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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Wine Fan's Look at the Wines of Campania, Italy

MastroberardinoImage of Mastroberardino via Snooth

The wines of Campania, Italy, offer wine lovers a fascinating history in addition to delicious taste. Consider featuring these wines at your next dinner party. As you pour the wine into the glasses of your guests, share the winemaking history of the area along with wines from some of the notable wineries continuing the traditions of Campania. This article provides a look at the wines of this region, providing information you can share with your guests.

Campania, Italy

The capital of Campania, Naples, was founded by the Greeks, enlarged by the Romans, and subsequently invaded by the Normans, Hohenstaufen, French, and Spanish among others. Established by the Greeks in the 11th century BC, Naples was the earliest of a cluster of far-flung settlements throughout southern Italy. Many important figures of the age, including Pythagoras, Archimedes, and Aeschylus lived in these settlements and today some of the best ruins of the ancient Greek world can be found there.

Along with mathematics, architecture, and drama, the ancient art of winemaking also flourished in the hills and valleys of the region as the cult of Dionysus spread. Aglianico and Greco, vines the Greeks introduced, are still highly prized. The Greek historian Herodotus called this part of Italy Oenotria, the land of wine.

In the 16th century, Sante Lancerio, the bottler of Pope Paul III, raved about the wines of the Kingdom of Naples and their reputation continued into the 19th century. Subsequently, viticulture went into decline for decades as growers left the land and the majority of remaining producers ignored DOC regulations and instead chose to plant prolific vines rather than those that would produce premium grapes. In the last twenty years, producers have once again recognized the potential of southern Italy in general and have modernized their viticulture and winemaking techniques.

Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo are among Italy's most distinguished white wines prized by Italian wine clubs, while Taurasi from Aglianico has been called the "Barolo of the South" because of its aging ability. This is Campania's only DOCG wine to date. Mastroberardino is a distinguished winery in the region as is Feudi di San Gregorio, Villa Matilde, Mustilli, and Casa d'Ambra.


This extraordinary family is responsible for rescuing Campania's ancient grape varieties from extinction. Without the family's efforts over 130 years that the winey has officially existed, Fiano, Greco di Tufo, and the noble Aglianico would probably have been only historical references in the writings of Titus Livius and Pliny the Elder. Aglianico is now produced throughout Campagnia in Taburno, Irpinia, and Sannio, but its greatest expression comes from Taurasi and is known as the "Barolo of the South" because of its extraordinary flavors and ability to age. Headquartered in Altripalda about 40 miles northeast of Naples in the center of the Irpinia wine making region, Angelo Mastroberardino first registered the company in 1878 at the Chamber of Commerce in Avellino. Today, his great grandson Piero Mastroberardino is the current President.

The family's devotion to ancient grape varieties was recognized by the Italian government, which commissioned it to replant the vineyards around Pompeli and match the grapes originally growing there before eruption of Mt. Vesuvious in 79 AD.

Feudi di San Gregorio

Feudi di San Gregorio is another one of Campagna's finest wine estates. Owners Vincenzo Ercolino and Mirella Capaldo recently purchased vineyards in Puglia and Basilicata to further explore the noble grapes of southern Italy. Situated in the tiny village of Sorbo Serpico in the Irpinia region, the estate was established by Ercolino and Capaldo in 1986. They have aggressively tapped into the enormous potential of Campania's unique terroir and ancient varietals, such as Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo, and Aglianico. In addition to its own vineyards, the winery sources grapes from the finest vineyards set in the rolling hills of the Irpinia region, located near Mount Vesuvius. The volcano's legendary eruptions have sandstone and marl soils with mineral-rich deposits of volcanic ash, forming a unique composition that imparts highly distinctive aromas and flavors in the grapes.

Regardless of which of these favorite wines of Italian wine clubs you choose, the long, interesting history of the area and these wineries will enhance the wine tasting experience of your guests.

Chris Harmen is an author for the popular wine of the month club, Celebrations Wine Club. Celebrations Wine Club is a favorite among wine lovers who appreciate the quality choices of America's leading California wine clubs and Italian wine clubs.

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