This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Friday, Dec. 22, 2006.

Operatic Fiano from Puglia

Today's featured wine carries an operatic theme, its proprietary name "Gazza Ladra" reflecting a popular Rossini opera first performed in 1817. The opera, "The Thieving Magpie," tells the tale of a woman falsely accused of stealing a silver spoon that was actually taken by a magpie, a blackbird with a yen for bright and shining objects.

I doubt that the proprietors of the Santa Lucia winery intended the name as a self-accusing metaphor. But I couldn't resist chuckling when it occurred to me that the grape variety used - Fiano - is so closely identified with Campania, the Italian region around Naples, that some might accuse this winery of borrowing its neighbor's grape much as Rossini's magpie borrowed the shiny spoon.

Despite growing in somewhat unfamiliar soil, Gazza Ladra is fairly typical Fiano: A medium-bodied white wine with intriguing scents of almonds and beeswax honey over fresh white fruit, a fine seafood match. This brand may be hard to find. It's a small-production item apparently brought to the U.S., at least, by only one regional importer. But don't despair: While Gazza Ladra is a good and reasonably characteristic Fiano, you'll can get similar enjoyment from Fiano-based wines from many other producers, most of them clustered around the village of Avellino in Campania.

Fiano, like many other Southern Italian white varieties, is an ancient grape with a heritage back to the Roman Empire and even the earlier Greeks. The name "Fiano" purportedly traces back to the Latin "Vitis apiano" ("grape of the bees"), earning that name because the ripe fruit's heady aromas attracted swarms of honeybees to the vineyards.

Gazza Ladra Santa Lucia 2005 "Gazza Ladra" Puglia Fiano ($17)

This transparent pale-gold wine shows bright highlights against the light. Typical Fiano aromatics focus on white fruit with overtones of almonds and beeswax honey. Fresh, medium-bodied and crisply acidic, its flavors follow the nose, with good fresh-fruit acidity adding a cleansing snap in the finish. U.S. importer: Vintner Select, Mason, Ohio. (Nov. 19, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: This crisp, structured and textured white made an exceptional accompaniment with the cod chowder featured in the Nov. 30, 2006 Wine Advisor FoodLetter. It should go well with any relatively rich seafood or fish dish.

VALUE: The upper teens neighborhood is the current standard price point for Fiano, but its intruiging aromatics and structure justify the cost.

WHEN TO DRINK: Well suited for immediate enjoyment, although Fiano does have the capability to gain richness and complexity over several years under ideal storage conditions.

Here's an importer fact sheet on Gazza Ladro Fiano in PDF format, requiring Adobe Reader to open:

The winery Website is published in both English and Italian.

Unfortunately, shows only a few listings for Santa Lucia "Gazza Ladra" Fiano:

To undertake a broader search for a variety of Fianos from Campania, try this Wine-Searcher link: