns on the slopes of Mount Taburno : Foglianise, Torrecuso, Vitulano, Campoli del Monte Taburno, Castelpoto, Apollosa, Bonea, Montesarchio, Ponte, Tocco Caudio, Paupisi and Benevento. The wines are the result of a careful and rigorous research work in the viticultural and oenological sectors. The strict technical assistance of a group of technicians to the vignerons, the selection of the most suitable viticulturists, the analytical criteria for grape quality, the definition of the production process based on the characteristics of the raw material, the control of all production phases from grape production to wine making, make up the essence of Cantina del Taburno.
Falanghina del Sannio
The Romano family has had a passion for viticulture for generations. The estate was established in 1994. It is managed by Clelia together with her husband Angelo and her son and daughter Federico and Carmela and with the collaboration of the oenologist Angelo Pizzi and the agronomist Maurizio Petrillo. Colli di Lapio is located at Araniello, a small district of the commune of Tufo in Irpinia. The altitude is approx. 550 meters above sea level, the climate is dry and airy and the soil is mainly calcareous-clayey. All these conditions together with a wide day-night temperature range make this an extremely suitable zone for the growing of the Fiano grape varietal. Furthermore, Lapio is one of the few communes where both the Fiano di Avellino DOCG and the Taurasi DOCG are found. This estate focussed on enhancing the quality of the Fiano varietal producing an excellent wine that won awards since its first vintage. Clelia Romano also offers an Irpinia Aglianico and a Taurasi which are made from 4 hectares of vineyards the grape production of which is supervised by the family.
Fiano di Avellino
Taurasi Vigna Andrea
Salvatore Molettieri, the talented owner of the estate, comes from an old farming family and manages his estate together with his son Giovanni, a trained oenologist. The first wine was bottled with the 1988 vintage and the vineyards now extend for twelve hectares in Montemarano historically one of the two finest crus of the appellation, at 550 meters altitude. Perfect ripening here occurs in the first week of November, yielding a wine of powerful authority and concentration. Salvatore Molettieri produces Taurasi of a grandeur to rival the greatest wines of Piedmont and Tuscany. Today Salvatore's estate can be considered one of the finest in Italy. In order to emphasize the evolution of wine made with Aglianico, since 2005 the range of wines consists of: a Taurasi DOCG (aged for 3 years in oak); a Taurasi Riserva DOCG (aged for 4 years in oak) and an Irpinia Aglianico DOC (aged for 12 months in oak). All these wines are finished in the bottle for 5 or 6 months before being released. Salvatore and Giovanni also supervise the grape production in vineyards in the zones of Montefusco and of Lapio from which they make a Greco di Tufo DOCG and a Fiano di Avellino DOCG.
Irpinia Campi Taurasini
Vinosia is young project founded by Mario and Luciano Ercolino, whose family founded Feudi di San Gregorio where Mario was formerly the head winemaker. In 2003, Mario and Luciano set out to make their own wines and founded Vinosia, a new place of wine. The winery is located in the township of Carazita, 5km from Taurasi, in a village called Luogosano (meaning healthy place). Mario oversees the winemaking process with the highest level of precision and care, while Luciano manages marketing and distribution. Together, they are dedicated to expressing the potential and character of the region's wines by putting a modern spin on native varieties.
Fiano di Avellino
Greco di Tufo