I have known Ilaria Petitto, CEO of the Donnachiara Winery, for some time and have always enjoyed her wines. I also have visited the winery in Campania a few times. Recently, Il Gattopardo Restaurant hosted a tasting and lunch, and I was very pleased to attend and see Ilaria again.
Ilaria spoke about the winery. She said the winery is located in Montefalcione in the Irpinia area near Avellino. The modern winery was completed in 2005 but the vineyards have been in the family for over 150 years. Ilaria’s mother, Chiara Petitto, is a big supporter of her work in the winery, which is named after her mother’s grandmother whom everyone called “Donna” Chiara as a sign of respect.
The consulting oenologist for Donnachiara is the legendary Riccardo Cotarella. It is the philosophy of the winery to preserve the traditional grape varieties of the local territory and keep the typical character of the wines from being lost to standardization, like many of the wines on the market today. They also follow “Misura CE n.1257/99 – “Produzione integrata della Regione Campania,” limiting the use of some active ingredients that are harmful to the environment.
Ilaria proudly announced that she is now the Vice President of the Conosrzio di Tutela dei Vini dell’Irpinia.
THE WHITE WINES
Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2021, 100% Fiano. The soil is chalky clay and there are 4,400 plants per hectare. The vines are guyot trained and the harvest takes place in the second half of October. There is a soft pressing of the grapes that are quickly cooled to 50F for 4 to 6 hours. Fermentation is at 57 to 60F in steel tanks for 15 days. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. This is a delicate and elegant wine with hints of pear, almonds, citrus fruit and floral. This grape variety was brought to Campania by the Ancient Greeks. The Romans called it vitis apiana – the Latin root for bees is apiana. Even today bees are attracted to the Fiano grape and Ilaria said you can see the honey bees in the vineyards in Montefalcione.
Fiano di Avellino BIO “Empatia” 2021, 100% Fiano di Avellino Ilaria said only the best grapes from the vineyard in Montefalcione, which is certified organic, are used for this wine. The grapes are hand harvested the second half of October at the coolest part of the day and there is a very careful selection. The soil is chalky and the training system is guyot. Cryomaceration (crushed grapes are held at low temperature) is at 42-46F to preserve the aroma, prevent oxidation and enhance the characteristics of the grapes. There is a soft pressing of the grapes using a pneumatic press and fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for about 14 days. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine spends some time in bottle before release. This is an impressively elegant wine with hints of apple, almonds, tropical fruit and floral notes with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste.
Greco di Tufo DOCG 2020 made from 100% Greco. The soil is tuffaceous and the training system is guyot. There are 3,300 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place the second half of October. A soft pressing of selected grapes takes place and after that a cold decanting of the must in steel vats for 15 days. Fermentation is at 57 to 60F. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. This is an elegant wine with good structure with hints of pear, apricot, citrus and a touch of pineapple.
Greco di Tufo “Aletheia” 2020, DOCG 100% Greco di Tufo Only the best grapes from the Santa Paolina vineyard in the Tufa zone are used. The harvest is by hand during the coolest parts of the day, the second half of October. The soil is tuffaceous and the training system is guyot. Cryomaceration is at 42-46F to preserve the aroma, prevent oxidation and enhance the characteristics of the grapes. There is a soft pressing of the grapes using a pneumatic press and fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for about 15 days. The fermented must is left to age on the lees for about a year with weekly batonnage. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. The wine remains in the bottle for a period of time before release. This is an intense wine with hints of citrus fruit, pear, apricot and a hint of hazelnuts and pineapple.
It was interesting to taste the Fiano and the Fiano Empatia side by side. You can tell the two apart because the Empatia has more body and a greater depth of aromas and flavors. Both are wines that will age very well and I have had Fiano and that has been 20 years old and still drinking very well. I can say the same thing for the Greco and the Greco Aletheia.
With the white wines we had Cavatelli di Grano Antico “Senatore Cappelli” con fagioli Spollichini e Cozze, cavatelli pasta made with high protein flour, fresh beans and mussels. All four the wines were a great combination with this dish.
Even though we did not have the Falanghina at this event, I must mention that Donnachiara’s is one of the best that it has been my pleasure to drink!
THE RED WINES
Irpinia Aglianico DOC 2020, 100% Aglianico. The soil is clay, the training system is guyot and the harvest takes place the first week in November. Fermentation takes place at 68 to 71 F in stainless steel tanks for 15 days. Maturation is on the skins for 10 days. Malolactic fermentation is in barriques. The wine is full and complex with hints of prune, blueberries and a note of spice.
Taurasi DOCG 2018. The soil is clay and the training system is guyot. There are 4,000 plants per hectare and harvest takes place the first week of November. The wine is aged for 12 months in 225-liter French barriques and remains in the bottle for another 24 months before release. The wine has hints of blackberry, plum, cherry and a touch of cacao. The use of barrique is subtle and did not mask the character of the wine. Taurasi is a wine that can age for many years and I have had Taurasi the has been over 40 years old that was a pleasure to drink.
With the red wine we had Tacchino del “Ringraziamento” ripeno di Castagne e Salsiccia con friatielli saltati in padella, Thanksgiving turkey stuffed with chestnuts and sausage with sauteed broccoli rabe.
Both the Aglianico and the Taurasi paired well with the turkey and the stuffing. Both had enough fruit and body to go along with a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
The wines range in price from $20 to $36 and are a fantastic bargain.
The event was organized by Susannah Gold of Vigneto Communication. Susannah is a true professional.