Campania: Wine Travel

 
 

If you are looking for a region with outstanding indigenous grapes, and tons of potential, look no further. Campania, in my humble opinion, is making some of Italy's most exciting wines, and if you have the opportunity, I urge you to go. Many of the fabulous wines are from family-run properties where you will meet the winemakers and share in their passion for the region. These wineries are small, and as a consequence, they are making truly excellent wines from their few estate-grown grapes.

We found the town of Benevento to be a lovely home base for exploring the Irpinia wine region the largest in Campania. History abounds with sites dating from the Roman Empire and no hordes of tourists to contend with. The tradition of the evening stroll through the pedestrian-only main streets is lovely to join, and we found the people to be so inviting.

The Amalfi Coast should be on everyone's bucket list, a place that will stay with you and keep calling you back. It has some of the most beautiful coastlines and picturesque towns that cling to the hillsides. You probably want to make this your last stop in the region, so you aren't tempted just to stay on forever (oh and try the Limoncello).

South of the Amalfi coast, in the Salerno region, is the ancient ruins of Paestum. A remarkable site with some of the most well preserved Greek temples. Additionally, this is the area where buffalo mozzarella is made and stopping at an agriturismo is an experience and a treat. Of course, another historical stop is Pompeii, reminding us of the force of Mother Nature.

I would add Naples to the list of Italian cities to explore; it is a city of extremes and contrasts. Many may have heard its crime-ridden, but you don't need to shy away, every big city has its issues. It may not have the history of Rome or the art of Florence, but with fewer tourists, it has a real Italian feel - and some of the best pizza you will ever eat! We experienced an evening where we met some great wine-loving people, who shared their favorite local wines with us, and their passion for the city was so apparent when they debated for 30 minutes on what restaurants we should try and sights we should explore. We parted with pictures, hugs and well wishes - an experience we will remember when we think about our time in Naples.

The Irpinia wine region lies east of Naples where the fertile soil is influenced by the volcanic ash of Mount Vesuvius. It is a mountainous area with microclimates and high elevation vineyards. Irpinia's Taurasi is one of the three DOCG wines and is produced in fewer than twenty towns in the province of Avellino, with much of the production coming from the town of Taurasi itself. Driving through the wine region, you will find beautiful rolling hills and mountaintop towns worthy of a stop - explore.

Aglianico is the standout red grape varietal in Campania, and the wines tend to be tannic, structured and complex. They are often blended with Piedirosso, another local red variety that acts as a softening agent. The grapes thrive in these higher altitudes and producers are required to age a minimum of three years (and four for Reserve).

Here are few highlights from the outstanding family run wineries we visited in the Taurasi region. Cantine Antonio Caggiano has spectacular views and underground caverns in the town of Taurasi. Cantine Lonardo run by a father-daughter combo with vineyards over 40+-year-old. Last but not least Quintodecimo run by Luigi and Laura Moio in the town of Mirabella D'eclano whose family has a long tradition of wine-making.

The oldest and most well-known producer is Mastroberardino a must visit for the history of the region. After WWII they brought back abandoned vineyards and are said to have rescued the Fiano grape from distinction. Contrasting to this is the modern winery Feudi di San Gregorio who is making many wines with indigenous grapes including sparkling wine. Their restaurant is Michelin starred and a pleasant place to enjoy a meal. A favorite wine from Feudi di San Gregorio is their Falanghina another native white grape.

Greco di Tufo and Fiano are the other two DOCGs producing the best native white varietals. Fianos are floral with a nice minerality, while Grecos tend to be darker-gold colored, richer in body and more tannic. We had a delightful visit at Cantine Marzo in the town of Tufo learning the history of the sulfur mines and the intriguing account of the family winery.

Other notable producers;

In the province of Salerno, near the ancient ruins of Paestum, you will find wineries such as Luigi Maffini making some excellent wines. And along the Amalfi Coast, a few are producing some powerful whites made from rare indigenous varieties. My favorite producer is Cantine Marisa Cuomo, and the views are unbeatable.