The Romans favored the vineyards along the coast north of Naples where Falernian, the most treasured wine of the empire, was grown. They also praised the wines of volcanic Vesuvius and the wooded hills of Avellino. Even earlier, the Greeks had recognized the privileged nature of the area, introducing vines which still stand out today as Aglianico, Greco and Falanghina.
Modernization has by no means swept away respect for tradition. In Campania, a majority of producers strives to make the most of native vines, including an honor roll of so-called "archaeological varieties" which do indeed date back to antiquity.
The noblest of red varieties is Aglianico, which makes the red Taurasi, as well as the red Falerno del Massico and others. Taurasi has been called "the Barolo of the south," due to its size and ability to age, though its style is proudly its own.
Greco, a name applied to various vines prominent in the south, reaches heights in Greco di Tufo. Fiano, praised by the Romans, is the base of the inimitable Fiano di Avellino.
Falanghina, which seems to have been the base of the white version of Falernian, has become the region’s fastest spreading variety.
Campania’s DOC zones also include the fabled islands of Capri and Ischia, as well as the recently revived Penisola Sorrentina and Costa d’Amalfi, taking in the dramatically terraced seaside vineyards from Sorrento to Amalfi.
DOCG – Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo, Taurasi DOC – Aglianico del Taburno, Aversa, Campi Flegrei, Capri, Castel San Lorenzo, Cilento, Costa d’Amalfi, Falerno del Massico, Galluccio, Guardiolo, Irpinia, Ischia, Penisola Sorrentina, Sannio, Sant’Agata dei Goti, Solopaca, Taburno, Vesuvio IGT – Beneventano, Campania, Colli di Salerno, Dugenta, Epomeo, Irpinia, Paestum, Pompeiano, Roccamonfina, Terra del Volturno.
DOCG Wines of Irpinia - Irpinia has played such an important role in Campanian wine production that the rail line linking Avellino and Rocchetta Sant'Antonio was known as "the Wine Line." Completely planted in vines, the province of Avellino features products of international reputation, such as Greco di Tufo, Taurasi and Fiano.
The Fiano di Avellino takes its name from the variety that the Latins called Vitis Apiana. That was because the vine's grapes were so sweet that they proved irresistible to bees (api). The wine, which was already highly appreciated in the Middle Ages, originated several millennia ago. An order for three "salme" (a measure) of Fiano is entered in the register of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. And Charles d'Anjou must have enjoyed the wine, since he had 16,000 Fiano vines planted in the royal vineyards.
The grapes' sugar content is so high that a virtually sweet sparkling wine is made in the area that has many local admirers, although it has not been possible to market it nationally and internationally. Years of experiment have enabled winemakers to produce a dry Fiano, a wine of great elegance and refinement with an intense odor and a harmonious flavor that features scents of toasted hazelnuts. Perfect as an aperitif, the wine also makes a fine accompaniment for refined dishes based on seafood.
Without doubt, the Greco di Tufo, from which the wine of the same name is made, is the oldest variety of the Avellino area. It was imported from the Greek region of Thessaly by the Pelasgian peoples.
A confirmation of the millennial origin of the Greco di Tufo wine was provided by the discovery of a fresco at Pompeii, traced in the 1st century BC. A brief poetical inscription was added to the fresco, apparently by a frustrated lover: "You are truly cold, Bytis, made of ice, if last night not even Greco wine could warm you up."
Among many legends concerning wine, the province of Avellino can even boast of one miracle involving the beverage. According to the story, San Guglielmo of Vercelli emulated the miracle of the Marriage of Cana in turning water to wine at Bonito.
The Greco variety was originally cultivated on the slopes of Vesuvius, where it was given the name Lacryma Christi. It was later planted in the province of Avellino, where it was given the denomination Greco di Tufo. The refined personality of the wine is in sharp contrast with the wild nature of the Irpinia, where it is made. It is an expression of the natural gentleness of the inhabitants of the district, who have made it, through their dedication and with all simplicity, one of the leading centers of Italian winemaking.
Dominated by an ancient Longobard castle that was enlarged by the Normans, the community of Taurasi is the center of the production of the red wine of the same name. Taurasi is of extremely ancient origin. It is a wine of great body and structure, dry and austere, with an aromatic vein. The wine must be aged for three years, of which one in chestnut or oak casks. In the three succeeding years, the wine can be tasted in the fullness of its quality and is particularly good as an accompaniment to roasted red meats.
The variety from which it is made, Aglianico, was introduced by Hellenic peoples around the time of the foundation of Cumae (Cuma). The variety is found in virtually the whole of southern Italy but the wines produced from it are considerably different, depending upon the places where the vines grow. However, Campania is clearly one of its best habitats. Aglianico has a cluster of medium size that is cylindrical-conical in shape. The grapes are round and blue in color.
Sannio Wines - Sannio DOC, the area where this wine is produced, extends to the whole territory of ancient Samnium (Sannio in Italian), the land of the Samnites - a pre-Roman people of great history and tradition. This is a hilly area in the heart of Campania where the best land has always been used for growing grapevines. The climatic conditions here are ideal for the ripening of grapes. Pliny, Columella, Cato and Horace have written on the excellence of the wines produced in Samnium, some of which they praised for the "slightly smoky aroma" and others, for the "intense resinous scent."
Nowadays, contemporary Samnite winegrowers skillfully produce high quality grapes, which are then transformed into great wines in state-of-the-art wineries. To preserve the quality of the wines, only grapes from the best lands, and not those grown in the humid vineyards located in valley floors, can be used in their production. Strict rules also govern the intensity of cultivation and discourage straining methods.
Honoring the region's ancient winemaking tradition, the D.O.C. regulations for the Sannio leave ample room for the production of wines obtained from the historical grapevines of Samnium - Aglianico, Coda di Volpe, Falanghina, Fiano, Greco, Moscato, Piedirosso, and Sciascinoso - but they also allow the production of a modern wine using a blend of two ancient local grape varieties - Greco and Falanghina - that are vinified through the relatively recent technique of second fermentation in the bottle - with remuage, dégorgement, and the resting of the wine in the spent yeast for at least a year. The result is a Spumante Metodo Classico of great character that deserves to be tasted.
Aglianico is a red-grape variety that is widely diffused in Basilicata and in Campania in the provinces of Avellino and Benevento, where it is known by the names of Gnanico, Agliatica, Ellenico, Ellanica and Uva Nera.
It is of extremely ancient origin and some experts argue that it was cultivated in the early period of Roman history and constituted the principal grape in the production of Falernum, a wine that was celebrated by the ancient poets. The variety was introduced to Italy by the Greeks at the time of the foundation of Cumae (the modern Cuma) or soon afterward, while the transformation of the name from Hellenica into Hellanica and then into Aglianico occurred at the end of the 15th century, the period of Aragonese domination over the Kingdom of Naples.
The production zone of the Aglianico del Taburno in the province of Benevento is a district of high hills that is subject to particularly severe winters. However, the Aglianico variety has successfully adapted to such conditions, even at altitudes of 500-600 meters above sea level. The fine and consistent quality of the wine produced in the area enabled local producers to obtain DOC recognition in 1987.
This quality wine is produced in the territories of 13 municipal districts at the foot of Mount Taburno, in Campania, dotted with vineyards and olive groves. Taburno is the fruit of favorable climatic conditions and the know-how and experience of the area's skilled winegrowers, who are the best allies of the local grape varieties, especially Aglianico and Falanghina.
Until a few decades ago, it was hard to find traces of the glorious past of the local wines here. The local winegrowers' cooperative should be given full credit for having wisely brought together its 400 members in an operation aimed at reviving the great tradition of winemaking in this area through the careful selection of the grapes: the first step in obtaining wines of great quality and distinction.
A growing number of individual producers is involved today in this true renaissance of Taburno wines, as well as in the experimentations with new production techniques.
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