Campania on the western coast of southern Italy is home to a wealth of gastronomic delicacies. The birthplace of Pizza and Calzone, the region is renown for its Buffalo Mozzarella and Neapolitan pastries. Crucially though, Campania boasts several wines of international reputation placing it firmly and proudly on the Italian wine map.
Despite producing a number of reds it is in fact the white wines which have come to shape the region’s vinous identity. Four white varieties dominate; Fiano, Greco, Falanghina and Coda di Volpe all of which contribute to make a multidue of wines that seek to express the terroir of Campania.
Fiano di Avellino, which carries the DOCG status, is made with Fiano grape, grown as you might expect, around the town of Avellino. An indigenous grape to Campania, its quality has inspired plantings in both Sicily and Australia and while the area under vine remains small production is on the rise. The traditional Fiano is a wine of intense aroma, with wonderful perfumes of tropical fruit and honey. With age it will take on tertiary aromas of roasted nuts, spice and smoke. There are very few Fiano’s to be found at entry level prices mainly because the grape is low yielding but consequently the wine has a good concentration of flavour and with early ripening in that part of the world, Fiano can often have a good deal of weight and a hefty punch of alcohol. Nevertheless Fiano di Avellino is a wine of premium quality and perhaps the star of Campania’s wine portfolio.
Greco di Tufo is undoubtedly the other noble wine of the region. Like Fiano, Greco is primarily found in the province of Avellino, referred to in the wine trade as Irpinia, with the grape assumed to have ancient Greek origins. Red wines from Aglianico are also produced here, notably the DOCG classified Taurasi, however it is generally accepted that the micro climates around this region are more suited to white wines. Both the relative cool and higher rainfall facilitate an extended growing season which ultimately assists the development of complexity and distinct aromatics.
To make Greco di Tufo DOCG the vineyards must fall within the boundaries of nine nominated towns, of which Montefusco has emerged as the most prestigious location. Montefusco sits at an altitude of over 700 metres above sea level, consequently ensuring a cooler climate ripening season. The moderated temperatures certainly contribute to the quality of the wine but crucially in this part of Campania it is the sulphur rich volcanic soil that adds character and identity.
There are subtle differences that can be identified through extensive tasting, the most evident example of local terrior being the increased minerality around the town of Tufo, which takes its name from the volcanic tufo rock, which sitting at a lower altitude don’t doesn’t impart the same elegance and finesse as those wines from the town of Montefusco. Greco di Tufo is capable of ageing for a number of years and will take on a deep gold colour. Wines from the top producers will mature and develop complex flavours, although heavily reliant on food pairings. Greco di Tufo generally though is a wine that exudes the characteristics of the grape, typically seeing little oak, therefore resulting in an intensely flavoured, floral nose which merges into a palate packed with apricot, peach and almond.
Falanghina has been grown in southern Italy for centuries, thriving on the Irpinian hills to the eat of Naples in volcanic soils. Falanghina is another one of Italy’s ancient varieties that is now starting to gain popularity as wine consumers become more adventurous and look to move beyond the standard international varieties. Generally the wine is fresh and fragrant, unoaked to showcase the grapes natural aromas and flavours and amazingly food friendly. Straw yellow in colour the wines should demonstrate tropical fruits with an oily texture. Planted in all five provinces in Campania, Falanghina was until fairly recently considered nothing more than a basic wine, too high in acidity and with very little future. A new generation of winemakers have improved techniques in the vineyard and cellar, proving that quality wine can be made with this promising grape.
Finally, Coda di Volpe is a variety that has certainly not achieved any international notoriety and is perhaps more likely seen as a basic blending grape. There are however a few wines that look to harness the individual characteristics of the grape and produce wines of interest. It takes its ancient name from the idea that the grape bunches resembled fox tails, the Italian being coda di volpe. The wines tend to be golden yellow in colour with a lightly perfumed nose, good body and alcohol. The most notable wine that utilises the coda di volpe grape is Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Bianco. Legend has it, and there are endless variations of the theme, that Christ’s tears fell to earth and where they landed, the grapes grew to make Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio or Christs tears of Vesuvious.
This region is without doubt one to watch for exciting, fresh and fragrant white wines.