The region of Campania in Southern Italy produces some of the country’s best white wines. Irpinia, in the northeast of Campania, excels in Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo.
Teresa Bruno Di Petilia, President, and Ilaria Petitto, the Vice President of the Conzorzio Tutela Vini d’Irpinia invited me to a tasting of the wines of Irpinia at Il Gattopardo NYC. The event was called “Spectacular Irpinia.” Their goal is to familiarize the wine drinking public with Irpinia and make their excellent wines better known.
The speaker was Susannah Gold, who did an excellent job of sharing her knowledge of the wines of Irpinia through her talk and slide presentation. We tasted 6 white wines and 6 reds. This blog will deal with the 6 whites.
Irpinia (Latin Hirpinia) is located in the northeast of Campania in the province of Avellino, about 50 kilometers from Naples. The name “Irpinia” derives from the ancient Oscan word “hirpus,” which means wolf, and the wolf remains Irpinia’s symbol to this day.
The Irpinia DOC covers the entire province of Avellino and within the DOC are the DOCG zones of Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino. These wines were known to the Ancient Romans and they were recorded by Pliny the Elder (d.79AD). Because of the loose sandy and volcanic soil there are many pre-phylloxera vines (old vines) producing wines of unparalleled concentration and depth.
Fiano di Avellino
Fiano di Avellino must have 85% Fiano by law but almost all, if not all, producers in Irpinia use 100% Fiano. The DOCG stretches over 26 comunes/municipalities and 430 hectares of valleys and slopes. Avellino is in the heart of the southern Apennine mountains in Campania.
The vineyards are between 300 and 600 meters and the soil is volcanic, clay-calcareous and limestone. Fiano di Avellino is a wine that can age.
Fiano Di Avellino “Alimata” 2018. Villa Raiano Alimata is the name of the district of the municipality of Montefredane in the province of Avellino that you encounter going up towards the town on the slope of the hill that faces east. Here, at 350 meters above sea level, is the two-hectare vineyard where the grapes for this wine grow. The soils are composed of clay on a marly basis. The vinification is simple but developed over a long time: it takes place in steel vats where it refines on the lees for twelve months and a further twelve months of aging in the bottle. This is an elegant wine with hints of citrus fruit, apple, white flowers and a nice finish and long aftertaste. I visited the winery in 2019 and liked this wine so much I took a few bottles back home with me.
Fiano Di Avellino “Eclissi” 2018 Case d’Alto made from 100% Fiano di Avellino from a 2 hectare vineyard in Grottaminarda. The soil is clay and calcareous. The wine has hints of apple, yellow fruit, lemon and a note of fresh hazelnuts
Fiano Di Avellino Riserva 2018 Sarno 1860 erre made from 100% Fiano di Avellino from a 3 hectare vineyard of the winery. The winery is in Candida, an ancient village in the province of Avellino. The vineyards are at 6,000 meters and the soil is calcareous clay rich in potassium and phosphorus. Harvest is by hand in the middle of October. Grapes are crushed with a pneumatic press with the cage closed, and the wine spends 18 months on the lees. This is a complex wine with depth and structure. It has hints of white peaches, pears, hazelnuts with floral notes and a touch of mint. Sarno 1860 produces only Fiano di Avellino and just 3,000 bottles of this wine were made.
Greco di Tufo
Tufo is the name of a village and also the type of rock the village is built on. It is made from volcanic ash from eruptions which then becomes solid. Tuff rich volcanic (above 400 meters) and clay soils combined with sulfur help to add character to the wines. Sulfur mines were present here and in the town of Tufo you can sometimes smell sulfur in the air. Two major areas have distinctive types of soil. In the north there are more stones and flysch and in the south more volcanic materials.
Susannah mentioned that Greco is related to Asprinio. The Greco di Tufo DOCG covers only 8 communes.
Greco di Tufo 2021 Historia Antiqua made from 100% Fiano di Avellino. The winery was started in the 1990’s and and was at first a Consortium. Today there are 40 hectares of vineyards. The soil is loam and clay and grass grows between the rows of vines. The wine has hints of lemons, a touch of pear, and a note of toasted almonds with good minerality.
Like Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo by law must have 85% Greco but most, if not all producers, use 100% Greco
Greco di Tufo is a wine that can age.
Greco di Tufo ‘Quattro Venti’ Riserva 2020 Petilia Made from 100% Fiano di Avellino. The vineyards are in Chianche, locality of Sant’Andrea (Altavilla). The vineyards are at 600 meters, the exposure is south/east and there are 4,000 plants per hectare. The soil is clayey, volcanic, and rich in minerals with a sumptuous subsoil and the training system is espalier with guyot pruning. The vines are 20 years old. Harvest takes place the second week of October. There is ultra soft pressing with whole grapes and fermentation in steel tanks at a controlled temperature. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine has citrus notes, hints of almonds, lemon blossoms and quince.
Teresa Bruno Di Petilia CFO of Azienda Agricola Petilia, who is also the president of the Consorzio, was present and spoke about her wines. I visited the winery a few years ago.
Greco di Tufo ‘Vigna Laure” 2020 Riserva Cantina Di Marzo Made from100% Greco di Tufo from a 5 hectare vineyard with a south-southwest exposure. Vines were planted in 2008 and 2010. Laure vineyard is on a rock which is on top of an old sulphur mine. The grapes are hand harvested toward the end of October. Destemming takes place followed by a gentle pressing. Only the free run juice is used and fermentation with selected yeasts takes place in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine is on the lees for 9 months where malolactic fermentation takes place. There is a light filtration before bottling and the wine remains in the bottle for at least one year before it is bottled. This is a wine with hints of bitter lemon, lime, Mediterranean herbs, a touch of almonds and a hint of eucalyptus. Mr. Ferrante De Somma, owner of Cantina Di Marzo, said that this is the oldest cantina in Campania and that his ancestor introduced the Greco grape into the zone.
Some of the difference between Fiano and Greco is that Fiano is more elegant, has an apple aroma and hints of hazelnuts. Greco has more body, takes on a slightly honey quality with age and has hints of almonds.
I was very pleased with all the white wines from Irpinia that I tased. Code di Volpe and Falanghina are white wines also produced in Campania but they were not part of the tasting.
Next time Aglianico and Taurasi.
3 responses to “The White Wines of Irpinia: Fiano di Avellino & Greco di Tufo”
I personally feel that the wines from this region don’t get the attention they deserve.
Such a great article Charles. I am so glad you have such a complete overview of the wines we tasted.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ciao Susannah-thank you