Exploring Campania Wines

Photo Credit Vinosia

Photo Credit Vinosia Santandrea Taurasi

Italy produces some of the most exceptional wines of the world, where wine is grown throughout all its regions. Some of the most unique wines of Italy come from Campania.  Campania, known for its coastal beauty, culinary delights(pizza, limoncello, and mozzarella), and the glitz of the Amalfi coast, has quietly been making wines for centuries.   Recently I had the opportunity to do a through deep dive into the wines of Campania.  The wines from Campania are extremely special and distinctive, and can stand up to some of the most prominent wines of the world.

Photo Credit Vinepair

Photo Credit Vinepair

Campania famous for the Amalfi coast is scenically beautiful throughout all its regions. Known for volcanic soils(notably Mount Vesuvius), it produces red and white wines that are elegantly expressive and bursting with minerality.  When thinking of Campania and southern Italy, generally wines don’t come to mind, as the region can be quite hot, but further inland wine is grown on the higher elevations of the mountainous slopes of Campania.  The region has a deep, rich history for winemaking, dating back 3000 years to the Greeks.  Present day winemakers have embraced modern-day winemaking techniques but have also maintained  its deep-rooted grape growing traditions.  As this region continues to have a modern-day renaissance of its wines , it continues to grow grapes that are native and unique to the region.

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The wines of Campania are so varied, it is home to over 100 local grape varietals, many only grown in this region. However, there are three main white grapes that are most famous in this region, Greco di Tufo, Falanghina, and Fiano.  The most predominant red grape of the region is Aglianico, produced in and around the ancient town of Taurasi.  Aglianico is one of the greatest grapes of Italy, and can hold its own next to the well-known superstars of the north, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo.

Greco Di Tufo is a crisp white grape varietal that has wonderful minerality, representing the volcanic soil of the region.  Grown around the town of Tufo, named for it tuffaceous soils.  There is great variations in these wines, depending on the altitude it is grown.  Many of the wines are grown at 400 meters and are hand-picked.  There is wonderful freshness, acidity and minerality with notes of lemon, almond and citrus.  These wines offer wonderful value with many selling in the $10 to $20 range.

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Falanghina is one of the oldest grape varietals in this region, but was mainly used as a blending grape in other wines.  In the late 1970’s Leonardo Mustilli bottled the first single-varietal Falanghina wine.  Mustilli was the first producer to make 100% Falanghina wine.  With the pioneering efforts of Mustilli, the Falanghina grape was revived from obscurity and now there are over five millions bottles of Falanghina produced every year, a true success story for Campania and Italy as a whole.  The wines are rich in texture and are highly aromatic with notes of citrus, lemon, spice and stone fruit.  Many Falanghina wines have wonderful salinity as the grapes are grown close to the coast.

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Fiano is one of my most beloved Italian wine.   In Campania this varietal is mostly grown around Avellino.  It is a wine with impressive quality.  These beautiful yet intense white wines are age worthy and exhibit wonderful minerality, with aromas of floral, honey and fruits.  The wines are medium to full body, with age many of these wines begin to exhibit a distinct hazelnut quality.  Fiano has had a modern-day renaissance as winemaking techniques have greatly improved in the region.

Aglianico, the superstar of the south has its best expressions from Taurasi.  Aglianico grapes are grown in the steep vineyards of Taurasi, on the hills of Irpinia, boasting rich volcanic soils.  The topography of this region, makes the wines so interesting.  The soils are calcareous and volcanic and grown at elevations of 500+ meters above sea level.  The limestone in the soil is the key to the intense tannic structure found in Taurasi wines.  The volcanic soils give a smoky and earthy quality to these wines.  Taurasi wines are often referred to as the Barolo of the south as they have similar structure in terms of their acidity and tannins.  Aglianico is indigenous to Campania and is one of its most important grapes of the region.  Taurasi wines are known for high ripeness, high acidity and high tannins. These wine are extremely age worthy.   Taurasi wines are earthy and exhibit very little fruit.  It is an assertive grape, but often times made with elegance and balance.  The popularity of these wines is a recent phenomenon.  Prior to 1990, the Mastroberardino Family was the only family producing wines in Taurasi.  They were the largest landowners in this region for several hundreds of years.  The Mastroberardino family raised awareness and popularity of these wines and today there are over 300 producers in the region. Taurasi wines are beautifully intense wines that demand attention in your cellar.

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Experience the wines of Campania, a region full of rich history and tradition.  Expand your palate with the aromatic whites that burst with minerality and indulge in the earthy, expressive wines of Taurasi.  A region that values it wine making tradition, yet has embraced innovative winemaking methods, creative cellaring techniques and new styles of harvest management. Taste for yourself, the modern-day wine making renaissance of this ancient grape growing region.

Recommended Wines

***   Greco Di Tufo   ***

Ciro Picariello Greco di Tufo 2014 $18

Donnachiara Greco di Tufo 2013 $14

Janare Sannio Greco 2014 $15

***   Falanghina   ***

I Pentri Flora Falanghina 2014 $18

Taburno Falanghina Del Sannio 2015 $16

***   Fiano   ***

Fattoria la Rivolta Fiano Taburno 2014 $20

I Capitani Fiano Di Avellino $20

Guido Marsella Fiano Di Avellino $23

***   Aglianico   ***

Donnachiara Taurasi 2011 $32

Nativ Eremo Taurasini 2010 $50

Cantine Lonardo Taurasi 2010 $45

Luigi Tecche Taurasi 2011 $75

Annona Aglianico 2013 $30

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