It’s no secret when it comes to Italian wines that the finest examples are made from indigenous varieties by individuals that have been working with vineyards in their homelands for decades, perhaps even longer. It’s what the Italians call anima or soul, and it’s what makes these wines so authentic, so exciting and so distinctive. I taste wines such as these all the time and I could write about several dozen, but for today’s post, I’ll focus on two wines – one white and one red – that beautifully represent their varietal typicity as well as their local terroir. The first wine is the 2013 Sarno 1860 Fiano di Avellino. Maura Sarno produces one wine each vintage, this Fiano di Avellino, and it’s become a personal favorite over the last four or five years. I also believe it’s among the three or four best examples of Fiano di Avellino; earlier this year, I included it among the 50 Best Italian White Wines (click here for that post).
Vineyards in the Fiano di Avellino production zone (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo are the two most famous white wines from Campania; each is dry with very good acidity, but they offer very different flavor profiles. Greco tends to be more restrained, often with a bit more acidity than Fiano. It also tends to display a bit more minerality. Fiano on the other hand, tends to be richer on the palate, often more forward. While I initially favored Fiano for its richness, I found that over the past few years, I have tended to opt more for Greco, given its subtleties. Both wines age well, with the best bottles from the finest producers drinking well for a decade or so, although I have tasted 20 and 25 year old Greco di Tufos that were amazingly fresh.
I mentioned that Fiano di Avellino tends to be a bit fatter and more lush on the palate; indeed some producers tend to focus on the weight of this wine, and by harvesting a bit later, they make a ripe, almost exotic style of Fiano di Avellino. Sometimes this works, sometimes, it is a bit too much. I mention this as the Fiano from Maura Sarno is a wine of restraint; she is after balance and typicity; she is not interested in crafting a powerhouse Fiano. Rather her 2013 – from an outstanding vintage for this wine – is made in a sleek, refined, streamlined style that is extremely distinctive. There are ripe, tropical fruit flavors of guava in the aromas along with notes of hyacinth and pear, and the wine has outstanding harmony and distinct minerality. I love many styles of Fiano di Avellino, but this one is as complex and as compelling a version as I have ever had. It is delicious now, but will taste better in another 2-3 years and should drink well for up to a decade. It is an outstanding wine!
The second wine I’m using as evidence for my Italian terroir examination is the 2010 Rattalino Barolo “Trentaquattro 34” (the word trentaquattro in Italian means 34). This is a relatively new producer in Piemonte; Massimo Rattalino loved wine so much that he left his job in the construction business to establish his own winery, producing his initial wines from the 2002 vintage. Lovers of Piemonte’s wines can be very glad he did, as his reds are excellent examples of elegance and terroir from this region.
I included his Barbaresco “Quarantadue 42” in my book Beyond Barolo and Barbaresco: Italy’s Most Distinctive Wines, when it was published in 2013; I loved the classic styling and typicity of this wine. This 2010 “Trentaquattro” is the first Barolo I have tasted from Rattalino and I love it! This is a single vineyard wine, from the Bric Bergera cru in the commune of Novello, situated in the southwestern reaches of the Barolo production zone. The soils here yield Barolos of great style and fragrance with reserved tannins; Barolos from this commune, which have become better known over the past decade, thanks to producers such as Elvio Cogno and Vietti, are graceful, shying away from the powerhouse style.
The vines here are around 40 years of age, giving this wine excellent depth of fruit. 2010 was an outstanding Barolo vintage and this wine lives up to that standard; with a delicate young garnet color and inviting aromas of cherry, currant, red spice and dried rose petals, there is a rich, generous mid-palate, very good acidity, perfectly integrated oak (the wine was matured in large oak casks known as botti) and excellent to outstanding persistence.
This is a lovely wine, one that instantly communicates its Nebbiolo purity as well as its sense of place; the fact that is was made in a traditional style helps the consumer understand the wine’s styling and origins. Great Barolo shows its best qualities with time; while enjoyable now, it will be outstanding when it peaks in 20-30 years. This is an unheralded Barolo from the great 2010 vintage. Bravo, Massimo!