Italy - Southern Regions
Continuing our voyage through Italy, this month we take on a fascinating voyage
to the Southern regions.
Italian wines of real distinction are less numerous in the south
than in the north and, generally, are the results of the efforts
of individual winemakers. Topography is vital in the south. It is
the cooler upland and mountain terrain that makes serious winemaking
possible in this sun baked part of the Mediterranean.
On the western side is Campania, centered around Naples. White wines
are made from the Falanghina variety, the reds from Aglianico and
Piedirosso. These three grapes are of indisputable pedigree, and
are used in Campania to great effect. Piedirosso shows its class
even more clearly in the same estate's reincarnation of Caecubum
(Cecubo), a wine that once kept the ancient world enthralled.
Other producers taking an interest in realizing the potential of
local varieties include Mustilli and Vinicola Ocone. Otherwise Campania
is dominated by the company Mastroberardino, based inland near Avellino,
in the center of the region. It practically had a monopoly on production
of the wines of the area: smoky, minerally, white Greco di Tufo
(from Greco); intriguing, floral, vegetal, white Fiano di Avellino
(both have been featured by the Wine of the Month Club); and the
imposing red, Taurasi, from Aglianico.
Calabria forms the toe of Italy. Although vineyards are scattered
widely throughout, there is only one wine, Ciro, that is seen much
outside the region. This is primarily due to the vitality of one
company, Librandi. Ciro comes in red, white and rose versions. All
three are big, powerful wines.
Basilicata, the instep, also tends to be a one wine region: Aglianico
del Vulture, from the Aglianico grape grown high on the cool, east?facing
slopes of the volcanic Mount Vulture. It is a full red that is tough
when young but steadily softens to an impressively spicy, earthy,
smoky and chunky wine, expressed most fully by Fratelli d'Angelo
In Puglia, the heel of Italy, there is a wealth of wine names. The
wines may be divided essentially into four groups. There are reds
from the north (for example, San Severo), made with Montepulciano
and Uva di Troia; reds from the center (such as Castel del Monte),
made mainly from Uva di Troia; reds from the south, made with Puglia's
most promising grape, Negroamaro (Salice Salentino, Copertino, Brindisi)
or from Primitivo (Primitivo di Manduria); and whites, notably the
light, fresh Locorotondo, from Verdeca. It is rare to find more
than one producer per wine zone exploiting its potential to the fullest.