Posts tagged ‘campania white wine’
One Italian white wine, one red- one famous, one unknown – both great.
Today’s lesson on the joys and wonders of Italian wine has to do with the pleasure of discovering greatness in different places. I’m going to focus on two wines – one of which is famous and one of which is not. Both are remarkable wines.
The white wine – the one that’s not well known outside of its immediate zone – is the 2010 Terre del Principe Pallagrello Bianco. This small producer (less than 5000 cases per year) specializes in indigenous varieties in their territory, the province of Caserta in Campania. Now I love Campanian whites, but most of the examples I try are either Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino from the province of Irpinia (aka Avellino) or a wine made from Falanghina, which is planted in all five provinces of Campania. These wines are the calling cards for Campanian whites and they are enjoyed the world over.
But when it comes to Pallagrello Bianco (there is also a Rosso), this wine is rarely seen outside of its native surroundings. It’s suffered from a mistaken identity, as for years it was thought to be Coda di Volpe, a variety commonly used in Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Bianco, a charming, if ultimately a rather undistinguished white wine from vineyards not far from Vesuvius. Pallagrello yields a white wine of much greater complexity and Peppe Mancini and Manuela Piancastelli do a superb job in capturing all the glories of this variety. My notes for this 2010 – aged solely in steel tanks – list the inviting aromatics of lemon zest, grapefruit and orange poppies. This has excellent depth of fruit, beautiful texture and a long, very flavorful finish with lively acidity. This is elegant and quite delicious and it’s going to be quite a pleasure over the next 2-3 years, especially with lighter seafood. This is quite a vibrant white that has widespread appeal – I’d love to try this with Thai or other Oriental cuisine as well. (Suggested retail price of $34. Imported by Vias Wines, New York, NY).
As far as a red wine that every Italian wine lover knows, Brunello di Montalcino is at or near the top of the charts. This illustrious wine, produced exclusively from Sangiovese, is a world-class red that can age for decades. Col d’Orcia, under the leadership of Francesco Marone Cinzano, is one of the most renowned estates in Montalcino, crafting examples of Brunello of uncommon class and elegance.
The Poggio al Vento Riserva bottling is from a single vineyard planted in 1974; situated some 1150 feet above sea level, the soil here is primarily limestone with a strong presence of gravel. The wine is aged in large casks (botti grandi) of Slavonian as well as French oak for four years. It is then bottled and rests two years in the cellars before being released.
This long period of aging certainly helps refine the wine and give it a lengthy mid-palate with deep fruit flavors that coat every corner of your mouth. The 2004 bottling, just being released, is another exceptional example of this wine, one that is produced only from the finest vintages (the three previous releases were 2001, 1999 and 1998). There are textbook aromas of red cherry and cedar along with a hint of fennel; overall, the wine is beautifully structured with very good acidity, subtle wood notes and outstanding complexity. This should reach peak maturity in 20-25 years, although I may be a bit conservative in the guess, especially based on previous releases of this wine. It is a sublime example of what a great Brunello di Montalcino is all about.
The 2004 Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino Riserva “Poggio al Vento” has a suggested retail price of $150. Given the limited production (about 2000 cases for the entire world) as well as the fact that it is not produced every year along with the tremendous breeding and class of this wine, this price is undoubtedly just (there’s also the happy situation of this 2004 riserva just being released, while most producers are now offering their 2006s as their riserva). Imported by Palm Bay, Boca Raton, FL.
I have just returned from Campania where I toured vineyards in the Avellino province, home to two DOCG whites, Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino. The province is more commonly referred to by vintners and wine writers as Irpinia, its ancient name.
While Irpinia is also home to a famous DOCG red – Taurasi, produced from Aglianico – many believe this province is best suited to white varieties. Much of this has to do with the rainfall, which moderates temperatures, thus providing acidity and structure in the wines. The cool climate also benefits white grapes, assuring a long growing season, which in turn yields wines with more complex aromatics.
There are nine towns approved for vineyards for the production of Greco di Tufo, including Tufo, Santa Paolina and Montefusco. The name of the town of Tufo comes from the tufaceous soil, which is a yellowish clay that is easily broken up. Below is a photo of the Cutizzi vineyard of Feudi di San Gregorio, located in San Paolo, a frazione of Tufo. You can easily see the makeup of the tufo soil in this vineyard, one of the finest in the zone.
As for Fiano di Avellino, there are 26 towns where vineyards are permitted for production of this particular white, yet total acreage in this area is less than the nine towns of Greco di Tufo. The major towns for Fiano di Avellino include Montefalcione, Lapio, Sorbo Serpico and Santo Stefano del Sole.
Comparing the wines, Greco tends to be a bit lighter on the palate with notes of almond, while Fiano tends to offer notes of honey in the aromatics or in the finish. Both wines, especially selezioni or those made from a single vineyard (cru) can age well, sometimes as long as 10-15 years. Even in average vintages, both wines from the top producers age for 3-5 years; generally Fiano di Avellino ages longer than Greco di Tufo, though this is not always the case.
There are subtle differences among the wines and where the grapes are grown. For Greco, the town of Montefusco at 707 meters above sea level (about 2300 feet) is the high point of the zone. Grapes ripen later here thanks to the cooler temperatures and the wines are very high in acidity. In an area such as Tufo at a lower elevation, the wines have a more distinct mineral quality. The Cutizzi Greco of Feudi di San Gregorio is a prime example of this style, while the Nova Serra Greco from Mastroberardino is a flavorful and elegant bottling of the Montefusco style.
For Fiano, there are also differences due to origin. Near Sorbo Serpico or Santo Stefano del Sole, the wines are quite aromatic with good structure, while in the towns of Montefalcione and Lapio, the wines offer more mineral notes. The former style is represented by the Pietracalda bottling of Feudi di San Gregorio and the Radici bottling of Mastroberardino, while the latter style is evidenced in wines from Colli di Lapio, Joaquin, San Paolo (Montefredane), Vadiaperti (Aiperti) and Villa Diamante (Vigna della Congregazione).
What’s helpful about touring these vineyards and then tasting these wines is the sense of terroir. Few producers work with much oak for these wines, so the variety is the focal point, meaning the local terroir has a chance to emerge. We don’t often think about terroir for too many white wines, but I can promise you that sampling the best examples of Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino will be an educational and rewarding experience – as well as a most pleasant one!
In a few weeks, I’ll be at VinItaly, the huge wine fair held in Verona over a period of five days. Besides being able to taste wines from all over Italy, a major benefit of this event is to sample brand new releases, from be it big reds from Toscana or Piemonte or beautifully crafted whites from Alto Adige, Liguria and Friuli.
As readers of my blogs and articles know, I’m a passionate fan of the white wines of Campania. I’m currently working on a print article on these offerings, which has given me the oppportunity to catch up on some wines I first tried almost one year ago.
The 2008 whites from Campania are in a word, lovely. There have been several impressive vintages for the whites of this region lately, going back to 2004, which produced wines that were quite rich. The wines from 2005 were a bit more subtle, while the 2006s were in-between the 2004s and 2005s in terms of weight. 2007 was a superb vintage with excellent concentration and very good acidity levels.
Following that wonderful year, the Campania whites of 2008 were not as rich, but offered beautifully defined acidity and outstanding aromatics and in my opinion, are more typical than the bottlings from 2007. When I first tasted these wines, I was delighted with their quality, but now after another 9-12 months in the bottle, they are showing brilliantly. So while trying wines upon release (or even a month or two before the official release) can be eye opening, trying them again after some time passes is a great example of how a little evolution can help define what a wine is all about. (To argue in another way, the snap judgments on wine that dominate coverage these days from the smallest blogs to the most influential international wine publications may be necessary, but we all need to take them with a grain of salt. Time is the ultimate judge of a wine.)
A few of my favorite Campanian whites from 2008 include:
- Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo “Cutizzi”
- Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo “Nova Serra”
- Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino
- Pietracupa Fiano di Avellino
- Terredora Fiano di Avellino “Terre di Dora”
- Mastroberardino Falanghina “Morabianca”
- Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina “Serrocielo”
- La Sibilla Falanghina (Campi Flegrei)
- Giuseppe Apicella (Tramonti Bianco)
- Joaquin “110 Oyster” (Greco/ Falanghina)
- Luigi Maffini Fiano “Kratos” (IGT Paestum)
Each of these wines offers beautiful varietal character, lively acidity and admirable structure; each bottling will drink well for at least another three years, with a few showing their best qualities in as many as five to seven years from today. I would award each of these wines (and there are several more I haven’t listed) as excellent or outstanding. A few of the wines are priced in the low $40 range, but many of them are $25 and under, offering notable value.
So while I’m curious about the 2009 whites, which I’ll report upon soon, I’ll be enjoying the 2008 whites from Campania for some time to come.