Updated: Feb 22, 2018
Although more than 60% of wine production in Campania is red, there are few excellent white wines as well. The grapes are indigenous to Campania, although there has been attempts to grow them in California and in Australia without the same results obtained in Campania. Grapes are truly reflection of their terroir ( the word terroir comes from France and it would translate literally as "soil" but in the wine jargon it will actually mean much more, it encompasses the concepts of the land, the type of soil, the exposure to the sun, the weather patterns of the the geographical location. So with just one word , it means that the wines are truly results of where the grapes are grown ( their terroir ). It is a multifaceted concept. It is like coffee , did you ever try to make in United States an espresso using a traditional Italian espresso maker? You use the same coffee from Italy, the same machine but the results are totally different. Why is that? I leave you with that thought.
So lets dive into the White Grapes of Campania.
"Along with Aglianico this is believed to be Campania’s oldest variety. Its name derives from the Latin falangae (phalanx), from the resemblance of the poles used to support the vines in the vineyard to the typical military formation of the Roman legions, made up of many phalanxes of men (who were known to take vine cuttings with them to plant on their long journeys of military conquest). Considering the meteoric rise to fame and success of the Falanghina grapes in the last thirty years, the analogy with the conquering Roman armies is more than apt."
It was practically destroyed by phylloxera ( if you never heard of it, it is may be time to take a short pause and introduce its meaning).
Phylloxera is an insect (louse) thats feeds from the rootstock of a grapevine, it destroyed the world's vineyards at the end of 1800. ( see Phylloxera History blog on this series).
Lets go back to Falanghina, after this parenthesis. Villa Matilde, Grotta Del Sole and Mustilli ( a very well known wineries near Caserta) were able to relaunch this grape in the late 70s. It became very popular in Italy, and it is the most planted grape in Campania.
Wines from FALANGHINA have delicate floral and aromatic herbal notes such as broom and sage along with apple, pear, stone and tropical fruits. The wines also demonstrate leafy-vegetal nuances coupled with refreshing acidity. There are two types of Falanghina, Flegrea and Sannio ( Beneventana) although they have the same name they make actually two different wines. So when you buy a Falanghina make sure you read if it is from Campi Flegrei or Sannio ( Benevento). I personally suggest the Sannio version for the more depth and more structure of the wine.
It is an ancient and fine white grape of Campania. It finds its house in the town of TUFO, from which the name " Greco di Tufo". It has high polyphenol content, has a tendency to oxidize and can produce high level of volatile acidity. The wines are straw golden yellow in color, with delicate aromas of citrus, pear, quince, stone fruit, hints of tropical fruits and almond. They are well structures, with marked acidity and a rounded full body texture. The wines can be enjoyed young but they could age well as well. (iv)
There are several grapes that carry the name Greco and Grechetto, because of their name they were thought to have a Greek origin. However the DNA testing has proved differently. The name Greco may originate from the wine style like "Greek" almost sweet that were very popular in the Middle Age. (iv)
Probably the most assertive and interesting white grape in Campania is fiano, whose flavor is often strongly reminiscent of pine nuts and herbs, almost a pesto in a bottle. Although it is grown in coastal areas (such as the Cilento DOC zone south of Salerno), fiano is at its best in the densely wooded hills of Avellino, where vineyards reach elevations of eighteen hundred feet and higher. Indeed, one of the most dramatic features of Campania is how quickly the landscape changes. **
It is definitely considered Campania most noble white wine. It is also considered within Italy best white wines. It is native of Lapio, Irpinia to the NorthEast of Avellino. Wine made from Fianos were mentioned in the 13th century. It was the favorite wine of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.
Phylloxera almost destroyed it , but Antonio Mastroberardino in 1940s re introduced the vinfication of this old noble grape. ( Mastroberardino is one of the most known wine producers of Campania). Today the grape produces some of the best wines in Campania and in Italy.
The wines are straw yellow, with floral notes of Linden and Acacia, with citrus, apple and pear fruit, and nuances of herbs, moss, hazelnut all accented by a touch of Balsam honey and mineral. Fiano ages very well and with age it develops complexity and more intense flinty smoky toasty notes. (iv)
We will try some of this iconic wines.
4) Coda di Volpe Bianca
This is all an ancient grape from Campania. It means "White Foxtail" from the shape of the cluster which looks like a fox tail. Traditionally the grape played a secondary role, almost a blend partner with other grapes.
Coda di Volpe Bianca has a sensitivity to soil differences that means it can produce a diversity of wines. In Irpinia the wines are very fruity, almost opulently so, while on mineral, lava soils they are austere. On the cold mountain slopes of the Taburno, an extinct volcano, Coda di Volpe Bianca wines can be intensely mineral and steely, almost like dry Riesling, while in richer soils and warmer climates, it tends to become remarkably softer and riper, resembling a rich, tropical-fruit-infused Chardonnay. ***
However recently, promising varietal bottling have been showing in the market. The grape has moderate acidity so the harvest must be properly timed. (iv)
Wines can show prodigious richness and above-average complexity, with a honeyed, creamy texture and bright yellow and tropical fruit flavors (ripe peach, pineapple, papaya) that are hard to forget. Coda di Volpe Bianca is a wine that has something for everyone, matching well with simple vegetable dishes or more complex fish preparations, and even white meats.
It is considered native of the Volcanic Island of Ischia . The sight of Ischia’s vineyards is a beautiful one: due to the island’s strong tourist industry and resultant hotels and homes, the vines have been pushed uphill, onto the rugged slopes of Mount Epomeo, six hundred meters of green rock jutting out into the Mediterranean that essentially divides the island into two halves. The slopes are green because of the unique composition of this volcanic tufa, rich in sulfur, manganese, and iron. The high mountain vineyards and the extremely rich mineral content of the soils doubtless contribute to the considerable potential for complexity of flavor and perfume in Biancolella wines. ***
Biancolella wines are always golden tinged, with strong white flower and thyme aromas, flavors of fresh herbs, spearmint, grapefruit, oregano,and a noticeable saline quality. In warmer years, notes of pineapple and grilled plantain are not uncommon. However, wine lovers ought to take note of the fact that Biancolella wines will taste remarkably different depending on where the grapes are grown on the island. ***
Biancolella is called San Nicola (or simply Bianco) on Capri, and Teneddu on Procida; on these nearby islands, it is likely that the same genotype was named differently over the centuries. ***
WINES TO TRY: The best producer is D’Ambra*** (especially his Frassitelli, but the regular bottling is also very good), Cenatiempo**, Antonio Mazzella** (Vigna del Lume; a seaside vineyard, where the only way to bring the grapes to the cellar is by boat), Tomasone*, and Pietratorcia*.
The name Asprinio comes from the Italian word "aspro" (tart). and it refers to the sharp and acidic character of these wines. They wines are made only around the town of Aversa. It is truly native, most likely deriving from the domestication of wild, local vines thousands of years ago. Asprinio looks and behaves like a wild vine species, with extremely long creepers growing high above the ground between trees such as poplars, and is able to thrive even in very shaded environments. Even today, it’s common to see vines running free as much as twenty meters above the ground, wrapped around and hanging between poplars and oaks that act as live supports. This training system of vines is called alberate (from albero, tree, and not to be confused with alberello, which is a different grapevine training system), and it is beautiful, creating a barrier of leaves and grapes in a jungle-like environment. ***
The DNA has proved that is a biotype of Greco. The wine always exudes a crisp lemony zing, and is characterized by pretty if very delicate citrusy, spicy, and almondy notes. Asprinio is rich in monoterpene and norisoprenoid molecules, particularly linalool and limonene, which helps explain the wine’s usually marked citrusy aromas. However, these molecules reach significant concentrations only with grapes grown at certain heights off the ground, as heavily shaded grapes, grapes growing low to the ground, and those in excessively humid environments fail to accumulate enough of these molecules to sufficiently characterize the wine. ***
WINES TO TRY: Magliulo**, Cantina Cicala**, I Borboni** (two versions, one oak-aged, which doesn’t strike me as a great idea), Tenuta Adolfo Spada** (they also make a spumante brut), Caputo* (their Fescine is named after the baskets traditionally used to carry the grapes), Grotta del Sole*, and Vestini Campagnano*. ***
There are other white grapes where Pallagrello Bianco is to be important to remember.
iv Italian Wine Scholar
**: Vino Italiano
*** Ian D'Agata The Native Wine Grapes of Italy