Let’s kick off summer with some new and obscure white wines from Campania, Italy.
Campania is located in the lower ‘shin of the Italian boot’ on the western side of the peninsula. This sun-soaked hilly region has been revitalized in terms of viticulture over the past two decades. Poverty reigns in this region, and the hope is that a revitalized wine industry will assist in the economic prosperity of this earthquake-riddled land. Tourists who visit Capri, Naples and the Amalfi coast get an entirely different picture than what lies in the interior.
Mount Vesuvius is responsible for the region’s volcanic soils, which offer excellent conditions for growing grapes. Combined with relatively warm and dry conditions, this area has excellent potential that is finally being recognized. Over the past couple decades, producers have begun limiting yields, harvesting earlier and fermenting the grapes at cooler temperatures. Reducing the amount of grape clusters to limit the yields results in wines of greater concentration and power. Earlier harvesting creates more acidic and less alcoholic wines. And cooler and longer fermentation results in more aromatic and fresher wines.
Amongst the most famous is Fiano di Avellino. One interesting thing to note with Italian wines is that the grape variety is often included in the name of the wines. Fiano is the grape variety from Avellino, which lies east of Naples. The Romans named it “vitas apian” or “beloved of bees.” These medium body wines offer aromatics of pears, blossoms and hazelnuts. They are typically unoaked, which aids in the wines retaining their fresh and vibrant acidity.
Greco di Tufo is lesser-known but equally respected for its delicacies. Again, the grape variety is Greco from the village of Tufo, which lies just north Avallino. Greco offers a slightly softer and lusher wine with notably lower acidity. It is still in the realm of being clean and crisp but with a softer more delicate edge. These light to medium body wines offer notes of peaches and almonds.
Perhaps the most exuberant and lesser-known white wine from Campania is Falanghina. This wine offers eye-brow-raising acidity that is comparable to the tart New Zealand sauvignon blancs but offers a more supple mouthfeel and texture. These medium body wines include aromatics of green apple, pear, flower blossoms and almonds.
As a whole, the white wines of Campania offer wines with more character and personality than the rest of Italy’s white wines. They certainly fit in the school of “crisp and clean” versus “rich and round.” Chardonnay drinkers may not find these wines the most rewarding for their palates. The refreshing personality of these wines makes them great afternoon porch wines, along with pasta primavera, roasted vegetables, herbed chicken or simple hors d’oeuvres. Also appealing is their affordability which typically is under $20.
Alan Cuenca is an accredited oenophile and owner of Put a Cork in It, a Durango wine store. Reach him at email@example.com.