Posts tagged ‘campania’
Opening the 1961 Mastroberardino Taurasi (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
In my previous two posts (here and here), I wrote about marvelous vertical tastings of Taurasi from two first-rate producers: Feudi di San Gregorio and Luigi Tecce. As Taurasi is a significant red that does not receive the attention it deserves, it’s a pleasure experiencing the beautiful work that these two producers – as well as another few dozen estates – have accomplished over the past 10-15 years; perhaps now Taurasi will be a more important part of the discussion about Italy’s greatest red wines.
But if you have to single out one producer who has carried the torch for Taurasi for more than 70 years, it is clearly Mastroberardino. Indeed, this family estate, situated in the small town of Atripalda in the province of Avellino, is indeed synonymous with this wine. Anyone who knows even a little bit about Taurasi has probably read about some journalist’s amazing experience with the 1968 bottling, a wine that has become a watershed for Taurasi. I am one of those lucky souls who has tasted this wine ; that one occasion being at VinItaly in Verona about six or seven years ago with Piero Mastroberardino, the managing director of the winery. I was pleased to note at the time that this legendary wine – almost forty years of age when I sampled it that day – deserved its celebrated status. It seemed to me that the wine had plenty of life ahead of it – I estimated that it would still be in fine shape in 2016-2020, meaning it would be a pleasure to drink even at 50 years of age! I recall that I tasted the 1971 as well that day and told Piero that while I believed that wine was outstanding, it was the 1968 that was fresher. Piero’s sheepish reply was, “well, 1968 was a better vintage.”
So it was a great pleasure to be invited along with a small group of international journalists in March to a tasting of six decades of Mastroberardino Taurasi at the winery. Piero and his team – along with his father Antonio, who guided the firm through many of its greatest successes since the 1940s – selected one wine from each decade, starting with the 1952 and continuing up to the 2006 bottling. Piero gave a brief talk about how his ancestors started selling their Taurasi around Italy; he then let us taste the wines in silence, without any additional words about each bottle.
Here are my notes on the six wines:
1952- Pale garnet; still lovely fruit aromas with notes of strawberry along with balsamic, oregano, thyme and cedar. Medium-full, with a beautifully elegant entry on the palate, this is a remarkably fresh wine, one of stunning grace and harmony. There is notable acidity along with a very subtle spiciness. Absolutely amazing now, this wine has at least another 10-12 years ahead of it, but I will admit that this is an educated guess; who knows, perhaps this will will be in fine shape some 20-25 years from now, as the balance is that impressive. A great, great wine.
1961 Riserva - Deep garnet; aromas of dried currant, dried cherry, sage and balsamic. Medium-full with excellent concentration; generous mid-palate. Outstanding freshness and balance; amazing persistence – the finish goes on and on. As flavorful and rich as this wine is, it is undeniably light as a feather. A sublime wine, one of great pleasure that will be drinking well for another 15-20 years, perhaps even longer. A great, great wine.
1970 Riserva – Deep garnet; aromas of truffle, balsamic, dried currant, oregano and cedar. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Long, long finish with very fine tannins. Outstanding complexity, very good acidity and remarkable freshness. What a wine – one of great typicity, balance, freshness and harmony. This has at least 15-20 years of life ahead of it. Another great, great wine and the one that I selected as my favorite, although I admit that if I could taste these wines together again, my choice as the favorite – an incredibly difficult selection – might be either the 1952 or the 1961, as they are all of immeasurable quality, class and breeding.
(At this point, I need to let you know that I did not spit any of these first three wines. Of course at any tasting, you spit or else you wouldn’t be able to walk straight after a few minutes. But how could I spit the 1952, 1961 or 1970? Not only were they amazing to taste, who knows if I’ll ever get a chance to try them again? During this first part of the tasting, I turned to my colleague Tom Maresca from New York City, who confirmed to me that he wasn’t spitting any of these either!)
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)
1985 - Deep garnet; aromas of fresh red cherry, hint of orange peel, balsamic, truffle and cedar. Very good persistence, very good acidity, round tannins. Impressive persistence and notable length in the finish. Excellent complexity and wonderful varietal character. Best in 10-12 years, although it will undoubtedly drink well for another 7-10 years after that. Excellent.
1996 Riserva “Radici” Radici means “roots,” an appropriate designation for a Campanian firm that has been producing their own wines since 1878; the “Radici” project for Mastroberardino Taurasi was initiated with the 1986 vintage. Lovely deep garnet; aromas of fresh red cherry, strawberry, cedar and a hint of brown spice. Medium-full with very good concentration. Elegant mid-palate, very good acidity, very fine tannins and impressive length. Very harmonious with beautiful typicity. Best in 12-15 years. Excellent.
2006 Riserva “Radici” - Bright, deep ruby red; aromas of black cherry, along with hints of tar and dark chocolate. Generous mid-palate; very good acidity, rich, balanced tannins, excellent persistence and typicity. Notes of black spice in the finish that add to the complexity of this wine. A lovely, somewhat powerful wine, albeit one with beautiful charm. Best in 15-20 years. Outstanding.
Anotnio and Piero Mastroberardino (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Just as we were finishing the tasting, Antonio Mastroberardino, patriarch of the firm, entered the room – what a pleasure to see this man again! I had met him about eight or nine years ago at the winery, but had only seen him briefly one time since. I always made it a point to ask Piero how his father was doing over the past few years and he replied that he was just fine. I had heard that he was slowing down a bit recently and perhaps not in the best health, but here he was, some 84 years young, looking just great! He must be drinking a good amount of Taurasi!
Antonio, along with Piero, then told us brief remembrances of their work in the vineyards and cellars over the past six decades. “There was no technological revolution in the 1950s,” Antonio said, reminding us that these great wines were the result of hard work as well as good fortune in any particular growing season. Wines as special as we enjoyed this day are truly one-of-a-kind bottles, ones that are unique and have their own identity. In that respect, they were just like this tasting!
My heartfelt thanks to Piero and Antonio Mastroberardino and the entire team at the winery for inviting me to this once-in-a-lifetime event.
Fagottino con cicoria e caciocavallo con cream di ceci al profumo rosmarino
Puff pastry with chicory and caciocavallo cheese with cream of chickpeas, rosemary fragrance (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Be it a humble trattoria or a celebrated ristorante, I’ve experienced many great meals in Italy, but few were as memorable as the magnificent lunch I enjoyed at Il Posto delle Rose Selvatiche during my most recent visit to Campania.
The restaurant is part of a small resort in the town of Summonte about a 25-minute drive outside the town of Avellino in the inland province of Irpinia. This locale is somewhat isolated, as you drive up a gravel road, finally reaching your destination 1000 meters above sea level. This is a lovely retreat from everyday life, as there are a few apartments for guests as well as a handsome equestrian center.
Chef Antonella Iandolo (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
I was invited to lunch by my friend Antonella Iandolo, whom I first met two years ago when I enjoyed her cooking at a restaurant in nearby Avellino. Sadly, that restaurant closed, but she is staying busy consulting and teaching and is now perfecting her craft at this lovely resort. (Two things to note about my friendship with Antonella: first, she wrote a brief essay about pairing Campanian wine and food for my upcoming book on Italy’s most distinctive wines; second, I am in love with this woman!).
While Italian wine is my primary focus, I’ve learned a great deal about the country’s foods as well, as one enjoys great wines with equally great foods throughout the country. The starting puff pastry course (pictured above) was excellent, as all the flavors combined perfectly; the cream sauce was quite delicate, allowing the chickpea flavors to shine; this was a very flavorful, subtle, delicious dish.
The wine paired with this opening dish was the 2010 Guido Marsella Falanghina (Benevento), which was a lovely match, as this medium-bodied white with its lime and kiwi flavors backed by very healthy acidity, had enough weight and character to support, but not overwhelm the cream and chickpeas. Marsella, whose winery is located very close to the restaurant, is a little-known producer outside this immediate district, which is a shame, given the extremely high quality of his wines.
“Hamburger” con gorgonzola e noci al profumo di aneto
Hamburger with Gorgonzola cheese and walnuts, dill fragrance (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Two other courses were highlights of this meal. The secondi was a sensational dish that combined pumpkin, pepperoni, potatoes and a “hamburger” with Gorgonzola and walnuts. This was one of the most original dishes I’ve ever tasted, quite rich, yet also quite harmonious, with the gorgonzola providing quite a contrast to the pepperoni. The 2010 Guido Marsella Fiano di Avellino stood up to all the various flavors here and was an ideal match, especially with the vibrant acidity and distinct earthiness in the finish.
Piccola torta con uva sultanina arance e cioccolato con crema calda all vaniglia
Torte with egg, orange and chocolate with warm vanilla cream (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Finally, as I’m not one to turn down dessert, no matter how full I am (especially in Italy!), I adored the dolce that Antonella prepared, a chocolate panettone with vanilla cream sauce. The complementary flavors were sublime and the torte itself was as light as a feather – what a superb way to finish an amazing meal!
After the meal, Antonella asked me what I thought of her cooking as compared to what I had experienced two years ago (as if I would have anything but the nicest things to say!). I told her how much I enjoyed everything, summing up my thoughts by stating that her cooking had become “more refined.” She was quite pleased to hear that! Antonella Iandolo is quite a chef, with great talent and creativity and I think she will handle any challenge that comes her way in the kitchen .
Aldo Genovese, proprietor, Il Posto delle Rose Selvatiche (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
A big thank you and complimenti to Aldo Genovese, owner of Il Posto delle Rose Selvatiche for hosting this lunch and creating such a warm atmosphere at his dining room. He is a very wise man for hiring Antonella Iandolo as his chef!
Fiano Vineyard at Montefalcione (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
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I recently returned from a two-week trip to Italy that included three days in Campania. As the majority of my trip was in red wines zones of Tuscany (Montalcino and Scansano), I needed to head to a region that produces great whites, so I squeezed in some time in one of my favorite wine territories, the province of Avellino, also known as Irpinia.
Avellino is most famous for two white wines: Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino. The wines are quite different with Greco tending to be lighter and a bit more reserved, with slightly higher acidity. Fiano on the other hand, tends to be most lush and ripe, being a bit more approachable upon release, while the finest examples of Greco tend to need a year or two after release before showing their best. Generally, Fiano, as it is a bigger wine, tends to age longer.
There is a third white grape planted in Avellino called Falanghina that is also planted throughout the Campanian region. Falanghina has vibrant acidity that is a trademark of the variety. It is an ancient variety that was almost forgotten over the last 30 years, but several producers in the region have made an effort to craft notable offerings from this grape. Many of the best examples come from the Sannio district in the province of Benevento, situated north of Avellino.
Ilaria Petito, Donnachiara (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
A small producer that has become one of the most critically acclaimed for its whites is Donnachiara, headed by the engaging Ilaria Petito. Her first vintage for this project was only in 2006, so for her to gain as much attention as she has to date tells you the qualilty of the fruit she is working with along with the care in the cellars. For her new releases, it is the 2011 Fiano di Avellino that is a standout, with pear and quince aromas alongside those of toasted almond and hay. Medium-full, the wine has excellent ripeness and a lengthy finish with lively acidity. This should offer optimum drinking for 3-5 years, perhaps longer.
A quick word here about 2010 and 2011 in Campania. 2010 offered wines that were beautifully balanced with very good acidity; while not a powerful vintage, the wines offer very good typicity and are excellent representations of their types. 2011 was a warmer vintage and the wines are definitely richer on the palate and more forward. Yet this is not a flash in the pan vintage, but one that yielded excellent wines from many producers. Of course, some of the best estates have not yet released their 2011s, but based on what I’ve tasted so far, 2011 is clearly a successful vintage for white wines in Campania, with impressive depth of fruit as well as overall balance.
Cutizzi Vineyard of Feudi di San Gregorio, planted to Greco (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
One of my favorite estates – not just in Campania – but in all of Italy – is Feudi di San Gregorio, situated near the town of Sorbo Serpico. Proprietor Antonio Capaldo has done a marvelous job at this winery, producing offerings that lead the way for the region’s wine stature. One of my favorite wines from Feudi each year is the Greco di Tufo from the Cutizzi vineyard in Santa Paolina in the heart of the DOCG zone. The 2011 is medium-full with excellent concentration with aromas of pear, melon and kiwi. The wine is a bit plump on the palate and there is a lengthy finish with excellent persistence and very good acidity. This is a Greco di Tufo that reveals greater complexities with time, so look for this wine to be at its best in another five years.
The 2011 Falanghina “Serrocielo” is one of the best releases to date of this wine. This is a single vineyard Falanghina, something you don’t see to often; this planting is situated in the Benevento province. The aromas on this wine – stone fruit (peach and pear) along with notes of honey – are delightful and there is excellent weight on the palate and a nicely structured finish. This is a pleasure for current consumption and will improve for another 3-5 years.
The finest white from Feudi I tasted this trip was the 2010 Campanaro, a blend of Fiano and Greco. This wine is always released one year after the other Greco and Fiano bottlings, a wise choice, as the wine needs time to come together and show its finest characteristics. The 2010 has beautiful floral aromas (geranium, magnolia) to go along with its notes of Bosc pear, melon and lemon; medium-full, the wine offers excellent complexity. This is an outstanding wine that will drink well for 7-10 years.
I’ve always enjoyed visiting Matroberardino, the grand patriarch of all Campanian producers. My first visits, some ten years ago were with Antonio Mastroberardino; today I meet with his son Piero, a thoughtful individual who caries on his father’s work with great tact and skill. His new 2011 whites are beautifully made, from the simple, refreshing Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio – made entirely from the Coda di Volpe variety – to the single vineyard and selezione wines. The 2011 Greco di Tufo “Nova Serra” has yellow flower and lemon peel aromas, impressive weight on the palate and a beautifully defined mid-palate and a lengthy finish with distinct minerality; in short, this is a Greco di Tufo of excellent typicity.
As for Fiano di Avellino, I am very impressed with the Radici offering (radici meaning “roots”), which has expressive aromas of quince, Bosc pear, yellow flowers and chamomile. There is a rich mid-palate and excellent persistence and the wine is very clean and flavorful. There is excellent complexity and this year, a bit more ripeness, which only adds to the wine’s appeal. This is delicious and a great example of how beautiful the whites wines of Campania are for food, be it shellfish (especially with Greco di Tufo) or lighter poultry, veal and pork dishes, which are best paired with Fiano di Avellino.
In Part Two of this study of 2010 and 2011 Campanian whites, I will discuss the wines from some of the finest small estates of Avellino, including Villa Diamante, Vadiaperti and Pietracupa.
Here is my final post on the Best Italian Wines from the past year; this is the third entry on red wines. Again, this is a partial list, see the end of this post for more information on all of my selections.
2008 Grattamacco Bolgheri Superiore - The gorgeous wine zone of Bolgheri, located in Tuscan province of Livorno, just a few kilometers from the Tyrrhenian Sea is the home of some of Italy’s most renowned estates. Most Italian wine lovers know two of these companies, namely Tenuta dell’Ornellaia and Tenuta San Guido, the latter firm being the one that produces Sassicaia. But in reality, there is a third producer here that ranks the equal of those two; the winery is Grattamacco. Established in 1977 and currently owned by Claudio Tipa, Grattamacco is a spectacularly beautiful estate where the vineyards seem to go on forever. Like most companies in Bolgheri, the top red wine here is made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon (65% in this wine), while Merlot makes up 20% and Sangiovese 15% of the blend. The 2008 is a brilliant wine with incredible depth of fruit, seductive aromas of black cherry, black currant, tar, licorice and black raspberry and an extremely long finish with beautifully silky, polished tannins. The acidity is remarkable as it cleanses the mouth (this is a astonishingly clean wine for being so powerful), and provides amazing freshness. There is outstanding persistence and the balance is impeccable while the complexity is superior. I have loved this Bolgheri Superiore, the top wine of the estate for years and I believe this is the finest offering of Grattamacco since the great 1999 bottling! A truly spectacular wine and a candidate for the Best Italian Wine of the Year. This is seductive now, but it will only improve with time and should be at its peak in 20-25 years. $85
2006 Sestadisopra Brunello di Montalcino - I have listed the Brunello from this traditional producer at or near the top of my rankings virtually every year since 2001. This is a lovely wine with beautiful red cherry, strawberry and cedar aromas backed by a rich mid-palate and an ideally structured finish with excellent persistence and fine acidity. Aged solely in big casks, this is a great expression of terrior in the small Sesta zone of Montalcino. This should be at its peak in 20 years and will probably drink well for a few years after that. $75
2006 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino – Another great traditional Brunello producer and one of my favorite Italian wines, period. Winemaker Fabrizio Bindocci manages to craft a superb Brunello each vintage by largely staying out of the way, as the fruit from the estate vineyards is so wonderful; Bindocci treats this fruit with kid gloves, aging it in large casks (grandi botti), allowing the varietal purity to shine through. This should be at is best in 20-25 years. $80
2006 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino - Here is another ultra consistent Brunello producer at the top of their game. Proprietor Andrea Cortonesi always crafts an elegant Brunello, even in a year such as 2006 that resulted in beautifully structured wines. The aromas feature notes of wild strawberry, red cherry, thyme and cedar; the tannins are polished and the acidity is finely tuned. This should be at its best in 15-20 years. $70
2007 Donnachiara Taurasi – Taurasi is arguably the finest Italian red that few know much about. Made primarily from the Aglianico grape in a zone near the eponymous town in Campania, Taurasi combines ripe cherry fruit with hints of bitter chocolate along with firm tannins and healthy acidity to result in a complex wine that is one of Italy’s longest lived; 40 year old versions that drink well are not uncommon. This version from a producer that should also be better known is not the biggest Taurasi from 2007, but it is an excellent example that has all the characteristics one looks for in a Taurasi. Medium-full with appealing varietal fruit, this has polished tannins and good acidity. Like most examples of 2007 Taurasi, this is forward and somewhat approachable now, but will improve with time and should peak in about 10 years. $40 (which is very reasonably priced for a Taurasi).
2007 Mastroberardino Taurasi “Radici” - Mastroberardino has been the family that has been one of the flag bearers for Taurasi over the past 100 years. They have produced some of the best bottlings in the last six decades; the famous 1968 bottling is still in fine shape, almost 45 years after the vintage. While the winemaking has changed over the years – today’s versions are aged in small and large barrels as opposed to only small barrels of years past – the quality has not. Deeply concentrated with elegant tannins and good acidity, this is a rich, quite complex Taurasi that is a very good expression of local terroir. This needs time to round out and will be at its best in 12-15 years. $50
2009 Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico “Dorilli” – Planeta, one of Sicily’s most influential producers never ceases to amaze. Excellent whites and reds, from Fiano and Chardonnay to Syrah and Nero d’Avola, are turned out on a seemingly routine basis. The latest success from this winery is this new bottling of Cerasuolo di Vittoria, the chamring Nero d’Avola/Frappato blend. The regular bottling of Cerasuolo di Vittoria from Planeta is very good, with its lovely freshness and tasty fruit, but with this Dorilli bottling (named for a local river), there is an added layer of complexity and elegance. A blend of 70% Nero d’Avola and 30% Frappato, this has beautiful aromas of black cherry, plum and violets with a lengthy, elegant finish with very good acidity. This is so delicious now and will drink well over the next 5-7 years. $20
2008 Arianna Occhipinti Nero d’Avola “Siccogno” - The effervescent Arianna Occhipinti is the niece of Giusto Occhipinti, co-owner of the famed COS estate in Vittoria. The younger Occhipinti produces several wines that are of similar caliber to her uncle; this was may favorite from last year. Medium-full, with inviting aromas of strawberry, red currant and mulberry, this is a complex Nero d’Avola with plenty of punch in the finish, yet maintains its elegance and finesse throughout. This is an outstanding example of Nero d’Avola; it should be at its best in 7-10 years. $35
This completes my posts on the Best Italian Wines of 2011. Given the space limitations of a blog, these have been partial lists. The complete lists of my Best Italian Wines of the Year will be in the Spring 2012 issue of my Guide to Italian Wines. To purchase this issue for $10 or to subscribe ($30 for four quarterly issues), please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
As we head into the final few weeks of 2010, it’s time to look back on some of the more memorable wines of the year. I’ll list some of my top choices over the next few weeks, but for now, I’m focusing on the best values. This post is about Italian white wines, while the next will be on the reds:
2009 MASTROBERARDINO LACRYMA CHRISTI DEL VESUVIO BIANCO
There is so much excitement about the white wines of Campania these days, given the wonderful bottlings of Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Falanghina that are being produced in regular numbers. But don’t forget about the humble Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, a popular wine served in many trattorie in Napoli. Produced entirely from the Coda di Volpe grape, this has gorgeous perfumes of lilacs, quince and Bosc pear, offers good depth of fruit and glides across the palate. Aged only in stainless steel, this would be an ideal partner for shrimp, clams or just about any shellfish – I love it with seafood pasta as well. This 2009 bottling (a wonderful vintage) from this iconic Campanian producer is a standout for its suggested $18-$20 price tag.
2009 BASTIANICH “ADRIATICO” FRIULANO
I just posted on the Adriatico project from Joseph Bastianich, a selection of three whites from areas near the Adriatic Sea. Each of the wines is notable, but it is the 2009 Friulano (DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli) that is the most complete and complex. This is a delicious white with notes of Anjou pear, mango and cinnamon that has remarkable richness and complexity for $15. This is an outstanding value!
2009 GRADIS’CIUTTA BRATINIS (DOC Collio Bianco)
I featured this wine in a post last month and raved about the quality as well as the price tag. Robert Princic manages this estate in San Floriano del Collio, which has rapidly emerged as one of Friuli’s finest. This blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Ribolla Gialla offers gorgeous aromatics, impressive concentration, vibrant acidity and a distinct streak of minerality and should drink well for another 2-3 years (perhaps longer). Not bad for a wine that retails for $20!
2009 COFFELE SOAVE CLASSICO “CA’ VISCO”
This family estate has released one of its finest bottlings in recent years with the 2009 Ca’ Visco. Produced from 80% Garganega and 20% Trebbiano di Soave, the grapes are sourced from the family hillside estate in Castelcerino in the heart of the Classico zone. Medium-bodied with excellent complexity and light minerality, this is ideal with vegetable or seafood risotto or lighter white meats. ($17)
2009 FRATELLI GIACOSA ROERO ARNEIS
I featured this wine in a post on my other blog back in August. This is a typically fresh, no-oak version of Arneis with textbook pine and pear aromas and a rich, refreshing finish. Perfect with risotto or lighter poultry dishes or just by itself over the next 1-2 years. Arneis has become very popular over the past decade, driving prices up slightly, so the $17 price tag here is quite welcome.
Looking back on the first six months of the year, I am reminded of the wonderful Italian wines I’ve tasted in 2010. Perusing the lists of these bottlings, I’m once again reminded of the amazing variety of Italian wines – be they white, red, sparking, rosé or sweet. These wines are from the breadth and width of the country, from Piemonte to Sicily and they run the gamut of price ranges. Most of them, of course, are from indigenous varieties, which combined with their excellence, also give them a singularity.
This is nothing new, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the identity of Italian wines as well the the quality. I’ve made 4 trips to Italy this year and a total of 45 trips in all (maybe I should just move there?), so I’ve been able to gain remarkable insight into the Italian wine industry. At its best and most honest, it’s about making wines that represent one’s land and one’s heritage. Yes, some Italian wines of today are international in style, but most of the finest wines of today are based upon terroir and communicate a sense of place. Personal preference is one thing, but there’s no disputing heart, passion and honesty.
I’ve just published the Summer issue of my Guide to Italian Wines and it’s evidence to what I mean about Italian wines. In this 46-page issue, I have conentrated on several wine types and regions including:
- 2009 Whites from Friuli
- 2009 Whites from Campania (an excellent vintage in both regions- these wines have fine backbone along with impressive concentration)
- 2005 Brunello di Montalcino – an overlooked vintage, especially after 2004, but one that offers elegance and very good typicity.
- The beautiful sparkling wines of Franciacorta – especially those from Bellavista – what a remarkable lineup of wines!
- The sumptuous 2007 reds from Bolgheri – these are not produced from indigenous varieties, but are often gorgeous wines; 2007 represents some of the finest reds from Bolgheri to date.
These are the highlights of this issue. I’ve been writing my Guide to Italian Wines for eight years now and this was one of the most notable collection of wines I’ve reviewed during that time.
The Guide is available on a subscription basis of $30 per year (four issues), but if you would like to purchase this Summer issue only, the price is a mere $10. I don’t think you’ll spend your $10 more wisely when it comes to learning about Italian wines.
To find out how to purchase, email me at email@example.com
Falanghina, planted in all five provinces of Campania, has been a remarkable story over the past decade, its identity shifting from a simple high acid wine to one of richness and beautiful complexity, thanks to a handful of the region’s vintners.
One of those winemakers is Vincenzo Mercurio, with whom I had the pleasure of spending a day with in Irpinia during my recent trip to that area. Mercurio was winemaker at the historic Mastroberardino winery for a few years last decade and recently began his own consulting firm; today he is winemaker for such Campanian estates as I Favati, Fattoria La Rivolta and Masseria Felicia.
He also handles those chores at a small winery in the Avellino province called San Paolo. Mercurio has made Falnghina there for several vintages, but decided to specialize in this variety a few years ago when he made a more detailed study of the soils from the area in the Benevento province where the grapes are sourced. Benevento, located just north (and northwest) of Avellino, has been known for Falanghina for some time now and is the site of the Sannio DOC for the variety (the province of Avellino is better known for two other Campanian white varieties, Greco and Fiano).
Mercurio saw that in a 1/2 square kilometer area where he sourced Falanghina for San Paolo, there were four different soils; tasting through the various lots, he decided he would vinify and bottle them separately. He did this initially with the 2008 vintage and named the four bottlings of Falanghina: Aria, Acqua, Terra and Fuoco (air, water, earth and fire).
I tasted the new 2009 releases of these four wines side by side with Mercurio at lunch at Ristorante La Marcanda in Avellino and was impressed not only with the winemaking, but the individual character of each wine. Here are Mercurio’s descriptions of the soils:
Aria - argilleous-calcaire soil with a lot of rocks in the soil
Acqua – sandy soils from a river region
Terra – the soils are deep clay
Fuoco – sandy soils but with volcanic influence
Mercurio adds that the first two wines are “more aromatic in nature, while the last two are more structured.”
Tasted in order, the wines increase in concentration – you’d want to consume the Acqua within a year or two, while the Fuoco should have staying power for 3-5 years. Complexity also increases, as the Terra has a chalky finish, while the Fuoco displays the strongest minerality. All of the wines are extremely well balanced with bright fruit and vibrant acidity, a trademark of the variety.
Each wine was harvested at approximately the same time and vinified the same way (with sur lie maturation) and aged solely in stainless steel, so this is a fascinating expression of terroir with one variety from a meso-climate. Natually, these wines are quite limited in production (only about 1000 bottles each), so they will only be available in Italy for the near future. But what a remarkable project that will surely influence other producers and vintners throughout Campania and will result in even higher quality bottlings of this wonderful variety, Falanghina.