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 Editorial  Share this article     Summary of ABC Wine column Wine Tasting 
  ABC Wine Issue 45, October 2006   
CampaniaCampania  Contents 
Issue 44, September 2006 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 46, November 2006

Campania

Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Taurasi: the three most famous wines of Campania, expression of three extraordinary white and red grapes, excellent representatives of an ancient wine culture

 Campania is an enchanting region according to many aspects. History, culture, art and tradition, have always distinguished this ancient land in every aspect of the social life of its people. In culture and tradition of Campania, wine and food have always played a fundamental role, an indissoluble element with the history of this region. According to a viticultural point of view, Campania is a land capable of telling tens of charming stories in the form of the many autochthonous grapes of this region and the many wines for which it is famous, including Falerno, one of the most ancient wines in Italy and which honored the enology of the boot even before the times of ancient Romans. Despite how much the history of Falerno wine can be enchanting, Campania is more than that, a group of small and big local realities, each of them expression of an absolutely unique world and tradition.

 Wine making tradition in Campania has very ancient origins dated back before the times of ancient Romans. It will however be during the period of the Roman Empire Campania will begin to flourish and develop, its wines will also be shipped outside the borders of our country. It is said ancient Romans, and in particular Roman emperors, had a particular predilection for wines from Campania. Thanks to the favorable climate conditions and the particular quality of the soil, in this region have formed very good conditions for the cultivation of vine and the production of wine. Many famous wines of the past were produced in Campania: Caleno, Faustiniano and, in particular, Falerno, considered at those times a very precious wines as to have no rivals. In fact, many authors of those times praised the qualities of Falerno wine, including Pliny the Elder. The enological splendor of Campania at those times also allowed the development and the improvement of viticultural and wine making practices.


The main wine areas of Campania
The main wine areas of Campania

 The history of the enology in Campania began with the arrival of ancient Greeks in the lands which will be later called Magna Graecia. It is very likely it were Greeks who introduced seeds of vitis vinifera in Campania, as most of the grapes today considered as autochthonous have Greek origins. The main autochthonous grapes of Campania, such as Aglianico, Greco Bianco, Fiano, Falanghina, Biancolella and Piedirosso, are probably of Greek origins. In particular Aglianico, whose name is supposed to come from the ancient city of Elea (the modern Novi Velia) and therefore Eleanico, or from the corruption of the name Ellenico, that is “from Greece”. The influence in wine making cultures of ancient Greeks is still today visible in the cultivation techniques of “alberello” and in the way vines are pruned. The contribution of Greeks will be fundamental for the success of Campanian wines in Roman times.

 During Roman times, Pompeii become a very important city for wine, not only for the considerable number of taverns present here - and in which Falerno was always found - in particular for being the main commercial city in Campania for the trading of wine. From the ports of Pozzuoli and Sinuessa were in fact shipped tens of thousands hectoliters of wines to the countries of the Mediterranean countries and Gaul. The prestige of Falerno was such that an amphora of this wine could even cost the price of a slave. Unfortunately, of the ancient Falerno there are no reliable information about its production and in particular its grapes. Pliny the Elder wrote this wine was produced with the Falerna or Falernina grape, whereas Virgil supported the idea it was produced with the ancient Aminee grapes coming from Tessalia. The prestige of the renowned Falerno ended with the fate of Roman empire: from excellent wine it became an unknown wine with a deplorable worsening in quality.


 

 With the end of Roman empire, begins the decay of Campanian enology: from producers of great and refined wines, it quickly became an area completely uninterested in wines, up to Medieval times, one of the darkest periods for vine and wine of this region. One of the most probable causes for the decay was the fact in Campania - as opposed to what was common elsewhere - the production of wine was mainly done by small producers: here did not happen the strong influence of monasteries and their keeping and development in the wine making. However, also in Medieval times, some of the wines of Campania had a moderate success. At the court of Frederick II was in fact present Fiano and in 1300s was the turn of Asprinio, still cultivated today by some producers according to the ancient “married vine” training system, a sign of Etruscan culture in these lands. The strong acidity of Asprinio made it clear in 1300s its potentialities for the production of sparkling wines, and in 1700s many French and Hungarian businessmen were coming to Aversa in order to buy grapes to be used for the production of their wines with bubbles.

 A new success, although modest, for Campanian wines will happen during the renaissance and baroque periods. It was in fact in these periods the enology of Campania was represented by the famous wines Mangiaguerra, Aglianico, Asprinio, Fistignano, Falanghina, Corsara, Cerella, Lagrima, Coda di Cavallo and the many types produced with Greco grapes. The 1700s will see a new decay for Campanian enology, period in which only the appreciated grapes Pallagrello Bianco and Nero caught some interest, and after a period in which they were almost forgotten, they have been recently rediscovered. Despite oidium and phylloxera arrived in Campania in later times than elsewhere, viticulture was drastically damaged. After a non truly noble period, passed between the recovery of the ancient heritage and the introduction of new varieties, Campania enology will resume its development in quality from the 1980s on. In the last twenty years, wines from Campania are getting more and more successful, also catching the attention of many consumers, both for white and red wines. Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino, Falanghina, Taurasi and the many expressions of the powerful Aglianico, are only some of the many grapes making Campania one of the most interesting Italian regions according to a wine making point of view.

 

Classification of Campania

 The wines of Campania, just like any other region in Italy, are classified according to the quality system in force in the country. For many years, the powerful Taurasi was the only wine in Campania to be recognized with the Denominazione d'Origine Controllata e Garantita (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin). As of 2003, Taurasi is not alone in this category anymore, as it was joined in the DOCG category also by the two other pearls of regional enology: Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino. In the region are also produced interesting wines classified in the category of Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) (Geographical Typical Indication), produced both with autochthonous and “international” grapes. In Campania are currently defined 18 Denominazione d'Origine Controllata areas (Denomination of Controlled Origin): Aglianico del Taburno, Aversa, Campi Flegrei, Capri, Castel San Lorenzo, Cilento, Costa d'Amalfi, Falerno del Massico, Galluccio, Guardiolo or Guardia Sanframondi, Irpinia, Ischia, Penisola Sorrentina, Sannio, Sant'Agata dei Goti, Solopaca, Taburno and Vesuvio.

 

Production Areas

 Wine production in Campania is made all over the region, however there is a higher concentration in the provinces of Avellino - area from which come Taurasi, Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino - and Benevento, whose wines mainly belong to the interesting Sannio and Taburno DOCs. The ampelographic heritage of Campania is extremely rich, in particular of autochthonous grapes, which after having been ignored for years in favor of “international” varieties - and the same was happening in other Italian region as well - in the 1990s they have been rediscovered and revaluated the way they certainly deserve. The most interesting wines in Campania are in fact produced with autochthonous grapes, both white and red, an authentic treasure of which the region takes advantage, therefore characterizing the enological production of Campania. In this sense, the example of Campania should also be followed elsewhere in Italy, as every region of the boot is rich in autochthonous grapes which could made every wine area absolutely unique.

 In wines produced in Campania it is in fact pretty rare to find in blends the presence of “international” grapes: the part of the protagonist in this region goes to autochthonous grapes. Among autochthonous white berried grapes of Campania are mentioned Asprinio, Falanghina, Fiano, Greco Bianco, Coda di Volpe, Pallagrello Bianco, Biancolella and Forastera. Also interesting the group of the autochthonous red berried grapes, beginning with Aglianico - the king of this region - to which are joined Piedirosso (here called Per'e Palummo, Pigeon foot), Sciascinoso, Pallagrello Nero and Casavecchia. In particular, Casavecchia, which was forgotten for years and recently revaluated with very good results, is a grape with excellent qualities capable of making wines of good elegance and deeply colored, as its content in anthocyanins is higher than Aglianico. Among the wine areas in Campania, a particular mention should go to the heroic and tenacious viticulture done in the islands of the region, in particular Ischia, in which it is found a production of excellent white wines with Biancolella and Forastera grapes.

 

Taurasi and Aglianico

 Aglianico is the grape which more than any other else, has allowed red wines of Campania to be known outside regional borders. Despite Aglianico is cultivated everywhere in this region, the most typical area is Irpinia, in the province of Avellino, where it is being produced the most representative red wine of Campania: Taurasi. Also known as the Barolo from the South, Taurasi is a wine produced with 100% Aglianico, very rich, concentrated and complex, elegant and surprising: a wine which hardly goes unnoticed to connoisseurs. In Campania, Aglianico does not mean Taurasi only. With this excellent grape are in fact produced the interesting red wines of Taburno as well, in the province of Benevento, another good area for red wines produced with this grape. In the province of Benevento, Aglianico is also the protagonist of the reds in the Sannio area. Moreover, Aglianico is also the main grape for the production of wines in the DOC area of Falerno del Massico, in the province of Caserta.

 

Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino

 Among the many white wines of Campania, two in particular have become successful outside this region, also obtaining, in 2003, the Denominazione d'Origine Controllata e Garantita status (DOCG, Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin). Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino, both produced in the province of Avellino, are in fact the most famous white wines of Campania, including the ones produced with the excellent Falanghina. Greco di Tufo, which takes its name from the homonymous village and which is also produced as a sparkling wine, is mainly made with Greco Bianco grape and a small percentage of Coda di Volpe, it is a dry white wine with good body and pretty crisp. Fiano di Avellino is more aromatic, thanks to the contribution of the homonymous grape, which Latins were used to call Apianum (bee's grape), because bees were used to stay in hanged clusters to be dried for the production of sweet wines. Fiano di Avellino is an elegant wine with surprising aromas, however complex and with a good body, which is sometimes enhanced by the aging in cask, a technique used by some local producers.

 

Other Production Areas

 There are many interesting wine areas in Campania, including the ones in province of Caserta, in particular Aversa, homeland of the famous Asprinio, and Falerno del Massico, the area which keeps alive, although with completely different wines, the glorious past of the renowned wine which was appreciated in ancient times. The area of Vesuvio is distinguished for its Lacryma Christi, appreciated in the 1500s as a sweet wine, today it is mainly produced as a dry white, red or rose wine. Of particular interest is the enchanting island of Ischia where are being produced excellent white wines with Forastera and Biancolella grapes, and reds with Piedirosso grape. In the area of Benevento is to be mentioned the wide area of Sannio, where are found many cooperative wineries, and from which are being produced interesting white and red wines. A particular mention goes to the revaluation of three ancient grapes and that today, thanks to the tenacity of few producers in the province of Caserta, continue to give pleasing and interesting wines: Pallagrello Bianco, Pallagrello Nero and Casavecchia.

 




 Editorial  Share this article     Summary of ABC Wine column Wine Tasting 
  ABC Wine Issue 45, October 2006   
CampaniaCampania  Contents 
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