Posts tagged ‘campania’
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.
Feudi di San Gregorio in Campania is an estate that is continually at the forefront of this region’s ever-changing wine scene. The wines are first-rate and the company’s president, Antonio Capaldo and his team are always looking at new ways of expressing the local terroir and traditions. Their newest wine, from a centuries-old variety, is Sirica, a sublime and dynamic red.
I sat down with Capaldo for a recent lunch at their breathtaking Marennà Restaurant at the winery in Sorbo Serpico (the dining room is located a few floors above the cellar) and was able to sample the wine and learn of its history. The winery’s agronomists found three enormous plants that were two centuries old growing in the Taurasi area and determined that they were not Aglianico (the principal variety in Taurasi). DNA research was undertaken and according to Capaldo, they found some elements of Refosco, Teroldego (both from the northeast of Italy) as well as Syrah, “so nothing like Aglianico,” in his words.
The origin of the name Sirica (pronounced seer-e-ca) is not entirely clear, but the best reasoning is that is comes from the word syricum, used to describe a red dye used in the first century before Christ. Pliny the Elder refers to Sirica in his writings, so the name is clearly Roman, though the grape may be of either Roman or Greek origin. The writer Catone specified that the introduction of this variety into Italy occurred many years before the founding of the city of Rome.
Upon rediscovering this variety, the viticultural team reporoduced the plant and the winery now has a little more than one and one-half hectares of Sirica vines. The wine is aged in tonneau (mid-sized barrels) for six months and then for the remainder of the time in the bottle. The wine is a blend of the new vines planted about six years ago along with the two hundred year-old vines.
I tasted the 2007, of which only a few hundred bottles were produced. The 2009 will be the first commercial release, with the wine available to the market in 2011. My notes on the 2007 are as follows:
Bright purple with rich aromas of black raspberry, boysenberry, black cherry and hints of menthol. Very good to excellent concentration – rich mid-palate, excellent ripeness; beautifully balanced with polished tannins and very good acidity. This should be at is best in 7-10 years.
Best of all, this wine is quite elegant and approachable, a quality Capaldo is looking to emphasize more and more with all of his wines. He also believes in using less oak on his red wines these days and has even made a small lot of Sirica aged only in stainless steel. It’s a lovely food wine – and I think that’s important, as this gives the wine an appeal greater than just its curiosity factor.
If you can wait until 2011, you will be able to try the first commercial release of this wine from the 2009 vintage (according to Capaldo, the wine will only be sold in Italy, unless there is a demand for it in the United States – as approximately 2000 bottles of the 2009 were produced, a small amount may be offered for export). Until then, we should thank Capaldo and his team for their work in reintroducing this centuries-old variety into the modern world.
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.
Another entry from my list of the Top 100 Wine Producers of Italy:
In Camapania, where history and tradition play such an important role, new ways of doing things are certain to attract attention. When the Capaldos and Ercolinos founded Feudi di San Gregorio in 1986, their efforts did indeed garner a lot of notices – almost all good, signaling a new dawn for the wines of this region.
The winery is located in the hamlet of Sorbo Serpico in the province of Avellino, some 30 miles east of Napoli and the sea. This has always been the most important zone for Campanian wines, as the region’s three most famous offerings originate from this territory. Two are whites – Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino – and the third is a long-lived, robust red known as Taurasi.
For decades, the leading producers of Campania made low-key, subtle bottlings of these wines. But under the leadership of winemaker Mario Ercolino, the style here was shifted toward riper, more full-bodied wines. Greco and Fiano grapes were harvested 7-10 days later than usual, giving the wines deeper color and more pronounced tropical fruit flavors. Rather than the crisp, delicate manner of the usual offerings, the Feudi Greco and Fiano were very rich and forward.
As for Taurasi, Ercolino opted for aging the Aglianico grapes in French barriques (with a heathy percentage of it new wood), giving the wines more spice and tannins. A 100% Aglianico named Serpico was also introduced; this powerful, deeply concentrated red is a wonderful statement about the complexities and structure of this great Campanian variety. A 100% Merlot called Patrimo was soon added to the lineup; this made in a similar style to the Serpico.
Mario Ercolino and his brother Luciano left a few years ago to establish their own winery in Campania so today, Feudi di San Gregorio is led by the capable talents of Antonio Capaldo. He has maintaned the style of the early Feudi wines, making certain never to sacrifice balance for power. For me the finest wines in the current Feudi lineup are the whites, especially the cru bottlings of Cutizzi for Greco di Tufo, Pietracalda for Fiano di Avellino and the Serrocielo bottling of Falanghina. These whites are complex, deeply concentrated with rich aromas, lively acidity and excellent structure; these usually drink well for 5-7 years after the vintage. These are not only among Campania’s finest whites, but are also among the very best of Italy.
Current reds range from the delightful, value-priced 100% Aglianico named Rubrato, to the sumptuous Taurasi “Piano di Montevergine”, an impressive, ageworthy bottling that rates with the finest examples of this renowned wine. Sparkling wines have become the latest addition to the lineup; there are three bottlings, each made from a single variety: Aglianico, Greco and Falanghina. The wines are named DUBL in honor of the two wineries that work on this project, Feudi and their French partner, the great Champagne house of Selosse. Produced in the classic style, these are first-rate sparkling wines with lovely complexity and lighntess.
Feudi di San Gregorio showed the world the potential of Campanian wines when they made their initial bottlings in the 1980s and today, one quarter of a century later, they have followed up on that promise and have become one of the superstar wineries of Campania and indeed, all of Italy!
For my final post of 2009, I want to salute some of the finest Italian producers of this decade. Each year in the Spring issue of my Guide to Italian Wines, I list the year’s best wines and producers. I’ll be working on that shortly, but for now, let’s focus on the most important producers of the decade. There is no way I can do this with a single post, so this is part one. I’m juding not only on the quality of the wines, but also the influence these producers had in the marketplace and media and among their peers.
If Luca Currado at Vietti only made Barolo, this winery would have made the list, but there are also gorgeous bottlings of Barbera, as well as a sleek, delicious offering of Arneis. The wines are beautifully made and sell through in good order.
This family-owned winery makes the list for maintaining its traditional winemaking methods, as the great Barolos are aged in botti grandi - no barriques here. Is there a more graceful and ageworthy Barolo than the Bricco Boschis San Giuseppe Riserva?
Very modern Barolos here, aged in barrique, but amazing concentration and style. You may or may not like this style of winemaking, but you cannot help but admire the class of the offerings here.
Produttori del Barbaresco
Ultratraditional wines that show what the local terroir of Barbaresco is all about. An excellent Barbaresco normale and outstanding (often stunning) cru bottlings from the town’s best sites, including Asili, Rabaja and Montestefano. General manager Aldo Vacca is as classy as his wines!
I am saluting Gian Luigi Orsolani for his outstanding work with the Erbaluce grape, an indigenous white variety from northern PIemonte. Orsolani is the finest producer of this grape type in my opinion, crafting first-rate examples of dry white, sparkling and passito versions.
Braida – Giacomo Bologna
Splendid bottlings of Barbera d’Asti, from the humble to the sublime, especially the Bricco dell’Uccellone and the Bricco della Bigotta. Still one of the finest and most influential producers of Barbara d’Asti. Also a superb Moscato d’Asti (Vigna Senza Nome) and arguably the finest bottling of Brachetto d’Acqui. Raffaella Bologna is continuing her late father’s work in fine fashion.
This gorgeous estate in the heart of the Barolo zone has been improving dramatically for the past decade, thanks to the efforts of general manager Giovanni Minetti and winemaker Danilo Drocco. A few years ago, Oscar Farinetti, the owner of the gourmet food store, Eataly, became the prinicpal owner of the winery and has already shown his influence by introducing value-priced Barbera and Dolcetto. There are so many excellent wines produced at Fontanafredda; this is an estate that has numerous wines for a wide consumer base and any producer that wants to grow their business in the coming decade should be looking at this model.
Tenuta San Guido/Tenuta dell’Ornellaia
I am putting these two estates in Bolgheri together, as they both produce outstanding examples of local reds that not only are beautiful wines on their own, but are also known around the world. These estates, along with Grattamacco and Le Macchiole continue to be the identity for Bolgheri, Tuscany’s new light.
Bottles of Ornellaia and Masseto, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Brunello di Montalcino has been in the news as of late, and not for all the right reasons. So let’s salute Il Poggione for making Brunello the right way – the traditional way. Winemaker Fabrizio Bindocci has a gentle winemaking hand, as he prefers to let the local terroir shine through in his wines. I’ve tasted examples of Il Poggione Brunello from the 1970s that are still in fine shape. As for the recent controversy about the possible inclusion of grapes other than Sangiovese in Brunello, well, there was never any doubt about that at Il Poggione; so the respect for the land and the wine as seen here (as well as at dozens of other local estates such as Biondi-Santi, Col d’Orcia, Talenti and Sesta di Sopra to name only a few) needs to be saluted.
Federico Carletti has done as much as any producer in Montepulciano to revive the fortunes of its most famous wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The regular bottling is always very good, but it is the Vigna Asinone bottling is the star here. Deeply concentrated with new oak and sleek tannins, this is a modern, but very precise wine that is one of Tuscany’s finest.
Campania’s most historically important winemaking estate, this winery continued to improve after a family split in the 1980s (some of the family members established a new winery in the Avellino province) and the change in leadership from Antonio Mastroberardino to his son Piero. Clonal research became an important factor here, and today, the family is producing the best examples of Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Falanghina they have ever made. Of course, Taurasi is still the most important wine here, and if today’s bottlings are not as staunchly tradtional as those from the 1960s and early 1970s, they are still first-rate and just as importantly, are not covered up by the vanilla and spice of new oak that other Taurasi producers seem to prefer these days. How nice that this defender of the local winemaking heritage is doing so well these days!
Feudi di San Gregorio
This estate made a splash with its entrance on the scene in the mid 1980s and they are still one of Campania’s most important producers. Rich, deeply concentrated bottlings of Taurasi, but even more impressive white wines, especially Cutizzi Greco di Tufo and Pietracalda Fiano di Avellino. Now there are even beautifully made single variety sparkling wines in the classic method produced from Greco, Falanghina and Aglianico. Congratulations to owner Antonio Capaldo on his innovative efforts at this great estate!
Luigi Maffini is making some of the most brilliant white wines in all of Italy as his small estate in the province of Salerno, south of Napoli. While his reds made from Aglianico are nicely done, the whites made from Fiano are routinely outstanding. There is the non-oak aged Kratos and the French oak-aged Pietraincatenata, an age-worthy Fiano. There is also a sumptuous Fiano Passito, which in my opinion, is one of the greatest dessert wines in all of Italy (the 2004 is particularly exceptional).
Cantine Marisa Cuomo
This small estate, located in the town of Furore on the Amalfi Coast, is set in an exceptionally beautiful seting, as the pergola vineyards cling to steep slopes a few hundred feet above the sea. Marisa and her husband, winemaker Andrea Ferraioli, are best known for the exceptional white, Fiorduva, a blend of indigenous varieties (Ripole, Fenile and Ginestra), but I think the Furore Rosso Riserva is also an important wine. This is extreme viticulture at its finest!
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)
A red variety grown in Piemonte that literally means, “little sweet one.” Light tannins, balanced acidity and juicy fruit flavors of raspberry, mulberry and cranberry. Dolcetto produces a wine that is very charming and easy to drink in its youth.
White variety grown in north central Piemonte; the most famous example is Erbaluce di Caluso. High acidity and lemon fruit; versions range from a light dry white to a refreshing sparkling style.
Beautiful white variety of Campania, grown in various areas of that region. Very high acidity and fruit flavors ranging from apple and pear in the most simple bottlings to quince and kiwi in the best offerings. Generally not oak-aged, though a few producers do barrel age the wine.
White variety grown along the coast of Campania; very high acidity and flavors of citrus and pear. Usually part of a blend, along with varieties such as Biancolella and Ginestra.
Another beautiful white variety, most famously grown in Campania, though a few producers in Sicily work with it as well. Medium-full to full-bodied, this has fruit flavors of pear and citrus along with distinct notes of honey. Some versions are meant for consumption within 2-3 years, while the most concentrated offerings from the best producers can drink well for 5-7 years, thanks in part to the grape’s excellent natural acidity.
A red variety used in the production of Cerasuolo di Vittoria in Sicily. Cherry, berry fruit and very soft tannins. There are a few producers that bottle Frappato on its own.
Formerly known as Tocai Friulano, the name was changed to avoid confusion with the Hungarian wine Tokay (this was also done in accordance with European Community regulations concerning protected names of wines). One of Friuli’s great white varieties, with complex aromas of pear, apricot and dried flowers. Lively acidity and a light minerality.
Red variety of Calabria that is the principal grape of Ciro rosso. Raspberry and strawberry fruit with light tannins.
The primary grape of Soave. An underrated white variety with aromas of yellow flowers and melon with very good acidity. This grape is as misprounced as any – the correct pronunciation is gar-gan-ah-guh.
One of Italy’s great white varieties, grown primarily in Alto Adige. Gewurz means “spicy” in German – this then is the spicy Traminer. Gorgeous aromatics of grapefruit, lychee and rose petals with lively acidity and distinct notes of white spice. The best versions are quite rich, with some having an oiliness on the palate.
White variety grown along the coasts of Campania- especially in the Costa d’Amalfi DOC. High acidity and fruit flavors of pear and lemon. Usually part of a blended white of the area.
One of the major white varieties of Campania; flavors of lemon, pear and dried flowers with very good natural acidity and often a note of almond. Medium-full, this generally is not as full as Fiano, but is quite complex. Most famous example is Greco di Tufo, from the province of Avellino.
Beautiful red variety from Piemonte; almost no tannins, with refreshing cherry and strawberry fruit and very good natural acidity. Meant for consumption within 2-3 years of the vintage date.
White variety from Sicily; most versions are simple with pleasant acidity and flavors of pear and citrus. Grillo is produced both as a stand-alone variety and also as part of a blended white.
Red variety of Marche; most famously as Lacrima di Morro d’Alba. Medium-bodied with cherry, berry fruit, moderate tannins and good acidity. Produced both as a refreshing style for early consumption and a fuller style with more tannins and longevity.
One of Alto Adige’s most wonderful red varieties with intense color (often deep purple), youthful, but not overly aggressive tannins and very good acidity. Fruit flavors of black plum, black cherry and raspberry. Fruit forward and despite its richness, often quite approachable upon release.
Red variety most famously grown in Emilia-Romagna. Produces a lighter red wth cherry-berry fruit, zippy acidity and very light tannins. Best known in its slightly sparkling (frizzante) offerings.