Probably better known for its wild scenic beauty, and home of the Naples, and the world famous holiday destination of the Amalfi Coast, Campania, is a region steeped in wine history, going back to the 12th century, with a long heritage of influence from several of the ancient empires, including the Greeks, the Romans and the Byzantines.
Situated just above the ‘toe’ of Italy, let’s call it ‘the shin’, it lies on the shimmering Tyrrhenian Sea, overlooking the beautiful islands of Capri and Ischia; with the Bay of Naples, and Mount Vesuvius, its best known locations, whilst it has one of the longest histories of wine production of all the regions, it is only in recent years, that it has come to the fore in terms of quality wine production, with some interesting and traditional grape varieties, not seen in other regions.
There are over 100 little known grape varieties, in the region, with some emerging stars appearing on the world stage, such as the white grapes Fiano and Falanghina, and the red Aglianico. Having long been known as a workhouse region, Campania is now producing a wide variety, of fresh, modern dry whites, crisp sparkling wines, and both fruit driven and more traditional reds.
There are 3 DOCG regions, and almost 10 lesser-knownn DOCs.
Taurasi, the most famous red wine region, lies high in the hills to the north east of Naples, and produces powerful, yet attractive wines from the Aglianico grape.
Directly west of Naples, lies the DOCG Fiano di Avelino, nestled in the foothills of the Apenines – whilst the increasingly popular Fiano grape is grown all over Campania, it puts on its best performance in the small region of Avelino, benefitting from the cooler mountain climate.
The third DOCG is Greco di Tufo, situated even higher into the Apenine hills, and so named both because of the grape from which it is made ‘Greco di Tufo’, and ‘Tufo’ is both one of only 8 villages allowed to make wine labelled Greco di Tufo, but also is the name of the volcanic rock, on which it is grown.
Campania Wine Styles
Campania produces a wide variety of wines, due to its diverse terrains and weather patterns, including some deliciously fruity dry and semi sweet sparkling wines, surprisingly modern and fresh dry whites (given the southern location), and rich intense reds.
Greco di Tufo – probably the best known, and one of the highest quality styles of white in the region, producing both fresh, complex whites, and also some deliciously fragrant sparkling wines. Greco di Tufo is derived from the ancient grape Greco Bianco, brought to the region by the Greeks, and works in this southerly location, mainly because of the altitude, and therefore the cooler climate, which keeps the grapes fresh, and higher in acidity. There is a unique, fragrant, almost mineral quality to these wines, with gentle aromas of peaches and baked apples, and yet a steely freshness, which is a direct result of the unique volcanic, or ‘tufa’ soil on which the grapes are grown. all wines labelled Greco di Tufo must be made from a minimum 85% of that grape variety.
Fiano di Avelino – another unique style of white wine, grown slighter lower down the hillsides west of Naples. Fiano is produced all over the region, but again, the very best are from this area. Historically the wine produced was sweet, and the Fiano still produces some delicious semi-sweet sparkling wines, because of the natural richness and sweetness of the grape. Fiano di Avelino wines are elegant, complex and intense, with a ripe, peach and apricot style of fruit, highly aromatic, yet delightfully dry and structured.
Lachryma Christi del Vesuvio – one of the quaintest wine names in Italy, and meaning‘ the tears of Christ on Vesuvius’; until the arrival of top winemaker Antonio Mastroberardino, who masterminded the development of high quality wines from this region, this area, on the volcanic slopes of this still rumbling Vesuvius mountains, was thought unsuitable for grape growing, but is now producing some unique reds and whites. There are various stories relating to the name of the region, but all link to tears (either of Jesus, or Bacchus) falling on Vesuvius, and prompting the growth of vines! The whites are rich, powerful and aromatic, albeit more traditional in style; the reds are rich and full, with a smokey style, derived from the volcanic soil, and flavours or spice, pepper and rich berry fruit.
Taurasi - the best known red wine region, and another one, developed and made more internationally famous by Antonio Mastroberardino, who shot to fame with his first vintage of Taurasi in 1968. Produced with a minimum 85% Aglianico grape, these wines are powerful and statement- making, almost the Barolos of the south! They are made for keeping, with all wines required to be aged for a minimum 3 years, of which one in barrel, and riserva wine for 4 years, with a minimum 18 months in oak. They are big, bold, slightly wild, and dense, with incredibly rich flavours, but also strong tannins that take time to soften.
Grapes & Food Matching
There are four main grape varieties used in the area:
Fiano – a full-flavoured style of wine, dry, aromatic and more powerful than northern Italy’s frequently very light whites; packed with ripe, apricot, peach, and nectarine scents, it is bone dry, yet has a rich, almost luscious style , with a great depth of flavour and elegant acidity on the finish; great with bold flavours, it works with the rich, flavoursome dishes of southern Italy – pasta with ripe tomatoes, vegetables, and fresh chillies; prawns spiked with garlic and herbs, fish and chicken with a lemon gremolata topping, mildly spicy and fruity couscous, and also gentle Asian dishes.
Falanghina – another grape variety showing increasing popularity and a real food wine. It’s intense fragrance, and rich, quince and white peach style of fruit, with hints of orange blossom, yet its dryness makes it perfect for fish, chicken and vegetable dishes with a kick of chilli, or an Asian influence; in the south of Italy they cook a great deal with the abundance of fruit that they grow, and this wine would also work with most white meats, involving a fruity sauce, or component.
Greco di Tufo – slightly lighter, crisper, styles of wine, but still with that unique, aromatic and floral element which characterises the whites of this area. Elegant , stylish and perfect with scallops, simply grilled seafood, and herb and olive oil drizzled pan fried fish and baked chicken. Also great with goats cheese salad.
Aglianico - the aglianico grape is very dark skinned and produces wines of great intensity and power with considerable tannins, but also great acidity. These wines tend to benefit from a period of ageing, as they can be quite unapproachable when young, but as they age, they develop a rich, smokey, dark berry fruit character, with a spicy edge. Perfect with chargrilled lamb, rich beef dishes, mature cheeses, and rich game.