In the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, hectare after hectare of vines, orchards and farms thrive in the fertile soils along the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. This is Campania, a region steeped in history, gastronomical delights and of course, brilliant wine.
Campania may not be as famous as the likes of Piedmont or Tuscany, but it too is home to some of Italy’s greatest wines. It’s home to an impressive variety of local indigenous grapes which become beautifully expressive in the volcanic soils of the region. While we’re on the topic, let’s talk grapes.
It was the ancient Greeks who first brought Aglianico to Italy’s shores where it quickly rose to cult status as the original “first growth,” Falernian. Today, the ancient variety is still responsible for some of central and southern Italy’s best reds and Campania is the place to look for the best of the best. The Taurasi and Aglianico del Taburno DOCGs produce some of the finest examples of Aglianico around. The grape flourishes in the volcanic soils of the region. This stuff is built to age and is a welcome respite if you’re sick of drinking Cab all the time. Then there’s Piedirosso, a local specialty that often shows up in blends, but is also made into the odd single variety wine. It’s an essential component in the phenomenal Lacryma Christi rosso blends, which are made from grapes that grow along the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.
When it comes to whites, you’d be hard-pressed to find better. Sure, you may be more familiar with some of the stars coming out of northeastern Italy, but Campania is easily a top contender for the best white wines made in the Boot. Consider Greco and Fiano, which are the cornerstones of Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino DOCGs, respectively. Mineral-laden, racy wines which are perfect pairings for local seafood dishes and regional favorites like pizza Napoletana, and Caprese salads. These two varieties are the ones you’re most likely to encounter on a wine list or on the shelves of your local wine shop, but there are other treasures to be found. Falanghina, Biancolella and Coda di Volpe, to name a few.
Hot summers, temperate winters and cool coastal breezes define the hilly countryside. Rich, fertile volcanic soils dominate in Campania, courtesy of Mount Vesuvius and Campi Flegrei. The proximity to the sea makes us think of the old rule when it comes to pairing, what grows together goes together. Don’t believe us? Try a glass of Greco with spaghetti alle vongole and tell us we’re wrong.
Although some still believe northern Italy is the seat of fine Italian wine, regions like Campania are proving otherwise. High-quality wines produced from local grapes steeped in a history as rich as the soils the vines grow in, make this region one which warrants further exploration for the thirsty oenophile.