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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 and Paternoster.

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.

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