January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

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January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:17 pm

This month we’re enjoying the wines of Southern Italy, the “foot” of the Italian “boot.” Often called Il Mezzogiorno (“The Midday”), this region was settled by the ancient Greeks even before the Romans came, and so arguably hosts Italy’s oldest wine culture.

On the “instep” lies Campania, the region of Naples, home of pizza; and Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii, sweet Sorrento, Capri and the lemon groves of the Amalfi coast . In ancient times, the Romans considered Falernum from this region among their greatest wines, and the name, at least, remains in the wine region Falerno. One of Campania’s most famous wines is Lachryma Christi del Vesuvio (red and white), but serious wine enthusiasts will probably find more joy in the ancient, rich and aromatic whites, Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino; want red? Taurasi is a full-bodied favorite.

Apulia (Puglia), the Italian boot’s high heel, is known for focaccia bread, its groves of ancient olive trees and seafood from the waters that surround it. It is also the home of Primitivo, the red grape, rooted across the Adriatic in Croatia, that DNA studies has shown to be genetically the same as Zinfandel, albeit subject to clonal differences that make the wines anything but identical twins. Salice Salentino is another Pugliese red. Like California’s Central Valley or Languedoc’s inland plains, though, Apulia is Italy’s most prolific grape producer, with most of its industrially grown fruit destined for an anonymous fate in simple table wines.

Basilicata fills the “sole” of the boot. Largely rural with a relatively small population, it doesn’t play a major role on the wine scene, but its hearty red Aglianico del Vulture, grown on volcanic soil, boasts a heritage back to the ancient Greeks. Its sugary, prickly Moscato and Malvasia satisfy the wine lover’s sweet tooth.

Calabria, the “toe” of the boot, joins Sicily as one of the primary sources of the Italian immigrant stream to the U.S. through Ellis Island, and during that same era to Argentina. The rural poverty that drove emigration leaves a lightly populated region with its economy primarily driven by olive oil and commercial fishing. Nevertheless, its iconic wine, Cirò, dating back to the Greeks, is a potent red made from the Gaglioppo grape.

In addition to these mainland regions, Il Mezzogiorno also includes the islands Sicily and Sardinia, and the regions that lie on its northern edge, Abruzzi and Molise. We’ll welcome reports on wines from any of these regions this month.
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby James Roscoe » Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:21 pm

I remember the offline where Hoke taught me how to pronounce Aglianico. I have loved these wines ever since!
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:42 pm

A very good discussion over on a UK wine forum regards Aglianico has wetted my appetite! However one should not ignore many of the wines, red and white, coming out of Sicily. Fair selection here in town, indeed in my cellar, Scurati always spring to mind.
I seem to remember an Open Mike:Sicily from years back here, who remembers that? Meanwhile take a looksie here.....>

http://www.bestofsicily.com/mag/art100.htm

Wines from the Campania region should also feature this month, especially the whites.

http://www.wineloverspage.com/italwineg ... ia08.phtml

The white grape variety Ansonica, mainly from Sicily, is know to produce some off-dry wines but I have also seen it blended with chardonnay. Think I might start off with one from Firriato which has just shown up on the shelves here. I do like my Sicilian whites!

http://www.altacucinasociety.com/wines_detail.asp?id=21
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Tim York » Wed Jan 04, 2012 7:10 am

Bob, here is a TN from Dec 2010 on an Aglianico del Vulture from Feudi San Gregorio whose wines are available in Alberta.

Aglianico del Vulture Vigne di Mezzo Efesto 2001 – Feudi San Gregorio – Alc. 14% -(approx. €20)
I loved this wine just over a year ago but this time I was more bothered by a sweet but agreeable patina, probably from new oak ageing, which I felt to be diminishing full expression of varietal and terroir character. Colour was deep opaque purple. The palate was broodingly powerful with full body, deep and dark fruit, decent acidity together with opulent notes of roses and ripe blackberry and hints of tar and old books which had already been apparent on the nose; the whole was encased in the sweet patina to which I have already referred and in firm dark but not drying tannins which gave a balancing austerity to the opulent aromas. A fascinating wine, but not for the tannin allergic or quercophobic fundamentalists; 16.5/20.


IMO Feudi San G's best wines are their whites where they yield less to the temptation of, IMO, inappropriate oak treatment. Alas, I only have reds left in my cellar, which is in itself a comment on my appetite for them in comparison with the whites.

P.S. I have found an October 09 TN of Feudi San G's range, which adds some evidence to my overall impression above.

Feudi San Gregorio, Campania
I have always enjoyed the brightly fresh whites here but the reds have sometimes seemed heavy and oaky. The presenter told me that the estate was moving away from new barriques and using far more large barrels thus reducing the wood contact. I still found notes of dry caramel on the reds, which are made from Aglianico.
Albente IGT 2008 (B) (€9), made from Falanghina, Coda di Volpe and Fiano, was fresh and generously fruited but a bit simple; 14.5/20.
Fiano di Avellino 2008 (€14) was smoother, more aromatic and fuller than the previous with attractive minerality; 15.5/20++.
Greco di Tufo 2008 (€14) had a more ample, ingratiating and spicy character with good minerality; 16/20.
Greco di Tufo Cutizzi 2008 (€17) was richer, smoother and silkier preserving minerality but with just a touch of bonbon aromas detracting from the whole; 16/20.

Rubrato 2007 (R) (€12) showed nice dark fruit and tar but strongly laced with dry caramel; 13/20.
Taurasi 2005 (no price given) showed much greater finesse in its fruit as well as power and structure but some dry caramel still lingered on the finish; 15/20.
Serpico 2005 (€50); I liked this better than last year; the whole seemed better integrated, more refined and structured with less dry caramel than noted then; passage of time, fresher bottle or more congenial temperature? 15.5/20.
I have had better experience with more mature reds from my cellar which leads me to think that the dry caramel notes may recede with time justifying better ratings then.
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Jan 04, 2012 7:39 am

Thanks Tim, nice of you to put this together, plus your note on the UK forum. Feudi wines here include...>
2006 Feudi di San Gregorio Taurasi (Campania, Italy)
Wine - Red $46.99 (750mL)
2006 Feudi di San Gregorio DUBL Sparkling Aglianico (Campania, Italy)
Wine - Sparkling $42.99 (750mL)
2010 Feudi di San Gregorio Fiano di Avellino (Campania, Italy)
Wine - White $31.99 (750mL)
2008 Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo (Campania, Italy)
Wine - White $31.99 (750mL)
2009 Feudi di San Gregorio Rubrato (Campania, Italy)
Wine - Red $27.99 (750mL)
2009 Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina (Campania, Italy)
Wine - White $21.99 (750mL)
2009 Feudi di San Gregorio Primitivo (Alberello, Italy)
Wine - Red $20.99 (750mL)


As you commented, the whites are really good but I am worried about the "international" aspect of some of the reds, plus their prices! I can well imagine how their Primitivo will taste. The Rubrato is way over-priced imo but what can one say.
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[WTN] Ocone 2009 Taburno Falanghina

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:38 pm

Ocone 2009 Taburno Falanghina ($9.99)

This wine made from Falanghina grapes in Campania's Taburno wine region is a bright, clear gold color. Lovely, subtle scents of white fruit and beeswax lead into a delicious flavor, good body, dry, juicy pears and fresh-fruit acidity, rational 12.5% alcohol, with just a touch of appetite-whetting bitterness in the finish. Well balanced and food-friendly, in a rich style that's distinctly Southern Italian. U.S. importer: Scoperta Importing Co., Cleveland Heights, Ohio. (Jan. 5, 2012)

FOOD MATCH: It would be just fine with the seafood and saltwater fish that abound off the Naples coast; it was splendid, too, with a vegetable main course of lima beans and diced turnip long braised in olive oil with onions and garlic and a touch of Dijon mustard.

VALUE: On sale at a local retailer thanks to a distributor's close-out, it's a back-up-the-truck buy. Even at its more normal price point in the lower to middle teens, it's still an excellent value.

WHEN TO DRINK: It's not for long-term cellaring, but I'd say its richness and color promise at least a couple of years' aging potential. No rush to drink it up.

PRONUNCIATION:
"Falanghina" = "FA-lan-GHEE-nah," with a hard "g".

WEB LINK:
This link leads to another U.S. distributor's fact sheet on Ocone Estate and its 2010 Falanghina:
http://www.polanerselections.com/page.p ... prodID=796

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Find vendors and compare prices for Ocone Taburno Falanghina on Wine-Searcher.com:
http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/Ocone ... g_site=WLP
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Darby Higgs » Sat Jan 07, 2012 8:55 pm

Well this is timely - for me at least. Last October I spent a week at Terronia The wine school of Southern Italy. The school is run by Silvestro Silvestori at the Awaitingtable Cooking School in Lecce Puglia. It was so successful that two are planned for this year.

We spent a week tasting discussing and enjoying some great wines from Puglia and the nearby regions of Calabria, Basicata and Sicily, with occasional time off to prepare a local meal to accompany the wines.

The striking thing about the wines to me was that there was a marked consistency of quality across the 100 or so wines we tried. A couple that I particularly enjoyed were the sparkling pink made from Negroamaro, and a Fiano from Castello Monarci. But there were plenty of others.

Those who haven't dabbled in Southern Italian wines recently should take another look as the quality of the wines is on a rapid upward trend.
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Tim York » Sun Jan 08, 2012 9:25 am

The posts so far in this thread, except the last one, seem to have been concentrating on Campania, so I think that it may be useful for me to replay some notes on a virtual tour of the southern peninsular dating from October, 2007. Admittedly IMO the Aglianico based reds can show a lot more class than others from Italy's deep south (except good Etna rosso) and Campanian whites like Greco du Tufo and Fiano d'Avellino can also be excellent. But the others are well worth exploring.

In the past, I have not been a big fan of wines from the warmer parts of Europe but I must admit that, in the last twenty years, the wines from Languedoc-Roussillon have made startling progress and now Italy’s Deep South is coming up fast. The reds from local grape varieties have lost coarseness and, while remaining powerful, have gained drinkability but the most striking development is in the whites from local grape varieties which can now be deliciously fresh and mineral like, for example, Campania’s Greco di Tufo and Sicily’s wines from the Grillo variety. I am less enamoured of their wines from international grapes or where these are prominent in blends with local grapes.

This progress was once again demonstrated at a tasting last Monday.


From the lower leg of the peninsular –

Caputo from Carinaro (CE), Campania.

The wines were presented by the estate’s attractive lady oenologist. I liked best the first wine tasted, GRECO DI TUFO 2006 (EUR 12,49), which showed a delightful mineral fragrance and a fresh citrus acidity on a nervy body; 15.5+/20. The LACRIMA CHRISTI DEL VESUVIO Bianco 2006 (EUR 9,12) was prettily fragrant and freshly soft, lacking the nerve of the previous; 14.5/20.

LACRIMA CHRISTI DEL VESUVIO Rosso 2004 (EUR 10,12) was soft and supple but not very interesting; 13.5/20. CLANUS AGLIANICO SANNIO 2003 (EUR 10,98), which sees no new wood, was much more to my taste showing firm structure with full dark fruit and tar notes but enough suppleness for drinkability; 15/20 and fair QPR. The oenologist was very proud of her ZICORRA (Aglianico) 2003 (EUR 23,91), which is of similar composition to the previous but with barrique ageing; it was undeniably smoother, richer and more ingratiating than the previous with liqueur like fruit but the profile was “international” and the Aglianico typicity was submerged; 15/20 for me but would be the favourite from this line-up for many people. TAURASI 2001 (EUR 30,43) showed liquorice and candied notes on the nose and, on the palate, a more austere style than the previous with good, if simplistic, fruit flavours and some depth; 15/20.

I have had much more characterful Aglianico and Taurasi (a bit like very tangy and dark Châteauneuf du Pape with similar class) from Feudi San Gregorio in a modern style and some years ago from Mastroberardino in a more classical style. The offerings here seem too soft.


From the heel –

Leone de Castris from Salice Salentino (LE), Puglia.

This producer works on a commercial scale but the standards are good and the local grapes, particularly Negroamaro (“NM”), make some impressive wines.

SANTERA PRIMITIVO DI MANDURIA 2004 (EUR 10,15) was quite rich, succulent and spicy with some orange peel notes; 15/20 and fair QPR. I made the mistake of tasting MESSERE ANDREA 1999 (85% NM, 15% Cabernet S) – (EUR 17,64) after Donna Lisa (see below) because it was overshadowed and seemed much like a diminished version of that wine with added orange peel notes which many of these Southern wines seem to take on with some ageing; 15.5/20. I was not greatly taken with ILLEMOS 2002 (EUR 20,59), a blend of 50% Primitivo and roughly equal amounts of NM, Montepulciano and Merlot; it was attractively full and soft in a rather populist way; 15/20. The highlight was SALICE SALENTO ROSSO “Donna Lisa” RISERVA 2002 (EUR 26,94), which showed aromas of spicy red fruit and liqueur with leather notes on a rich structured body with some rigour and good length; 16.5/20.


From the toe –

Santa Venere from Ciro (KR), Calabria.

CIRO CLASSICO 2005 (EUR 9) – made 95% from the local grape Gaglioppo- surprised with its quite pale colour and agreeable lightish palate with evolved orange peel notes; where was the legendary black and severe Ciro? 13/20. CIRO ClASSICO 2006 was much more powerful and, if a little rough right now, much franker and closer to what I was expecting; 14.5/20. VURGADA 2005 (EUR 12,02), containing 40% Merlot, was softer, more ample and quite complex but again with orange peel notes; 15/20. Standing out was CIRO CLASSICO SUPERIORE RISERVA “Frederico Scala” 2004 (EUR 19,13); it showed much finer and more complex aromas of dark berries and fruit with some violet notes and a firm, complex and structured palate with leather and tar notes ; 16/20.


From the football –

Firriato from near Trapani, Sicily.

This is another sizeable commercial operation which achieves good standards. The presenter explained that the house’s philosophy is to use local varieties, sometimes blended with international grapes to achieve easier market penetration. Most of the lower and mid range represent very fair QPR.

ALTAVILLA “Bianco della Corte” 2006, mainly from Grillo, (EUR 8,70) was fresh and charming with good minerality but softer and less crisp than a Grillo, which I had at home after a similar tasting two years ago; 15/20. SANTAGOSTINO Bianco 2006, with 40% Chardonnay, (EUR 12,90) was richer and more complex but more international in style; 15/20.

BRANCIFORTI 2004 (EUR 6,82) is the basic red made from the local Nero d’Avola (“NA”) and is strong and simple; 13.5/20. CHIRAMONTE 2004 (EUR 9,41), also made from NA, is a definite step up; more aromatic and complex but also strong; 15/20. I liked ETNA ROSSO DOC 2004 (EUR 9,98) made from Nero Mascalese and Nero Cappunio (I think?); complex with mineral notes; 15.5/20 and good QPR. I did not much like ALTAVILLA Rosso della Corte 2005 (EUR 9,41), where Cabernet S is added to NA and, IMHO, has a dumbing down effect – also caramel notes which I do not like; 12.5/20. SANTAGOSTINO Rosso 2005 (EUR 14,20), where Syrah is added to NA, is much better; unlike Cab.S, Syrah seems to complement the tangy virility of NA just adding a touch of suavity; I also tried this wine from a magnum which seemed to bring more amplitude; 15.5/20.

At the high end, HARMONIUM 2004 (EUR 23,72) from NA shows great depth, tannic structure and character with complex dark fruit, chocolate together with herbal notes; 16.5/20. HARMONIUM 1999 (EUR 67,35/magnum) was unrecognisable as the same wine; it seemed very evolved for its eight years developing a complex fragrance but also orange peel notes which I found on quite a lot of these Southern wines and take to be a sign of (over?) rapid ageing;15.5/20. I liked RIBECA 2004 (EUR 23,72), a blend of NA 60% and Perricone 40%; chocolaty and powerful; 16/20.

I liked the Bordeaux blend CAMELOT 2004 (EUR 28,96) much better than the overblown and confected one (a Gambero Rosso 3 bicchieri winner!) which I tasted two years ago; this one was leathery, fruity, generous and big but not overdone; 15.5/20. CAMELOT 1999 (EUR 80.33/magnum) had developed quite some sweetness and fragrance but like the Harmonium was showing evolution with orange peel notes; 15/20. I prefer these wines with their youthful forcefulness but many may like this evolution. The presenter from Firriato rightly pointed out that these are wines of Sicilian character and evolution pattern which I should not be comparing with Bordeaux.
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Sun Jan 08, 2012 9:02 pm

Lots going on there Tim. You really know the area pretty good! I have 2 TNs to post, including a great red (`08) from Scurati.
Is anyone else going to show up here?!!
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Sun Jan 08, 2012 9:06 pm

From the archives.

Some may remember my `04 Scurati notes....

WTN: `04 SCURATI NERO D`AVOLA-AZ AGRICOLA CEUSO.

Decanted for an hour, no sediment noted. 13.5% and unfiltered, concrete tanks. Cost was $22 Cdn.

Colour. Guess dark ruby-red but has some purple edges on the rim. Very little transparency h

Palate. Initial mouthfeel is chalky earthyness and tannins hitting the gums! Cherry to the forefront, drinks nicely now. I especially like the aftertaste...cherry, plum and some tobacco.
[/i]Quite complex, love the acidity and feel here. One of the best NDA`s for me, does not have that tinny finish!

**after 24 hrs, tannins smoothed out and nice aftertaste that really lingers on.

So forumites, that was a TN I posted elsewhere about 2 years ago.

2nd bottled tasted Nov 4th, 2008

Color. Dull cherry, starting to show hint of brick on rim. Not much depth in centre.

Nose. Very aromatic, cherry, raspberry, herbal/thyme. Earthy after an hour, has a nice warm feel here. (Cannot find the syrah-like tones this time around).

Palate. Still showing some light tannins, cherry, brief hint of ripeness. Nicely balanced, good acidity, fleshy medium-bodied. "Raisiny" from across the table, some blackcurrant after an hour or so.
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Sun Jan 08, 2012 10:38 pm

Wine Grape: Ansonica (Inzolia)

Ansonica is a white wine grape, mostly grown in Italy's Tuscany and Sicily regions. In Sicily, it's known as Inzolia and plays a role in a number of DOCs, including Marsala.

Its origins are unclear, with various sources claiming French, Middle Eastern, or Greek roots. Wherever it came from, Ansonica arrived in Sicily centuries ago, and then spread to southern Italy, Sardinia, and the island of Elba around the 16th century.


WTN: `09 Firriato Ansonica Chiarmonte Sicilia.

Purchased for this months Focus. Good natural cork, $20 Cdn, Lot 0179. 13% alc, served well chilled which seemed to help.

C. Very light lemon, no green.
N. Some spice and minerals. Lemon, floral, peach, lots going on here.
P. Initial entry---good structure, served in a big glass to give it some air, vibrant, just slightly off-dry. "Pear and lemon" from across the table. Medium acidity, no nutty tones, went quite well with shrimp skewers. Clean finish here, very good wine.
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Tim York » Mon Jan 09, 2012 9:15 am

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:Wine Grape: Ansonica (Inzolia)

Ansonica is a white wine grape, mostly grown in Italy's Tuscany and Sicily regions. In Sicily, it's known as Inzolia and plays a role in a number of DOCs, including Marsala.

Its origins are unclear, with various sources claiming French, Middle Eastern, or Greek roots. Wherever it came from, Ansonica arrived in Sicily centuries ago, and then spread to southern Italy, Sardinia, and the island of Elba around the 16th century.


WTN: `09 Firriato Ansonica Chiarmonte Sicilia.

Purchased for this months Focus. Good natural cork, $20 Cdn, Lot 0179. 13% alc, served well chilled which seemed to help.

C. Very light lemon, no green.
N. Some spice and minerals. Lemon, floral, peach, lots going on here.
P. Initial entry---good structure, served in a big glass to give it some air, vibrant, just slightly off-dry. "Pear and lemon" from across the table. Medium acidity, no nutty tones, went quite well with shrimp skewers. Clean finish here, very good wine.


That's a nice one, Bob. Contrary to my intuition about warm climates, Southern Italy seems to do very well in white with local varieties. I guess that they know from experience what suits their conditions; I never find their efforts with French varieties very convincing. I also guess that air conditioning in the cellars has transformed quality in the last couple of decades or so. Reds from local varieties can be very good too but that is less surprising from their climate.

You really know the area pretty good!


Bob, my knowledge is really very superficial based on tastings like the one I reported on here. Apart from some from Campania, I have never had any of these wines in my cellar so as to get to know them by regular drinking in the way I have with wines from, say, Loire, Rhône, Tuscany and so on. Nor have I visited growers in these deep Southern regions. I was hoping :? that we would get some fascinating contributions this month from people with some deeper knowledge.
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby JC (NC) » Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:57 pm

Timely indeed! I just opened a Sicilian wine Friday evening for an Epiphany party at my church. David Bueker and I have reported on this wine (perhaps an earlier vintage) before. Female winemaker.
2009 Occhipinti SP68, Sicily, Italy from Nero d'Avola and Frappato grapes. 13% alcohol by volume. Deep opaque purple color. Light-bodied, refreshing, fun wine with essence of red and black berries. Smooth drinking. Versatile. Paired well with hors d'oeuvres with meatballs and turkey and ham roll-ups.
Note: David reported on this same wine--I had had the 2008 vintage previously.
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Jan 09, 2012 5:07 pm

OK, here is a winner for you all after all my bragging about Scurati!!

WTN: 2008 Azienda Agricola Ceuso Scurati Sicilia IGT.

Synthetic cork, 14% alc, $26 Cdn. Nero D`Avola. Opened and decanted one hr, some slight trace of sediment. Well-established winery, good track record imo.

C. Medium purple, watery rim. Appeals for sure.
N. Blackberry, blueberry too. Hints of cherry, "somewhat earthy" from across the table.
P. Initial entry is dry, dusty tannins which are fine grained. Cherry, blackberry, great appeal, not "new world" at all. Good acidity, lengthy finish with plum. Still dusty on day 2, plus some pepper, tangy black fruit lingers on palate.
Winner!
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Oliver McCrum » Mon Jan 09, 2012 8:41 pm

The increase in the quality of wines from Campania and other areas of southern Italy has made my life as an Italian importer much more interesting in the last few years. I would say that my favorite white-wine-producing region of Italy is now Campania, and the best reds from Campania, Basilicata and Sicily (particularly Etna) are IMO outstanding. As was true a few years ago in southern France, the winemaking often lags behind the terroir; as that changes* I think the essential quality of these areas will become even more obvious. Unlike southern France, however, the minerality and 'cut' of the whites from some of these areas is outstanding; the best Fiano di Avellino shows some similarity to dry Chenin Blanc from the Loire, and ages well too. In Sicily, the area around Etna is IMO the class of the island, but quality production here is so new that it would be very premature to close the book on which are the promising appellations yet.

*as people learn to avoid both 'rusticity' and points-based 'international' winemaking, in other words
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Jan 09, 2012 9:49 pm

And now more from Occhipinti !

2008 Arianna Occhipinti Nero d'Avola Siccagno Sicilia IGT
Bright, refreshing, red fruited and minerally - this is a lovely wine for just sitting and drinking, with or without food (though I prefer with). I actually prefer the Frappato, but this is very nice as well.
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Oliver McCrum » Mon Jan 09, 2012 10:33 pm

Tim York wrote: Contrary to my intuition about warm climates, Southern Italy seems to do very well in white with local varieties. I guess that they know from experience what suits their conditions; I never find their efforts with French varieties very convincing. I also guess that air conditioning in the cellars has transformed quality in the last couple of decades or so. Reds from local varieties can be very good too but that is less surprising from their climate.


I completely agree. This is the amazing thing about southern Italy if your model for a 'north/south divide' is France, the best southern Italian whites show excellent minerality and are not at all flabby. Sometimes this is due to altitude*, sometimes it seems like the local white varieties were selected for good natural acidity in a warm climate (I remember Steve Edmunds once told me that he thought southern Italian varieties would do well in CA for this reason.)

I don't know why anyone would buy French varieties from southern Italy (or Tuscany either, but that's another question) when they can buy much better wines made from indigenous grapes. Ten to fifteen years ago people like Planeta were selling Chardonnay because no-one knew anything about Sicily, but I would hope it would gradually die away now that we do know more.

* my Fiano is grown at up to 2,100', some whites on Etna are grown at 3,000' or perhaps even higher in some cases
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Tim York » Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:54 am

Oliver McCrum wrote: In Sicily, the area around Etna is IMO the class of the island,


Oliver, from my limited experience, I agree. However I have recently heard alarmist reports on French television about unusual volcanic signs in the last few months on Etna which some people fear may be a precursor to the "big one". I hope that this is not the case. It would be a tragedy if the new quality production here were nipped in the bud by lava flows and ash.
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Joe Moryl » Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:02 pm

Oliver,

Is acidifcation of the southern whites allowed, and if it is, is it widely practiced? I know it occurs frequently in some hot areas, even when there are local grapes tending to high acidity (e.g. Alentejo). Not making a value judgement, because sometimes the results are OK, but I know it throws some people into a froth.
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Oliver McCrum » Tue Jan 10, 2012 7:30 pm

Joe,

that's a great question. I don't believe any of my producers acidify, and the acidity in some of the southern Italian whites (Fiano, Carricante from Etna) is so distinct that you can't imagine it being added to create a 'broad market' style. I will ask, though, you've piqued my curiosity. It's certainly much less common in Italy than it is for example here in CA.

Some of the wines I've tasted from larger wineries in Sicily could well have been acidified.
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Joe Moryl » Tue Jan 10, 2012 10:48 pm

Oliver McCrum wrote:Joe,

that's a great question. I don't believe any of my producers acidify, and the acidity in some of the southern Italian whites (Fiano, Carricante from Etna) is so distinct that you can't imagine it being added to create a 'broad market' style. I will ask, though, you've piqued my curiosity. It's certainly much less common in Italy than it is for example here in CA.

Some of the wines I've tasted from larger wineries in Sicily could well have been acidified.


One reason I ask is that Italian whites have improved greatly in the last decade, IMO. I still don't drink/buy them as often as I should, but when I do, they are fresher and more balanced (as are many whites from Iberia, Greece, etc. now). Of course, it is likely due to better handling of the grapes, temperature control, etc. but I do wonder if judicious additions of acid might play a role.
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Tim York » Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:01 pm

Fortuita Daunia I.G.T. Lucera 2008 - Paolo Petrilli – Alc.14% - (c. €9), made from Nero di Troia 50% and Sangiovese 50% in the northern part of Puglia near Foggia.

Tasting this organic producer’s range in December straight after an impressive series of Tuscany wines, mainly from Sangiovese, I wrote about this one that it “immediately impressed by the exuberance of its exotically floral and spicy fruit backed up by some nice grip to complement food; 15/20++ QPR.
Last night, without the contrast of the tangy acidity and minerality of the Tuscans, I was less stuck by the spiciness and more by the ripe roundness of the fruit, the generous mouth-fill and the orange peel touches towards the finish which are common in Southern Italian reds beyond their first flush of youth. It was certainly food friendly and a very agreeable, if noticeably alcoholic, quaff; 15/20++ QPR confirmed.
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Oliver McCrum » Wed Jan 11, 2012 4:02 pm

Joe,

I asked Ciro Picariello, my producer of Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo, and he said that it isn't legal to add acidity in Italy, but it sometimes happens. My sense is that quality producers don't do it at all, and as I mentioned above the natural freshness of indigenous varieties from the south, plus the frequent use of high-altitude sites (which naturally retain acidity) make it unnecessary. Picariello's acidity is striking, in fact, and makes one think of northern Europe, not the south.

The emergence of excellent white wines from Campania and a few other places in southern Italy is the most interesting 'story' in Italian wine in the last 15 years, the other main trend being the success of indigenous varieties there generally.
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Re: January Wine Focus: The South of Italy

Postby Victorwine » Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:19 pm

I just what to echo what Oliver wrote regarding acidity. Southern Italy, especially Puglia has a long history with grapes like Negroamaro (which literally means “black bitter”). This grape is well suited to the “warm” climate of southern Italy, even when “very ripe” if planted in the best suited sites it can retain its moderate to high acidity. Who needs to add acid when you have Negroamaro?

Sfida 2007 IGT Rosso
Primitivo 70%
Negroamaro 30%
13% ABV
Clear and brilliant dark deep red color. Fruit driven wine with ripe red and black fruits followed by hints of chocolate, spice, and some earthiness. Well made with nice structural balance, medium- bodied. (14.5 / 20: $10 USD)

Salute
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