Campania is not only the home region of Naples and pizza- it also has a long history with viticulture (=grape growing) and viniculture (=wine making). Long before the Roman Empire’s well-known romance with wine, the Etruscans, the Aurunci and the Opici (of Greek origins) and the Sannites lived and cultivated grapes here- as far back as the 12th century BC! And long before modern day wine critics we have writings from Ancient Romans like Horace, Virgil, and Pliny, ranking the region’s best wines: Cecubo, Caleno, Falerno, Formiano. The 1st century AD was the beginning of a period of decline in production due to the eruption of Vesuvius (which among other cities destroyed Pompeii) and the viticultural restrictions (part of the “Lex Marciana“) enacted by the emperor Domitian. The fall of the Roman Empire and subsequent invasions and occupations by the likes of the Longobards, Normans, and others, furthered this lull in wine activity. Eventually some revival started in part thanks to Benedictine monks during the middle ages. By the Renaissance, the area received great recognition from Pope Paul III when he named 18 Campania area wines as being part of his Top 53 Wines list. The area has seen a great deal of fluctuation in good and bad periods after the Renaissance, surviving through devastating plagues, the vine-destroying phylloxera pandemic, and world wars. Today we can see a region that is making consistent progress and gaining new recognition in the world wine scene, producing some extremely noteworthy wines, both white and red.
Geography: about 100,000 acres (=46,800 hectares) of land is dedicated to vines. Campania has a great variety of micro-climates and terroir. Grapes like the region due to its abundance of sunshine, hot and dry summers, mild winters, volcanic soil, and cool winds from the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Appenines. Variation in temperatures, rainfall, and soil between coastal and inland areas account for variation in wines made from the same grape(s).
Main Provinces and their Wine Regions:
- Benevento: Terrecuso, Guardia Sanframonti, Dannio, Sant’Agata dei Goti, Solopaca.
- Avellino: Tufo, Avellino, Taurasi, Santa Paolina, Montefusco, Lapio’, Summonte, San Michele di Serino, Paternopoli, Castelfranci, Venticano, Pietradefusi
- Napoli: Campi Flegrei, Penisola Sorrentina, Vesuvio, Capri, Ischia, Cilento, Ravello, Tramonti, Furore
- Salerno: Castel San Lorenzo
Key Regional Grape Friends:
- Aspirinio Bianco (white)
- Biancolella (white)
- Chardonnay (white)
- Coda di Volpe (white), so named by the Ancient Roman Pliny
- Fiano (white), an ancient variety
- Forastera (white)
- Greco (white), of ancient Greek origin
- Malvasia (white)
- Moscato Bianco (white), aka Muscat Blanc à Petit Grain
- Pinot Bianco (white), aka Pinot Blanc
- Pinot Grigio (white/grey), aka Pinot Gris
- Trebbiano (white), aka Ugni Blanc
- Voigner (white)
- Aglianico (black)
- Aleatico (black)
- Cabernet Sauvignon (black), of French origins, this as well as some other French varieties started to be planted in Italy after the Phylloxera crisis in the 19th century.
- Merlot (black), this French variety is now the third most planted black grape variety in Italy
- Piedirosso (black), literally means “red feet”
- Sangiovese (black), one of the noble grape varieties, this wild grape has been used as far back as the Etruscans.
- Sciascinoso (black), aka Olivella Nera
- Syrah (black)
- Tannat (black), French variety primarily used for blending
The Better Known Wines:
- Taurasi DOCG– $$-$$$, this mid to higher priced wine is a deep ruby red wine made primarily from Aglianico. It’s widely considered to be “the Barolo of the South”, referring to the high quality and world famous red from Piedmont. Due to DOCG requirements these wines spend some time ageing in wood barrel before release.
- Fiano di Avellino DOCG– $-$$, this inexpensive to mid-priced white wine is made from Fiano, an ancient grape variety. Fiano wines tend to be crisp and dry, having a bright straw yellow color and high acidity. They make an excellent wine buddy for seafood dishes like pasta with mussels.
- Falanghina DOC- $-$$, another ancient variety that modern-day wine drinkers can easily enjoy, Falanghina makes medium body, crisp, citrusy whites which go great with appetizers and seafood.
- Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC– $-$$, literally meaning the “tears of Christ (of Vesuvius)”, these characteristic white or red wines are a staple of the region. Both red and white varieties are blends of local grape vareties (Greco, Coda di Volpe, Piedirosso, Aglianico).
DOCG Wines of Campania to Date:
- Aglianico del Taburno
- Fiano di Avellino
- Greco di Tufo
DOC Wines of Campania to Date:
- Campi Flegrei
- Casavecchia di Pontelatone
- Castel San Lorenzo
- Costa d’Amalfi
- Falanghina del Sannio
- Falerno del Massico
- Penisola Sorrentina