12 April 2021
Think of Italian wine. You can picture the cypresses of Tuscany, the misty hills of the Langhe. Experts would visualize the flat vineyards of Franciacorta and, further into their memory, even some steep ridges of Conegliano, a glistening sea of bright green vine leaves.
And how about Campania? Areas like Taurasi, Sannio, Avellino, Caserta, Irpinia that are teeming with glorious wine history?
On closer inspection, Campania viticulture is one of the best documented in Italy. The region was “the garden of the Romans”, the so-called Felix Campania, the favorite holiday place for nobles of the Res Publica and a treasure trove of delicacies that were praised on the tables of the Latins. The drink that was widely talked about in Rome was Campania wine: Falerno in particular, glorified by poets and was offered by Caesar to Cleopatra to seduce her. And later, in the 13th century, was not Fiano the wine served at the tables of Emperor Frederick II?
But the roots of Campania wine run deeper. They reach back to 730 BC, during the era of Greek expansion in the Mediterranean. Greeks from Euboea founded their own enclave in Cuma, and it is implied that they brought seeds of vitis vinifera with them, as proven today by local varieties that are strongly related to Greek specimens: particularly Aglianico, Greco, Fiano, Falanghina, Biancolella and Piedirosso.
But viticulture in Campania is also the result of "small stories" about the numerous populations who come and went on its valleys and handed their traditions over to time. Proud populations such as the Samnites, who fiercely fought for their independence just as the young Roman Republic expanded into Southern Italy, between the 4th and 3rd centuries BC.
THE MAIN WINEGROWING AREAS IN CAMPANIA
Today, Campania is a mosaic of cultures and territories with their own characteristics that are also reflected in viticulture. But which areas and wines must we absolutely need to know more about? In order to get an idea, we have chosen three.
Corresponding almost entirely to the province of Avellino, Irpinia is undoubtedly the most suitable wine region in Campania, the place-to-be to have a clear and complete overview of the best local products. Here, Aglianico is “King” among the varieties, reaching its epitome in Taurasi: Taurasi rosso Docg is 100% Aglianico, rich, concentrated and complex, elegant and surprising, a wine that hardly leaves an enthusiast feeling uninterested. Other very important vines are also grown in Irpinia: Greco Bianco, used to produce Greco di Tufo Docg, and Fiano, a white variety that yields Fiano di Avellino Doc.
The province of Benevento is distinguished by the vast area of Sannio, home to those Samnites who have given the Romans a hard time. The area of Benevento is famous for the production of Sannio Doc, a designation of origin including red, white and rosé wines that use the varieties traditionally grown in the area such as Aglianico, Coda di Volpe, Falanghina, Fiano, Greco, Moscato Bianco, Piedirosso and Sciascinoso. Another important denomination in the area is Aglianico del Taburno Docg, pride of the Sannio hills.
Known mainly for its scenic beauty, the area of Cilento is heavily planted with vines. The vineyards climb the Apennine ridges that rise suddenly from the coast, reaching even 1200 meters in altitude. Cilento Doc is the area’s denomination and includes white, red and rosé wines. The most famous ones are Cilento Rosso, made mainly with Aglianico; and Cilento Bianco, a blend of local vines of which at least 60% is Fiano.
FEUDI DI SAN GREGORIO, THE ESSENCE OF CAMPANIA
If you feel bewildered by so much richness, don't worry. In Campania, there is a winery that can sum up all the most extraordinary nuances of this land. We are talking about Feudi di San Gregorio, certainly one of the most famous and important wineries in Southern Italy. Founded in 1986, today it belongs to the Capaldo family and produces 3.5 million bottles a year from 300 hectares of vineyards. Its chosen land is Irpinia, where its vineyards can be found, but this area is the ideal place to get to know the prime of the region.
Coming to Feudi di San Gregorio is like entering a library of Campania wine. It starts with the local masterpieces: Taurasi, Irpinia Aglianico and Greco di Tufo. Then it proceeds with the classics: such as Fiano d’Avellino and Falanghina. There is no shortage of rare labels such as Sirica, a real ampelographic memento already mentioned by Pliny; Biancolella, a native variety of the island of Ischia imported from the Greeks of Euboea; and Piedirosso, also known as per'e palummo, typical of the area of Naples.
In short, production at Feudi di San Gregorio combines the very soul of Irpinia, offering an exhaustive overview of Campania wines, fruits of the desire to recount - through uncompromising choices of vinification and aging - the richness of the most expressive vineyards of Felix Campania.