Inland from Naples is the wine area, which has a very special soil: a type of ‘volcanic tufa’ which makes wonderfully racy white wines.
Tufa is the ash which floated inland when Mount Vesuvius erupted, spreading across the inland hills where Campania’s white wines are now found, planted 600 metres above sea level. The grapes have high acidity, making them ideal summer white wines.
Viticultural history goes back 2,000 years here in these ancient hills and vines are planted in the traditional bower arrangement called ‘tendone avellinese’, usually planted at about 4,000 to 4,500 vines per hectare. It’s a mild Mediterranean climate here, cooler in Avellino (the main sub-region of Campania), so grapes are harvested into late September and October. Due to the high altitude and proximity to sea breezes, it is often cooler here than in Tuscany to the north.
The three white grapes which lead the pack are falanghina, greco di tufo and fiano. Falanghina, the widest grown, has two varieties: felegrae and benevantan.
In terms of taste, falanghina tends to be herbier with a softer leafier character than the more minerally citric greco and fiano.
Greco di tufo is the oldest of three grapes – seen in a 1st century BC fresco at Pompeii. Greco is more aromatic and more herbal with apricot notes too.
Fiano, first mentioned in 1240 in purchases by Emperor Frederick II ‘de vino fiano saumas’, is now more fashionable than greco or falanghina, after being revived in the 1970s by Antonio Mastroberardino, who has a winery in Taurasi.
Fiano has caught on with wine drinkers in the UK as they love the citric notes and strong waxy glycerol flavours.
Most falanghina, greco and fiano sold in the UK is crisp dry and unoaked, but are quite full bodied whites with firm structure and rich textures. They can be served as interesting aperitifs, but are particularly suitable for serving with seafood pastas, squid salads or fish cooked in herby sauces.
Feudi di San Gregorio
(£17.50-£18, Luvians; www.winedirect.co.uk)
The best fiano on the market made by the excellent Feudi di San Gregorio winery (founded recently in 1986) in the Sabato river valley of Avellino province. Light honey aromas, quince notes, pear flavours, nutty undertones with the distinctive waxy flavour
you often find in good quality fiano. Very stylish distinctive screen printed label too.
13 per cent alcohol STAR BUY
(£13.99, Exel Wines; Harrisons Fine Wines; The Markinch Wine Gallery; Valvona & Crolla; Wine Raks, Aberdeen; WoodWinters)
Fresher lighter in style with more citric notes, but
not quite so much depth and texture as the Feudi above (as you expect from the price difference).
Very attractive as an unusual aperitif or to serve
with a light salad.
12.5 per cent alcohol
Greco Di Tufo 2012
Vines are grown at 500 metres in altitude on a 40 hectare vineyard site in Atripalda in the Avellino province. Made by Alessandrio Micholon, this is certainly the best value Greco on the market right now with plenty of character, rich herby notes and an interesting hazelnutty flavour.
13 per cent alcohol STAR VALUE BUY
(£14.95, Les Caves de Pyrene, www.lescaves.co.uk; also available through L’Art du Vin, Dunfermline; Henris of Edinburgh)
An interesting new greco to the UK with a delicious hazelnut, almond and apple blossom flavour, quite full bodied and intense but with its orange-and-tangerine zest flavours, smoky notes and mineral undertones it is a great greco to match with food. I loved its smooth honeyed finish too. Very classy.
13 per cent alcohol
(£7.50, The Wine Society)
A rich greco with a hint of sweetness, but fresh mid-palate and galia melon flavours from the Sannio subzone; Janare is the premium label of the La Guardiense co-op. This is much weightier and rich than the supermarket versions of this grape, showing us what Greco is really made of – and at a good price. Very stylish labelling too.
13.5 per cent STAR VALUE BUY
(£8.99, Majestic Wine)
Much fresher more vibrant and drier than many falanghina I have tasted, but popular with tasters who liked the crisp style and creamy mouth-feel.
13 per cent STAR VALUE BUY
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