Campania Stories is the name of an organized event to introduce and educate about the wines of Campania. Before the trip, they sent me a list of wines that I could visit when I attended their wine event in Benevento.
The first winery I chose was Donnachiara. I had been to the winery before and had tasted the wines with Ilaria Petitto a number of times in NYC. I wanted to visit again to see what was new and how the wines had developed.
The winery is located in Montefalcione in the province of Avellino. The modern winery was completed in 2005 but the vineyards have been in the family for 150 years.
Ilaria and her mother Chiara greeted me. Chiara said that the winery is named after her grandmother Donnachiara.
Umberto, Ilaria, Chiara, Francesco de Rienzo
Winemaker Angelo Valentino led us through a tasting of the wines. I told him that the Donnachiara whites were some of the best I have tasted from this area. He said that all of them are made in the same way. The juice was free run and fermented and aged in stainless steel. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. Angelo believes that most white wines are consumed too young. He feels that they should be at least 3 years old because in the first year or so all you get are the aromas and taste of the fermentation process. In answer to a question, Angelo said it was his love for Fiano and Taurasi that made him become an enologist.
So I was looking forward to see how the wines have developed. He said 2015 was an excellent vintage. It was warm year, but rain came at the right time.
Falanghina 2015 IGT made from 100% Falanghina The grapes come from vineyards that they rent in Benevento. The soil is chalky clay, there are 2,500 vines per hectare and the training system is Guyot. The grapes were picked at the height of maturity. This is the perfect wine with spaghetti alle vongole.
Coda di Volpe DOC 2015 made from 100% Coda di Volpe. The wine had been bottled just 8 days before. Angelo said that this is a different variety of Coda di Volpe than is used in other areas and has more body. The soil is mostly clay and the training system is Guyot. There are 2,500 plants per hectare. This is a wine with good structure, hints of citrus and herbs. There is good acidity, nice minerality, long finish and pleasing aftertaste.
We tasted the Fiano di Avelliano DOCG 2015 100% Fiano (Two days later at the blind tasting held at our hotel in Benevento. I picked this wine as one of the top Fiano’s) The soil is chalky clay and the training system is Guyot. There are 4.400 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place during the second week of October. One could see the development of the wines from the different vintages. This is a wine with good structure and body.
Last time I was there I tasted the 2011, 2010 and 2009 vintages of the Fiano di Avellino. There were floral notes, aromas and flavors of citrus fruits and good acidity in the wines. There was a hint of smoke and it really become noticeable in the 2009. Angelo said Fiano grows best in clay soil. These wines are very full-bodied showing no signs of age.
On this my latest visit, I tasted the 2009 and the 2007. Both were showing very well and still showing no signs of age. The 2009 still had that hint of smoke. Angelo said that it was colder in 2009 than in 2007 so the wines did taste slightly different.
I drank both of them with a traditional lunch of Ravioli, Meatballs, and la Pastiera, the traditional Easter cake prepared by Chiara.
Umberto Petitto, Chiara’s husband, joined us for lunch.
Greco di Tufo 2015 DOCG 100% Greco di Tufo The soil is tuffaceious and the training system is espallier. There are 3,300 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place during the second week of October. Illaria said that the grapes come from highly rated vineyards. The grapes are not destemmed or crushed prior to pressing. Cold fermentation with extended maceration. No oak is used. This is a wine that needs at least 5 or 6 years of bottle age before it is ready to drink. One of my top picks at the blind tasting.
When I visited the winery 3 years ago, I tasted barrel samples of two wines, Greco 2011 and Fiano 2011 both of which they made for the first time.
Fiano 2011 IGT only made in the best vintages with no battonage, like in Alsace with 20% new oak and late harvest grapes picked when there was sleet in November. It is a dry wine.
Ilaria said that her father Umberto had planted the Greco di Tufo grape in Torre le Nocella, which is not in the DOCG zone. He felt that this area would produce a Greco of great quality. It is a single vineyard (cru) Vigna Nascosta, which means hidden vineyard.
The Fiano is a cru from a single vineyard in Montefalcione and will be called Esoterico.
Angelo explained that both these wines would be different from their other white wines. Both will be fermented and aged in new barriques.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well both these wines had developed. The Fiano was elegant and complex with hints of citrus fruits, especially lemon, with a touch of smoke.
The Greco was complex and rich with hints of apricot, mango, candied citrus fruits and good minerality.
I then had a discussion with Angelo about which wine ages better, Fiano or Greco. We disagreed. He stated the case for Fiano and I for Greco.
Taurasi di Umberto 2012 named after Umberto Petitto. 100% Agalianco, The soil is clay and the training system is Guyot, there are 4,000 plants per hectare and the harvest is the first week of November. The wine spends 18 months in French barriques.
Taurasi Riserva 2012 DOCG The wine is like the one above but is aged in very old barriques. It is a big tannic. intense wine with good structure and body and hints of blackberry, plum, cherry and a touch of coffee. It will only get better with time.
We also tasted the 2009 and 2011 Taurasi which were developing very nicely.