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Campania - Part II- Red Grapes

Updated: Feb 22, 2018

Campania presents a perfect Climate for viticulture with a fully Mediterranean one. However altitude plays a significant role in determining local temperatures.


To point, Campania boasts some of Italian latest harvest for dry wine. Aglianico can be harvested as late as November. The coastal band benefits from mild winters and warm summers. Temperatures are partially moderated by the Tyrrhenian Sea and its breezes. Conditions in the hills and the mountanious areas are more continental with ample diurnal and nocturnal temperature swings. The average temperature is 57-61 F. Rain is ample and concentrated in the fall and winter; summers are warm and dry.


The soil of Campania is mostly Volcanic, in fact volcanic activity has completely shaped the lay of the land.

As result several of Campania;s wine growing areas lie over soils that are either strictly volcanic such as those of Campi Flegrei ( where I am currently writing this post) and Vesuvio DOCs or have at the least some level of Volcanic material combined with other soil types such as Limestone, Sandstone and calcareous clay.


Campania is counted among the Italian regions with the most abundant number of Native grapes. There are almost 100 indigenous grape varieties and few of them are not found anywhere else.

Red grapes account for approximately 60% of the total area under vine. Aglianico is the KING with almost 30% of the area under vine.


So if you look for a Campania's typical red wine ... look not further the ones made with AGLIANICO will be the one you want to drink and it will be the first one I will invite you to try. But that will come in a few moments. I know, that you can't wait to try a good wine.

So to list some of the most significant red grapes:


1) AGLIANICO

It is considered one of the Italian Noble red grapes. It is notably important in the Avellino and Benevento provinces where is responsible for some of the most prestigious wines such as TAURASI and Aglianico del Taburno DOCG.

Aglianico is also called the "Barolo of the South", it shows high tannins and acidity. For this reasons the grapes are only picked when fully ripe and the wines are matured in wood to tame the tannins content.

The wines are dark, powerful full bodied and high in alcohol but are lifted by high acidity. They boast intense aromas of cherry, plum, wild berries and violets complimented with licorice, tar, leather spice and smoke.

In the next posts, after I introduced the grapes of Campania , I will digress for one or two in detailing how to savor and properly taste wines.


So when we will taste them together, you will understand what the nose and aromas of fruits and secondary aromas really mean. You won't feel intimidated by the jargon and will learn how to properly describe a wine. Lets go back to the Red Grapes.


There are few stories of the origin of the name Aglianico. One of them is that is comes from the word Ellenico that means Greek. So it was thought to be a grape of Greek origin.


If you ask around this is the story that most people would tell you.... but beware ... We are in the DNA time, everything goes through the scrutiny of DNA testing. That proved the story wrong and linked Aglianico to southern Grapes. The most reasonable theory about the etymology suggests that it was introduced when Campania was under the Spanish domination in the 15th century. Aglianico may thus derive from the spanish word "Ilano" (plain) or the "grape of the plains" Because the wild vines would grow between Capua and Caserta.



2) PIEDIROSSO.


Piedirosso is also called " Per e Palummo" or the Foot of Pigeons in neapolitan dialect. It is only grown in Campania. It adds perfume and soften Aglianico when it is a blend partner. Piedirosso is found throughout Campania. It shows floral aromas with red fruits, it shows a lighter bright color. It almost looks like a Pinot Noir. It has less tannins than Aglianico with a lighter body and higher acidity.


3) Pallagrello Nero


The Pallagrello nero black grape is one of the authochthonal grape varieties that is becoming the protagonist of the wine renaissance in Campania. The vine is a native of Caserta, with two varieties: one white and one black, with small bunch and berries perfectly spherical, hence the name Pallagrello, ie small ball, in the local dialect “U Pallarel”. Its origin dates back presumably to the ancient Greece, the Greeks settlers were later replaced by the Romans, and in the Ancient Rome period the grape was known by the name of “Pilleolata”.Its berry color is black, small sized and of round shape with waxy, dark blue skin, covered with lenticels, with apparent and protruding navel. The bunch is medium long, cylindrical, often winged, compact. The vine black Pallagrello gives an intense ruby colored wine. The fragrance presents notes of red fruits, tobacco, and blackberry jam, with a balanced, velvety softly taste.


Other red grapes: Sciascinoso from the Amalfi Coast, Casavecchia (old house) from the village of Pontelatone in Caserta Province.


Great, so now you have learned the three fundamentals red grapes from Campania; Aglianico is of course the KING... but Pallagrello and Piedirosso are definitely in line to take on that title.


The next blog we will get into the white grapes and then by following the Campania's DOC/DOCG appellations, we will dive and taste the wines.


4) Casavecchia


Casavecchia owes its name (“ old house”) to the discovery of a unknown centenary vine by a farmer, Prisco Scirocco, at the end of the nineteenth century, outside the ruins of an ancient Roman home near the town of Pontelatone, in northern Campania’s province of Caserta.


At first nobody could have cared less, and even the first attempts at winemaking went unnoticed; but eventually, the variety was taken to heart by local farmers who propagated it, often ungrafted, and continued to make wine for local consumption. Around the turn of the twenty-first century, Peppe Mancini and Alberto Barletta of the estate Vestini Campagnano (assisted by the infinite talents of professor and winemaker Luigi Moio) brought Casavecchia to national attention, thanks mainly to a string of vintages that really impressed. ***


Casavecchia has a very discreet aromatic quality that is evident in pure, well-made wines, neatly separating this cultivar from other local red varieties like Pallagrello Nero or the better-known Aglianico. The aromas of delicate field herbs, bay leaf, rosemary, dried mushrooms, green peppercorns, and oregano are typical, though hard to find in many wines. However, it’s this delicate but discernible aromatic note that sets Casavecchia wines apart from most other reds of Campania.


D'Agata, Ian. Native Wine Grapes of Italy (p. 237). University of California Press. Kindle Edition.


*** D'Agata, Ian. Native Wine Grapes of Italy










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