On the less-beaten path: Fiano
When I talk about an "offbeat" wine, grape or region - as I fairly often do - I mean nothing negative by the term, which I define not as "weird" or "strange" but simply "the road less traveled."
As much as I enjoy the old standards, from Pinot Noir to Chianti to Zinfandel, there's a special joy in discovering (or rediscovering) the less familiar byways that lend fine wine its remarkable diversity.
All of this is by way of encouraging you, if you need encouragement, occasionally to break the bonds of Merlot and cut yourself free from Chardonnay, and try something a little more, well, off the beaten path.
Today's sermon was inspired by a Southern Italian favorite, a wine that's not so out-of-the-ordinary that I don't sample a new one every year or so. Fiano di Avellino, as regular readers may recall from past tastings, is a regional white grape in Campania, the region around Naples and Mount Vesuvius from which a large portion of Italian-immigrant families came to the U.S. during Ellis Island days.
A grape of ancient heritage, Fiano traces its roots to the ancient Romans, who allegedly called the variety "apiano" because its luscious ripe fruit attracted bees ("apis" in Latin). The town of Avellino is the traditional center of the Fiano-growing district.
I find that Fiano shares the character of many other white varieties from the Southern Mediterranean, from Italy across Southern France to Spain: It can make a full-bodied, rich and luscious wine that takes on subtle oxidative qualities with a little bottle age.
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Feudi San Gregorio 2002 Fiano di Avellino ($14.99)
Clear gold, bright but transparent, this Southern Italian white shows the benchmark aromas of Fiano, apples and pears given added complexity with grace notes of honey and beeswax that become more evident as the wine warms in the glass. Full and rich on the palate, lemony citric fruit is carried on a good body with fresh-fruit acidity that becomes almost sharp in the long finish. Full and complex, it shows best when cool, not cold - take it out of the fridge or ice bucket a half-hour or more before serving. U.S. importer: Palm Bay Imports Inc., Boca Raton, Fla. (Sept. 27, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Too sturdy for delicate fare, it calls for veal, pork or poultry or richer fish and seafood. It was beautiful with a dish crafted to match, a variant twist on saltimbocca with chicken thigh meat, goat cheese and fresh tarragon wrapped in prosciutto packages and baked.
VALUE: Good value at this mid-teens price. I found a good buy locally, as Internet pricing on this wine ranges in the upper teens, where it's still reasonably priced against international whites of similar quality.
WHEN TO DRINK: Ready to drink, but my experience with Fiano suggests that a few years' aging under good cellar conditions will do it no harm, developing additional complexity with subtle scents of hazelnuts and almonds.
WEB LINKS: The Feudi San Gregorio Website,
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Find prices and vendors for Feudi San Gregorio Fiano on Wine-Searcher.com:
Favorite Wine Link: QPRWines.com
Neil Monnens, an old online wine friend who I've mentioned here before in connection with his popular Website, WineRelease.com, has recently launched QPRwines.com, a new E-mail publication that should be of considerable interest to anyone in the market for wines that deliver good value for their price.
As Neil describes it, "QPRwines is a wine buying guide that groups wines by the major critics' average wine scores, then lists them by price and ranks them by value. ... QPRwines is a monthly newsletter [delivered via E-mail in Adobe Acrobat format] that answers the question 'Is a 90 rated 2000 Bordeaux a good value for $20?'"
Each issue will profile a different vintage and wine variety. A year-long subscription is $25, and the premiere issue on 2000 Bordeaux is currently available free of charge. For more information, click to the Website,
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Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2004