The annual Wines of Italy show at Roy Thomson Hall is one of the highlights of the fall wine season in Toronto. The show is so large, grand and diverse, that I never expect to sample more than a tiny portion of what is available. So my strategy is to relax, enjoy what I can, and pick a small corner of Italy to focus on in a little more depth. This year, as I perused the guide in preparation for my walk through the venue, I decided to search out the wines from Campania.
Last March I spent a glorious week there as a participant in Campania Stories 2015, and fell in love with the region and its wines. It is the home of three of Italy’s truly great wine varieties — the wonderful, ageable white wines Fiano and Greco, and the fine red Aglianico. Add in the white wines made from Falanghina and Coda di Volpe, and the pleasant, fresh, red Piedirosso. Then start exploring the treasure trove of additional indigenous grapes that have survived the ravages of philloxera in the remote hills and mountains of the region, or in highly volcanic soils that are inhospitable to the scourge, and you have a seemingly endless array of wines of interest.
Then there is the land itself. Both the pure, sandy, volcanic soils of Campi Flegrei and the slopes of Mount Vesuvius are home to many examples of own-rooted vines of varieties such as Falanghina and Piedarosso, that are direct descendants of pre-phylloxera plantings. The foothills and mountain slopes of the interior are limestone interlaced with pockets of volcanic soils. When you combine the elevations of the foothills with these soils, you get acid- and mineral-driven wines that are seemingly at odds with Campania’s position as a southern Italian region
One of the highlights of my stay in Campania was a visit to Fattoria Alois near Pontelatone in Caserta, north of Naples. I spent an enjoyable and instructive afternoon with Massimo Alois and his father Michele, walking through their home vineyard, visiting the cellar, and tasting their wines.
To my great satisfaction, I found that Massimo was here at the show, with a selection of five of his wines. Although there was only one other representative of Campania, Azienda Agricola Fonzone Caccese (Fonzone for short), I was pleased to taste their white wines as well.
While Alois grows Aglianico and Falanghina, they are also enthusiastic proponents of some of the recently rediscovered local varieties, such as Pallagrello Bianco, Pallegrello Nero (no relation to each other) and the red Casavecchia. As I tasted their wines, I was carried back to the lovely vineyards and the volcanic soils under them. There’s a mineral element in the wines that seems to be connected to those soils, hard as that is to understand from a scientific perspective, and the wines reminded me very graphically of their origins.
The five wines of Alois were:
- 2014 Caulino, Campania IGP, 100% Falanghina, The nose expresses lively citrus-lemon, apple, white peach and white flowers. The wine is crisp, fresh and clean, with stony minerality backing the pretty fruit on the palate. Lovely!
- 2014 Caiatì, Terre del Volturno IGP, 100% Pallagrello Bianco. (Also tasted from the tank in March 2015). Medium yellow with gold highlights, the nose suggests rich lemon, yellow apple fruit, white flowers, slightly waxy and honeyed, with a nutty almond note. Richer than the Falanghina, it is still crisp and mineral-driven on the palate, with some bitter and savoury tones underpinning the fruit. Long mineral finish. Very fine.
- 2013 Campole, Campania IGP, 100% Aglianico from the Audelino vineyard. Fermented in stainless steel, aged in third pass French oak barrels. The wine is a medium ruby-red, not highly extracted. Lifted violet, red cherry and raspberry aromas are supplemented by a lightly herbal and spice note and an earthy minerality. The wine is crisp, medium-bodied, with elevated, fine-grained tannins, This is an interesting expression of Aglianico, staying lively and expressive on the palate, with a crisp and lightly tannic finish. Excellent.
- 2011 Cunto Murello, Terre del Volturno IGP, 100% Pallagrello Nero, from their Morrone della Monica Vineyard. Slightly deeper and darker than the Aglianico, with a rich nose suggesting red cherries, raspberries, black currants, tobacco leaf and dry earth. The wine is dry, with elevated tannins (though not as pronounced as those of the Aglianico), with lots of rich fruit on the palate, though it dries quickly on the finish. A very solid wine.
- 2011 Trebulanum, Terre del Volturno IGP, 100% Casavecchia from the volcanic soils of their Cesone Vineyard. The wine is fermented in stainless steel, and aged in large Italian botti for 18 months. It still appears rather youthful, with its rather deep ruby-red colour that shows slightly violet on the rim. Aromas of violets, cherry, raspberry, plums and dry earth fill the nose, with a dusting of dry herbs and spice. The drying cherry and berry fruit explodes on the palate, framed by elevated acidity and grippy tannins. Rich, powerful, with a lingering finish. Excellent.
While Fattoria Alois is north of Naples, Fonzone is east of Naples, in the foothills near Avellino. This is the area that produces the classic whites Greco and Fiano, along with some Falanghina, and the red Aglianico. Since I had only a few minutes with them, I focused on their white wines, particularly the Fiano and Greco. To my mind these varieties rank at the very top of Italian whites.
2014 Falanghina, Irpinia DOC,100% Falanghina. This is a fine example of Falanghina: aromas of lemon, apple and white peach and white flowers fill the nose. The wine is crisp, and fresh, with lemon and apple flavours carried by stony minerality, into a pleasant drying finish with a little peach pit bitterness.
- 2014 Fiano di Avellino DOCG, 100% Fiano. The wine shows as a very youthful light yellow. The nose features crisp lemon and green apple fruit, with notes of green herbs, blanched almonds, and a suggestion of lees. The wine is dry, with elevated acidity, and a thrilling saline minerality complemented by a nutty, leesy creaminess. The fruit withdraws a little into the background on the long mineral-laden finish. A terrific wine!
- 2014 Greco di Tufo DOCG, 100% Greco. The wine is a little deeper in colour than the Fiano, and perhaps a little fatter on the palate as well. A little more aromatic too, with aromas of lemon, apple, and white peach, some florality, with green herbs and an almond nuttiness. The wine is dry, with elevated acidity and a rather full body. Crisp minerality and a nutty earthiness is the story here, leading into a mineral and bitter almond finish. Another lovely wine.
Here are two other wines from Campania that I’ve recently reviewed on WineDiscovery, and that should still be available in Ontario.
CONTRADE DI TAURASI GRECOMUSC' 2012, IGT Campania Bianco
Vintages #418715 • $32.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 90/100This is an interesting wine made from a rare and almost extinct grape variety — Rovello Bianco, locally known as Grecomusc' or Greco Muscio — from Taurasi, Mirabella Eclano and Bonito in Avellino Campania. Contrade di Taurasi has replanted and nurtured this variety, and I for one am very happy that they have! The wine is medium yellow, with a slightly restrained mineral-laden nose reminiscent of wet stones , earth, and just a hint of white flowers, pears and lime, with a light herbal note. The wine is bone dry, with brisk acidity, understated but not quite austere, and a very mineral finish. I like this very much, and I'm willing to swallow the price to support this revival.
Tasted July 24, 2015 • GROUPE SOLEIL (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation
TERREDORA FALANGHINA 2014, IGT Campania
Vintages #642074 • $16.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 88/100The wine is a medium straw colour with glints of yellow. Aromas of lemon, apple and green herbs foretell the palate, which adds a lightly earthy and saline undertone. Dry, crisp, fresh, lively and mineral — a perfect example of Falanghina. Excellent value.
Tasted Oct. 16, 2015 • HALPERN ENTERPRISES (Agent) • Find it at your nearest LCBO • Share Recommendation