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Campania Wine

Campania Wine

Campania, nestled in the heart of southern Italy, is a region where history and culture converge in a tapestry of flavors, aromas, and landscapes. The region's wine, steeped in ancient tradition, stands as a testament to the enduring relationship between the land and its people. From the rolling hills shadowed by Mount Vesuvius to the breezy coastal terraces overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, Campanian wines capture the essence of its diverse terroir in each bottle.

Historical Vines: The Ancestral Saga of Campanian Viticulture

Campania's winemaking history is as ancient as the myths that shroud its past. Greek colonists planted the first vineyards, bestowing upon Campania the gift of viticulture, a legacy that has evolved through Roman times to the present day. The region’s wines were celebrated across the ancient world; the Romans, for example, prized the Falernian wine above all others, a wine believed to have originated from the ager Falernus in Campania’s northern reaches.

Volcanic Virtues: The Terroir's Influence on Campanian Wines

The volcanic soils, particularly those near Mount Vesuvius, impart a unique minerality to the wines. This distinctive terroir is not only rich in mineral content but also in its ability to retain water, providing vines with much-needed moisture during the hot summers. This results in wines with a complex bouquet, ranging from the citrusy, nutty flavors of whites like Fiano and Falanghina to the bold, tannic structure of Aglianico-based reds.

The Grape Varietals: Indigenous Jewels of Campania

Campania is home to an array of indigenous grape varieties, each with its own story and character.

  • Aglianico: The backbone of the famed Taurasi DOCG, Aglianico is the quintessential Campanian red, known for its powerful tannic structure and aging potential.
  • Fiano: With its floral and honeyed notes, Fiano di Avellino DOCG is a white varietal that expresses finesse and complexity.
  • Greco: Greco di Tufo DOCG produces white wines that balance acidity and minerality, often with a touch of pear or peach notes.
  • Falanghina: This variety produces wines that are refreshingly crisp and often exhibit flavors of green apple and citrus.
The Red Wines: From Vesuvius to the Apennines

Campania’s red wines are as varied as its landscapes. The Taurasi DOCG, made from Aglianico, offers wines of great longevity and intensity, often compared to the Barolos of Piedmont for their structure and capacity to mature gracefully. Slightly lesser known but equally intriguing are the Aglianico del Taburno and Cilento Aglianico, both DOC wines showcasing the adaptability of this varietal to different Campanian terroirs.

The White Wines: A Spectrum of Aromatics

The whites of Campania have surged in popularity, with Fiano di Avellino leading the way. Its aromatic profile is complex, sometimes evoking toasted hazelnuts and spices, balanced with a refreshing acidity. Greco di Tufo, meanwhile, offers a more mineral-driven profile, often with a crisp finish that makes it a favorite among white wine aficionados. Falanghina, for its part, serves as a more approachable but equally delightful wine, with a versatility that pairs well with Campania’s seafood cuisine.

The Rosés and Sparkling Wines: Celebratory and Evocative

Not to be overlooked are Campania’s rosés and sparkling wines. The region produces Rosato wines from Aglianico that are rich and savory, while the sparkling wines, particularly those made via the Metodo Classico from varieties like Fiano, are gaining acclaim for their quality and distinctive character.

Winemaking Renaissance: Innovation Meets Tradition

The past few decades have seen a renaissance in Campanian winemaking. Traditional methods are being honed with modern technology and knowledge, with a focus on organic and biodynamic practices. Producers are increasingly attentive to the expression of terroir in their wines, reducing yields to enhance concentration and character in the bottle.

Viticultural Zones: The Geographical Tapestry of Campania's Wines

Campania's viticultural zones are as distinct as the wines they produce:

  • Irpinia: Land of the Taurasi, Fiano di Avellino, and Greco di Tufo, Irpinia’s cooler climate and varied altitudes create a perfect environment for these expressive wines.
  • Sannio: Bordering Irpinia, Sannio’s vineyards are known for their Falanghina and Aglianico, capturing the region's rugged terrain in their profiles.
  • Cilento: This coastal area benefits from the sea’s influence, producing both robust reds and lively whites.
  • Vesuvius: The volcanic slopes here are home to the Lacryma Christi DOC, offering both red and white wines that embody the mineral-rich soils of their origins.
The Winemakers: Guardians of Campania's Wine Legacy

Campanian winemakers range from small, family-run estates to larger, more experimental producers. They are the guardians of the region’s wine legacy, each with their own philosophy but all sharing a commitment to showcasing the potential of Campanian viticulture.

Pairing Campanian Wines: A Culinary Journey

Campania's wines are intrinsically linked to its rich culinary heritage. The structured reds complement the hearty, rustic dishes like ragù napoletano, while the aromatic whites pair elegantly with the freshest seafood, from octopus salad to linguine alle vongole.

The Global Stage: Campania’s Wine Identity

As Campanian wines gain international recognition, the challenge for the region lies in balancing growth with authenticity. Winemakers are eager to introduce the world to the depth and diversity of their wines without sacrificing the individuality that makes them unique.

The Future: Sustainability and Innovation in Campania

Looking forward, sustainability is key. The region's wineries are increasingly investing in sustainable practices to protect their heritage. At the same time, there’s a spirit of innovation that promises to take Campanian wines to new heights, experimenting with aging processes and blending techniques while respecting the traditional characteristics of each varietal.

Conclusion: A Toast to Campania's Wines

Campania's wines are more than a product; they are a celebration of culture, history, and terroir. With each vintage, winemakers narrate the story of their land, a story of volcanic soils and sun-drenched coasts, ancient traditions, and a bright future. As the world’s thirst for new and unique wines grows, Campania’s offerings stand ready to satisfy connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike with their distinctive character and enduring charm.

In raising a glass of Campanian wine, one not only savors the flavors of southern Italy but also partakes in a legacy that is both ancient and ever-evolving. It’s a narrative steeped in the land, told through the vine, and alive in every bottle. Here’s to the enduring and enchanting elixirs of Campania.

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Notable Wines from Campania

Campania, with its rich historical viticulture, boasts a wide variety of wines, primarily derived from indigenous grape varieties. Here’s a list of some of the region’s most notable wines:

Red Wines:
  • Taurasi DOCG: Often referred to as the "Barolo of the South," Taurasi is made primarily from Aglianico and is known for its capacity to age gracefully.
  • Aglianico del Taburno DOCG: Another expression of the Aglianico grape, producing full-bodied and robust wines.
  • Falerno del Massico DOC: Made from Aglianico and Piedirosso, this ancient wine was once esteemed by Roman emperors.
  • Piedirosso: This lesser-known red grape produces medium-bodied wines with soft tannins, often consumed young.
  • Cilento Aglianico DOC: Showcases the adaptability of Aglianico in the coastal areas of Cilento.
White Wines:
  • Fiano di Avellino DOCG: A white wine that is aromatic and ages well, with notes of hazelnuts, herbs, and honey.
  • Greco di Tufo DOCG: A minerally white with a good structure, often showing ripe pear, peach, and almond nuances.
  • Falanghina: Crisp and refreshing, with bright acidity and notes of citrus and apple.
  • Asprinio di Aversa DOC: Known for its sharp acidity, this is a lesser-known variety often used for sparkling wines.
  • Coda di Volpe: A white wine grape that produces full-bodied wines, sometimes with a smoky character.
Rosé Wines:
  • Aglianico Rosé: Often made in a dry style, these rosé wines balance the robust character of Aglianico with a lighter, fresher profile.
Sparkling Wines:
  • Falanghina Spumante: The sparkling version of Falanghina, showing lively effervescence and freshness.
Dessert Wines:
  • Passito di Pantelleria: Though not exclusive to Campania, this sweet wine made from dried grapes (Zibibbo, or Muscat of Alexandria) can be found in the region, showing concentrated flavors of apricot and honey.
Wines from Specific Zones:
  • Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC: Available in white, red, and rosé variants, these wines come from the slopes of Mount Vesuvius and include a mix of several local grape varieties.
  • Ischia DOC: Wines from the volcanic island of Ischia, including whites from Biancolella and Forastera grapes, and reds from Guarnaccia and Piedirosso.
  • Penisola Sorrentina DOC: Known for both red and white wines from local grape varieties, reflecting the terroir of the Sorrentine Peninsula.
  • Sannio DOC: Encompassing a range of wines made from Aglianico, Falanghina, Greco, and Fiano in the province of Benevento.
Experimental and IGT Wines:
  • Campania IGT: A category that allows winemakers to experiment with non-traditional blends and varietals.
  • Beneventano IGT: Wines that may not adhere to the strict DOC or DOCG regulations but can showcase the quality of the region's diverse terroir.

These wines represent the wealth of Campania's wine production, which is characterized by a deep respect for traditional grape varieties and an eagerness to present them in both classic and innovative ways. Each wine carries the signature of its local climate and the volcanic influence of the region, making Campanian wines truly unique on the world stage.

Italian Wines
  • Italian Red Grapes
    • Sangiovese

      • The most well known of the Italian grapes and responsible for the famous Tuscan wines. Using tradional techniques, the wines are earthy, full of cherry fruit and cedar. The wines produced include such famous names as: Chianti, Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, Montefalco Rosso. The "Super-Tuscans", produced for the international market, blend the Sangiovese grape with Bordeaux varietals such as: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and often used French oak barrels to age.

    • Nebbiolo

      • Translated, the name means: "Little Fog", which refers to the autumn fog common in the region of Piedmont where it is grown. The grape seems to like these conditions but is difficult to cultivate otherwise. It is responsible for the famous wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, both produced in the Cuneo province of Piedmont. Barolo is often kept for more than 50 years, and is considered by many to be the greatest wine produced in Italy.

    • Montepulciano

      • This grape is planted in Abruzzo,and should not be confused with the town of the same name in Tuscany. It produces a wine with silky plum-like fruit, friendly acidity, and light tannin, recent bottles have improved greatly on those in the past.

    • Barbera

      • This grape is the most widely grown in Piedmont and southern Lombardy, particularly around the towns of Asti, Alba and Pavia. Previously, the Barbera wines were considered a poor alternative to Barolo, but recently they have improved dramatically. The wine has bright cherry fruit, a very dark color, and a food-friendly acidity. It is being produced increasingly for the international market.

    • Corvina

      • This is the grape that makes Valpolicella and Amarone, the best known wines of the Veneto. Valpolicella has dark cherry fruit and spice. If the grapes are dried, a process called "passito", they produce a wine called Amarone. Some are aged for more than 40 years and can command extremely high prices. Amarone di Valpolicella was awarded DOCG status in 2009.

    • Nero dAvola

      • A native varietal of Sicily, this grape was virtually unheard of a few years ago. Now, the quality of the wine is improving steadily and it is becoming increasingly popular on the international market for its plummy fruit and sweet tannins.

    • Dolcetto

      • This grape is called "Little Sweet One", because it is easy to grow and produces great wines for everyday drinking. It is grown alongside the Barbera and Nebbiola grapes in Piedmont and produces wine with flavors of concord grape, wild blackberries and herbs.

    • Negroamaro

      • Translated, the name means "Black and Bitter". It is grown extensively in the region of Puglia where it is used to produce the Salento wines: spicy, toasty, and full of dark red fruits.

    • Aglianico

      • Considered by many to be the "Noble Varietal of the south" Aglianico grapes are primarily grown in the regions of Campania and Basilicata. The name is derived from Hellenic, so the grape is considered to be a Greek transplant. Thick skinned and spicy, the wines are often both rustic and powerful.

    • Sagrantino

      • This grape is native to Umbria. It is only planted on 250 hectares, but the wines produced from it are world-renowned. Inky purple, with rustic brooding fruit and heavy tannins, these wines can age for many years.

    • Malvasia Nera

      • Red Malvasia varietal from Piedmont. A sweet and perfumed wine, sometimes elaborated in the passito style.

Other major red varieties are Ciliegolo, Gaglioppo, Lagrein, Lambrusco, Monica, Nerello Mascalese, Pignolo, Primitivo (Zinfandel in California), Refosco, Schiava, Schiopettino, Teroldego, and Uva di Troia. "International" varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc are also widely grown.

  • Italian White Grapes
    • Catarratto

      • This is the most widely planted white varietal in Salaparuta, south western Sicily.

    • Trebbiano

      • This is the most widely planted white varietal in Italy. It is grown throughout the country, with a special focus on the wines from Abruzzo and from Lazio, including Frascati. Mostly, they are pale, easy drinking wines, but trebbiano from producers such as Valentini have been known to age for 15+ years. It is known as Ugni Blanc in France.

    • Moscato

      • Grown mainly in Piedmont, it is mainly used in the slightly-sparkling (frizzante), semi-sweet Moscato d"Asti. Not to be confused with moscato giallo and moscato rosa, two Germanic varietals that are grown in Trentino- Alto-Adige.

    • Nuragus

      • An ancient Phoenician varietal found in southern Sardegna. Light and tart wines that are drunk as an apertif in their homeland.

    • Pinot Grigio

      • A hugely successful commercial grape (known as Pinot Gris in France), its wines are characterized by crispness and cleanness. As a hugely mass-produced wine, it is usually delicate and mild, but in a good producers" hands, the wine can grow more full-bodied and complex. The main problem with the grape is that to satisfy the commercial demand, the grapes are harvested too early every year, leading to wines without character.

    • Tocai Friulano

      • A varietal distantly related to Sauvignon Blanc, it yields the top wine of Friuli, full of peachiness and minerality. Currently, there is a bit of controversy regarding the name, as the EC has demanded it changed to avoid confusion with the Tokay dessert wine from Hungary.

    • Ribolla Gialla

      • A Slovenian grape that now makes its home in Friuli, these wines are decidedly old-world, with aromas of pineapple and mustiness.

    • Arneis

      • A crisp and floral varietal from Piedmont, which has been grown there since the 15th century.

    • Malvasia Bianca

      • Another white varietal that peeks up in all corners of Italy with a wide variety of clones and mutations. Can range from easy quaffers to funky, musty whites.

    • Pigato

      • A heavily acidic varietal from Liguria, the wines are vinified to pair with a cuisine rich in seafood.

    • Fiano
      • Grown on the southwest coast of Italy, the wines from this grape can be described as dewy and herbal, often with notes of pinenut and pesto.
    • Garganega

      • The main grape varietal for wines labeled Soave, this is a crisp, dry white wine from the Veneto wine region of Italy. It"s a very popular wine that hails from northeast Italy around the city of Verona. Currently, there are over 3,500 distinct producers of Soave.

    • Vermentino

      • This is widely planted in northern Sardinia and also found in Tuscan and Ligurian coastal districts. Wines are particularly popular to accompany fish and seafood.

    • Verdicchio

      • This is grown in the areas of Castelli di Jesi and Matelica in the Marche region and gives its name to the varietal white wine made from it. The name comes from "verde" (green). The white wines are noted for their high acidity and a characteristic nutty flavour with a hint of honey.

Other important whites include Carricante, Catarratto, Coda de Volpe, Cortese, Falanghina, Grechetto, Grillo, Inzolia, Picolit, Traminer, Verduzzo, and Vernaccia. As far as non-native varietals, the Italians plant Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer (sometimes called traminer aromatico), Riesling, Petite Arvine, and many others.

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