There were so many great white wines from Campania at the recent Wine Media Guild tasting and lunch that I had to write about them in two blogs. This is the second
Campania has some of the oldest and most unusual grape varieties in Italy, such as Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo, Ginestra, Pepella and Fenile.
In his book Brunello to Zibibbo, Nicholas Belfrage writes, “Fiano is either a native grape of Campania or a member of a family of grapes called Apianes brought to southern Italy from the Peloponesse, once called Apia… it is mentioned specifically by Pliny in his Naturalis Historia… ‘the bees give Fiano its name, because of their desire (for it).’ Pliny’s etymology has since been challenged…it is not bees (apes), but wasps that are attracted to the sweet grapes, and it is claimed that the name really derives from appiano, a type of apple, or Apia, once a place name in the province of Avellino now called Lapia.
Fiano di Avellino Etichetta Nera 2013 I Favati Made from 100% Fiano di Avellino. The grapes come from the 5 hectare vineyard Pietramara in Altripalda in the province of Avellino. The age of the vines are 6/7 years, the soil is mostly clay and there are 6,500 vines per hectare. The training system is guyot and the harvest takes place the 3rd to 4th week of October. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks and maceration takes place on the lees.
Fiano di Avellino 2013 Tenuta Sarno 1860 made from 100% Fiano di Avellino from the vineyards of Tenuta Sarno 1860. 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 6 months on the lees. This is a complex wine with depth and structure. It has hints of white peaches, pears and hazelnuts. $25
Fiano di Avellino 2012 Ciro Picariello made from 100% Fiano from a seven hectare vineyard in the villages of Montefredane at 1600 ft. and Summonte at 2,100 ft. The harvest takes place in late October and the grapes are picked by hand. The grapes undergo a slow pressing with only the first press fraction used. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeast for 11/12 months and then several months in bottle before release. There is a minimal use of SO2 and the wine is not filtered or fined. The wine has hints of apple, white peach, hazelnut and a touch of flint and minerality due to the volcanic soil. $29
Fiano di Avellino Ventidue 2009 Villa Raiano made from 100% Fiano from vineyards in the municipalities of Candida, Montefredane, Lapio and San Michele di Serino in Irpinia. The vineyard is at 450/600 meters, the soil is calcareous clay and marl, with loamy sand, the training system is espalier-guyot and there are 4,500 plants per hectare. Harvest takes place the first week of October. Vinification is in stainless steel tanks. There is a settling of the must after a soft pressing of whole clusters and inoculation with selected yeasts. The wine is bottled the second week of February following the harvest. This is a wine with a mineral character, good acidity and hints of citrus fruits, white peaches, and a touch of mint and sage. $23
Fiano di Avillano can age and is at its best when it is 5 to 10 years old. However there are also many that can age for 15 to 20 years and longer.
Irpinia Bianco Campania ”Campanaro” 2012. Feudi di San Gregorio made from Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo grapes are from the Valle dei Ruggi vineyard in the commune of Sorbo Serpico and the Campanaro vineyard in the commune of Tufo, Campania. 15+ year-old vines are grown at between 1,300 – 1,600 ft above sea level with southern and southwestern exposures. Grapes are grown at a moderately dense 4,500 vines per hectare and organic farming methods are employed. The Fiano is grown in a moderately deep soil with slight to moderately calcareous surface. Deeper levels are calcareous with silt clay and marl, limey soil. The Greco is grown in deep, finely textured, moderately alkaline and very calcareous soil with a clay surface layer with deeper layers of clay, lime marl and copious limestone. Harvest is the first two weeks of October. There is a soft crushing of the grapes at low pressure followed by cold settling for 24/48 hours in stainless steel and wood. The wine is aged for 6 months on the lees and then spends four months in bottle before release. $14
Ginestra: This grape variety is present in Furore, Tramonti, Corbaia and Positano. It has nothing to do with Falanghina, with which it was mistakenly combined in the 19th century. It has a characteristically strong scent of broom, known in Italian as ginestra, from which it takes its name. This robust grape variety requires extensive pruning and offers discreet yields. It is a complementary grape variety in the Costa d’Amalfi Bianco DOC.
Pepella: With only a few large grapes on each bunch, the rest of them are small, the size of peppercorns (hence the name), but they all ripen at the same time. This is another grape variety exclusive to the area of Amalfi inland from the coast. Pepella is fairly uncommon and the vines are rather old. As a complementary grape variety, it falls under the Tramonti and Ravello subzones of the Costa d’Amalfi Rosso DOC.
Costa D’ Amalfi Bianco “Per Eva” 2008 Tenuta San Francesco made from 65% Falanghina, 30% Ginestra and 5% Pepella. The vineyard was once owned by the clergy so it is called “Vigna dei Preti.” It is located in Tramonti on the hills high above the Amalfi Coast. The vineyard is on steep-sloped terraced hills 300/500 meters above sea level. The harvest takes place the third week of October. Fermentation is in stainless steel for 10 months and two months in bottle before release. The wine is named for the wife of one of the owners. This is a wine with nice fruit, smoke, good minerality and acidity.
Fenile: I was sitting next to Livio Panebianco, the importer for Marisa Cuomo Wines and he told me about the Fenile grape. It is a complementary variety found mainly in the territories of Furore, Positano and Amalfi. It is trained using the pergola system in groups of two or three vines per position. Fenile offers a modest production due to the slight weight of the bunch. This grape ripens between the end of August and the first few days of September and the very thin skin of the berry means that it must be harvested immediately to prevent it from rotting.
Ripolo: The grape variety is now grown in a few areas mostly in the municipalities of Furore and Positano. It is not particularly fertile and production is not always constant. In particular, the weight of the bunch is well below average.
Costa D’ Amalfi “Fiorduva” Furore Bianco 2012 Cantina Marisa Cuomo. The wine is made from 30% Fenile, 30% Ginestra and 40% Ripolo. The production zone is in Furore and the surrounding municipalities on the Amalfi coast. The coastal terraces are at 200/500 meters and are south facing. There are 5,000 to 7,000 vines per hectare. The training system is pergola. The soil is limestone-dolomite rocks. The overripe grapes are harvested by hand the third week of October and the grapes arrive intact in the cantina. After pressing the juice is inoculated with selected yeast. Fermentation takes place for about 3 months in oak barrels at 12°C. The wine has very nice fruit with hints of apricot, raisins, a touch of candied fruit and good acidity. This was one of my favorite wines at the tasting.