SOUTHERN ITALY IS HOT, hilly and often wild, with volcanic soils and ancient grapes. Quantity over quality has been a problem in the past but this is changing as more producers work to improve the reputation with investment and technology.
Aglianico was brought to Italy by the Phoenicians from Greece and was a favourite drop of Greek and Roman scholars.
The region of Campania is home to both Fiano (Fee-ahno) and Aglianico (Ah-lee-an-iko). Fiano is a white grape that has a long history of over 2000 years in the hills above Avellino, and is believed to be the same grape used to make the famed ancient Roman wine Apianum. It may have even been cultivated as far back as the ancient Greeks and is considered a classical vine. Known to the Romans as Vitus Apiana
(apia translates to bee), it’s a textural, food friendly wine, with notes of spice, white flowers, peaches, nuts and a smoky minerality. Its smell and sweet pulp attract bees, even in the vineyard.
Even though the grape is also grown in Sicily and other parts of the south, Avellino is the prestigious DOCG area for its production. This area is best known for producing refreshing, textural examples with waxy, floral, honey and nutty notes.
Fiano is a grape ripe for experimentation with lees, barrel fermentation and other winemaking options and even in this area alone, the styles vary from fresh and lively to textural or even skin contact.
The berries of the grape are small and thick skinned with low yields and little juice. This probably accounts for its decline in the 1900s as more productive varieties took its place. Modern winemaking techniques and a revival of popularity in traditional grapes and wines have seen a renaissance of sorts, and renewed interest.
Aglianico was brought to Italy by the Phoenicians from Greece and was a favourite drop of Greek and Roman scholars. In Basilicata, the most prestigious production zone is Aglianico del Vulture, on the volcanic slopes of Monte Vulture where the vines grow between 450 and 600 metres above sea level. It is considered to be one of the best red wines in Italy and is the only DOCG in Basilicata. This is a wild, mountainous region dominated by the extinct volcano. The terrain makes it hard for mechanised harvesting and farming. The wine industry has developed slowly with little investment until recently, but this is gradually changing and there are some exceptional producers worth searching out.
In Campania, Aglianico is found in the provinces of Avellino and Benevento. The variety is also at home in Puglia and Calabria. It is known as the ‘Barolo of the South’. In Campania, Taurasi is the DOCG with the highest quality reputation. With concentrated, earthy, smoky, berried perfume and chocolate cherry notes, it maintains good acidity. Even in warmer climates it has the capacity to produce excellent wines with structure and balance.
The firm tannin structure means Aglianico can age for many years in the bottle. A late ripening variety, with dark skins, it loves a dry, warm climate, which makes it perfect for Australia. The list of regions is expanding and includes the Adelaide Hills, Langhorne Creek, Heathcote, Riverina, Margaret River, Bendigo and the Riverland.
Aglianico wines have traditionally been aged in older, larger chestnut casks but many producers are now using smaller French oak barrels, leading to a stylistic change. Minimum ageing requirements are three years for wines labeled Vecchio and at least five years for Riserva wines, including two in oak, which allows the substantial tannins to soften.
Mastroberadino is one of the producers who did much to change Campania’s reputation for making exceptional Aglianico and Fiano along with other classical varieties such as Greco and Falanghina. His Radici is a single vineyard wine of outstanding quality and finesse. The winery has been producing wines for over 130 years, with a firm focus on quality and local varietals.
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