Campania Stories became Italy’s first major wine event after the country’s quarantine due to the corona pandemic. It was took place in early September. BKWine’s Åsa Johansson was on site and tasted the new vintages of the region’s many interesting wines.
“Evviva la mozzarella!”, exclaims a colleague during lunch. She looks so happy that it is impossible not to smile.
On our plates is a round white ball with delicious buffalo mozzarella. We are in the buffalo mozzarella stronghold, Paestum, in southern Campania. Along the roads, the farms line up one after the other and water buffalo stand and ruminate or shower in specially designed showers in the outdoor fields. They seem to be enjoying themselves. I call them luxury buffaloes. In the seaside town of Paestum you can also find the magnificent ancient Greek temples that have survived war, poverty and vandals with an elegance that is impossible not to admire.
I push the fork into my mozzarella ball and a thick white sea of milk gushes out on to the bottom of the plate. A proof of high quality. I also learn that a perfect mozzarella should make a squeaking sound between your teeth when you eat it. I try to listen for squeaks while I enjoy the good taste but the sound level is high, so that particular squeak is a little hard to hear.
It is a happy but tentative group of journalists who have come to Italy’s first major wine event after Italian society has reopened. We have face masks, keep our distance and try to remember what you did when you tasted wines, went to vineyards and were social for several hours in a row.
Who can say no to going to Campania? Here is Naples, which is my favourite city in all of Italy, along with Palermo. The beautiful and luxurious Amalfi Coast and Capri, where the good things in life never seem to end, only a couple of miles away. Pizza, mozzarella and Italy’s most varied cuisine. Culture and modernity that coexist in a chaos, which is fantastic, as long as you do not try to create order. Campania can boast of many things. Not least a lot of interesting and affordable wines that I think get better and better every year.
The wine region of Campania
The Campania wine region is located in southwestern Italy and was already known in ancient Greece and during Roman times for its fine wines. Although the region is so far south, it is best known for its white wines; fiano, falanghina and greco, are three white grapes that account for 46 percent of total production. The region does not make much wine by Italian standards. In total, there are 26,000 hectares of vineyards, about four percent of Italy’s total area.
The coast has a mild Mediterranean climate, while a two-hour drive inland changes the situation drastically. Here the landscape is mountainous and the climate is cool continental. The soil can be divided into three different types.
Volcanic sand abounds after Vesuvius’ many eruptions, most recently in 1944, especially around the slopes of the volcano and in Campi Flegrei, just outside Naples. Campi Flegrei means burning fields, a fitting name given that sulphur fumes escapes from the ground in a constant flow. Here, the green grape falanghina grows and the red piedirosso.
“We are like the Burgundy of Campania, we only have two grape varieties,” jokes Gerardo Vernazzaro from the Cantine Astroni winery in Campi Flegrei.
Read more about Campi Flegrei in this BKWine Magazine article: Campi Flegrei, vineyards and volcanoes outside of Naples.
Falanghina and piedirosso are also grown around Vesuvius, and, in addition, the white caprettone which is the basis of DOC Lacryma Christi.
Soil number two is clay soil from what was previously river beds. It is located between Benevento and Naples, where they make Sannio DOC. Subregions to Sannio DOC include Sant´Agata dei Goti where the Mustilli, a high quality producer, is located. Here, there is porous limestone in the soil, the third type of soil. It is also found in many places in Irpinia inland.
It was Mustilli who started working with the falanghina grape in the late seventies and today they have their own clone of the grape variety.
“We made our first vintage of falanghina in 1976, when no one else worked with the grape,” says Paola Mustilli and pours a wonderful falanghina from 2002 into the glass.
The king of the region’s red grapes is aglianico, often called the Barolo of the south. A fitting name given the tough tannins, high acidity and bright colour. It can be aged for decades without any problems.
“Aglianico is like a wild bull that you must try to tame,” says Paolo Controneo from the Fattoria la Rivolta winery in Sanni DOC.
Hundreds of wines from Campania
During our days in Campania, we try hundreds of wines a day. The piedirosso grape impresses. The wines are reminiscent of a dolcetto from Piedmont or a gamay from Beaujolais. Fruity, low tannins but at the same time an elegance that is difficult to resist.
The wines made from aglianico vary in style. Some are rustic with tannins that stick like pins on a map on the palate. Other flirt with pinot noir and nebbiolo, are elegant, slim, ageworthy and actually quite difficult to resist. Some producers have chosen to make a lighter more modern style with the fruit at the centre. The wines are made in steel tanks with short macerations and made to be drunk young. Much like a Langhe nebbiolo from Piedmont.
The white grapes fiano and falanghina also impress. They are without a doubt two of Italy’s most interesting green grapes. They produce wines that also can take cellaring.
Here are my notes from the days in Campania. I tasted all the wines blind.
Astroni, Campi Flegrei Piedirosso, Colle Rotondella, 2018
A light, fairly tannic and close-knit piedirosso compared to others, where earthy tones are mixed with dark berries, violets and saltiness. www.cantineastroni.com
Cantine Del Mare, Campi Flegrei Piedirosso, Terrazze Romane, 2018
Strikingly elegant, light ruby red colour, the fruit is well-kept, a lot of ripe red and dark berries with a slight hint of vanilla. Juicy, long beautiful finish. www.cantinedelmare.it
Mustilli, Sannio Sant’agata Dei Goti Piedirosso, Artus, 2018
A soft, fruity and juicy piedirosso with hints of cloves and white pepper, soft silky tannins, aged for ten months in terracotta vessels. www.mustilli.com
Agnanum, Campi Flegrei, Piedirosso, Sabbia Vulcanica, 2019
Intense aromas of blackberries, dark cherries, currant jam, lavender, elegant acidity and medium-high elegant tannins and a long fruity finish with hints of saltiness. The balanced acidity holds the whole package together. So good! www.agnanum.it
Fattoria La Rivolta, Taburno, Piedirosso, 2019
Dark ruby red colour, tones of black currants, blackberries, black pepper, violet, light soft tannins, elegant freshness and long juicy finish. www.fattorialarivolta.it
Iennella Antonio, Aglianico Di Taburno 2017
Pale ruby, pronounced aromas of lavender and roses, red ripe cherry, rhubarb, hints of leather and earthy tones, medium plus acidity, medium plus well integrated tannins, medium fruity finish.
La Guardiense, Sannio Aglianico Riserva, Cantari, 2014
Pale ruby, medium intensity aromas of red cherry, coffee, earth, hints of leather, well-kept fruit. Medium plus acidity in balance with alcohol and elegant tannins. Medium plus juicy finish.
La Guardiense, Sannio Aglianico, I Mille Per L´Aglianico, 2014
Medium garnet, blackberry marmalade, ripe fruit, coffee and chocolate, black cherry, high sandy tannins, but balanced by fruit and the medium plus alcohol. Complex, mouth filling, full-bodied and balanced. Still time to develop further.
Di Marzo, Campania Aglianico, 2018
Medium ruby, fruit driven medium intense aromas of black and red fruit, hints of vanilla, medium elegant tannins, high crisp acidity, well preserved fruit. Very different because so approachable. Easy going but well defined.
Antico Castello, Irpinia Aglianico, Magis, 2016
Medium garnet, medium plus intensity of elegant aromas of red fruit, lavender, dried roses, tea, dried plum, very elegant tannins, light body, well balanced, flirting with pinot noir or nebbiolo.
Tenuta Cavalier Pepe, Irpinia Campi Taurasini, Santo Stefano, 2015
Medium garnet, flirting with pinot noir, dry fruit, strawberry, lavender, dried roses, prune, elegant high tannins, medium plus well integrated tannins, medium plus finish. Very elegant and pleasant.
Delite, Irpinia Campi Taurasini, Nonna Seppa, 2013
Medium garnet, medium plus intensity, developed nose, inviting, lots of black cherry, black and white pepper, coffee, mushroom, very pure and well defined, well integrated high tannins, well-kept fruit. Salty, long elegant finish.
Contrade Di Taurasi, Taurasi, Vigne D´Alto, 2015
Medium garnet, medium intensity, inviting, well defined, prune, black cherry, leather, dry roses, prune, hints of toffee, elegant high tannins, medium acidity, medium plus long finish, balanced and very well made.
Feudi Di San Gregorio, Taurasi, Taurasi, 2015
Medium garnet, medium intensity, ripe cherry, strawberry, white and black pepper, elegant, well defined aromas but quite simple, elegant medium plus tannins, medium acidity, long elegant finish, flirting with pinot noirs. Light, stands out because of the lighter style of aglianico.
Tecce Luigi, Taurasi Riserva, Puro Sangue, 2015
Medium garnet, ripe, rustic aromas, black cherry, black plum, chocolate, and coffee, hints of something funky but still inviting and it makes you go back to smell again. Ripe black cherry, medium plus intensity, ripe well preserved fruit, wide mouthfeel, many nuances, rustic tannins, medium plus multi-layered finish.
Villa Raiano, Taurasi, Taurasi, 2015
Medium garnet, medium intense inviting aromas, black berry, juniper, sage, rose petals, dry red fruit, lingonberry, tart, complex nose that you go back to, well kept fruit also in the taste. Well defined, high elegant tannins, medium plus acidity, the fruit concentration is well balanced with the fresh acidity and elegant tannins.
Antico Castello, Taurasi, Taurasi, 2014
Medium garnet, black fruit, coffee, sweet spice, dark, black berry, velvety, coffee, high elegant tannins, well integrate medium acidity, cherry, coffee, toffee, medium plus finish.
Perillo, Taurasi, Taurasi, 2010
Medium garnet, earthy and complex nose, mushrooms, coffee, tobacco, cloves, cardamom, black plum, black cherry, rose petals, liquorice and tart, well integrated high tannins, a beautiful, deep example of aglianico!
Barone, Cilento Aglianico, Pietralena, 2018
Medium ruby, smoky tones, ripe cherry, black berry, peppery, inviting nose, medium ripe tannins, well defined ripe fruit, acidity well integrated, long juicy finish. From the warmer Cilento area.
Tempa Di Zoe, Campania Aglianico, Diciotto, 2018
Medium ruby, very fresh, almost a little fizz, tight tannins, super fresh, long fresh elegant finish. A vertical aglianico where they seemed to have managed to tame the wild bull.
Villa Matilde, Falerno Del Massico Bianco Vigna Caracci 2016
Medium plus intensity, ripe peach, lichee, grapefruit. The wine is dry, high alcohol, medium acidity, ripe fruit, medium plus finish, fat and round, warm with a nice saltiness in the background. Very good.
Antico Castello, Irpinia Falanghina, Demetra 2019
Pale lemon. Ripe pear, smoky tones, complex, ripe peach, lime and honey. Dry, medium alcohol, medium plus acidity, well balanced and complex flavours with a long, elegant finish. Vertical and fine.
Mustilli Falanghina Del Sannio S.Agata Dei Goti, Vigna Segreta, 2018
Pale lemon, lemon, honey, sage, hazelnuts, smoke, medium plus intensity, well balanced and defined, less fruit-driven than many others, very nice. Long finish of honey, petrol and sage.
La Guardiense, Falanghina Del Sannio, I Mille Per La Falanghina, 2016
Pale gold, honey, almond, ripe yellow peach, green pear, medium plus acidity and alcohol, well integrated, ripe sweet fruit, honey, hints of petrol, elegant and medium plus finish.
Agnanum, Campi Flegrei Falanghina, 2019
Medium plus intensity, inviting nose, honey, yellow peach, pear, complex and well defined nose, dry, salty, medium alcohol, well defined, long salty finish. Very good.
Astroni, Campi Flegrei Falanghina , Colle Imperatrice, 2018
Pale lemon, smoky tones, honey, peach, lemon, medium plus acidity, round and fat in the moth, salty with the fruit just lifting it up. Long salty lemony finish.
Astroni, Campi Flegrei Falanghina, Strione, 2013
Pale gold, medium plus intensity, honey, ripe peach, hints of vanilla, well integrated smoky aromas toasted almonds, hazelnuts, petrol, complex and well defined, fresh acidic backbone, and long lemony, smoky finish.
San Salvatore 1988, Paestum Fiano , Pian Di Stio, 2019
Pale lemon, fresh medium plus aromas, green and yellow pear, white peach, orange blossom, medium alcohol, well integrated medium acidity, jasmin, peach, medium plus finish. Balanced, and with a nice fresh finish.
Vuolo, Colli Di Salerno Fiano, 2mila18, 2018
Pale lemon, almond, honey, yellow peach, smoky tones, lemon and lime, intriguing nose, hints of vanilla, medium acidity, medium body, medium alcohol. Round and complex flavours of honey, smoke, ripe fruit with freshness in tha background. Long complex finish with salty tones, sage, lean and round and fat with complex aromas and flavours.
Rocca Del Principe, Fiano Di Avellino, Fiano Di Avellino, 2018
Pale lemon, vanilla, ripe peach, pineapple, tropical fruit, medium alcohol, high crisp acidity, long interesting multi-layered salty finish. Excellent.