L’Anno della consapevolezza


Campania is my homeland, I belong there, and she belongs to my heart, united by that invisible and indissoluble bond that keeps bringing me back to this house I never really left in the end. I’m in awe admiring the island of Ischia from the window of what used to be my bedroom, a breathtaking view that I ended up taking for granted until I left. The garden borders a vineyard, but I don’t remember seeing anyone working it ever, and yet the rows are always in perfect order, how so.

This is not just a home, it is a love shelter as my daughter described it: the love for family, for our roots, our origins and blood ties. Here “every now and then mom would give us a special moment, she would take us up on the roof, we would lie down, and she would point out the constellations that we always pretended to see” quoting my daughter, this is love too!

We all grew up here, we spent the most beautiful Christmases, the first birthdays, the first love disappointments and the first accidental hangovers, because it is here that the undying love for good wine had it origin, starting with the good local wine.

And it is for this reason, and for another thousand that bind me to this Land, that reporting my feedback on Campania Stories 2021 with a detachment that guarantees an objective evaluation, is a particularly arduous task! But I am sure I share this “difficulty” with all those who attended the event, regardless of whether they were natives or not! Because the event was not only about tasting the new vintages of the eighty-nine wineries present with over 300 references, but the organization has provided a full immersion in the Campania of wine and more, which lasted a whole week! With the Base Camp at the Gastronomic University “Principe di Napoli” in Agerola, directed by the immense Heinz Beck, the guests were able to fully experience the artistic and landscape wonders of Campania, as well as its amazing and unique gastronomical offer. There were many visits to wineries on agenda, from Vesuvius to Campi Flegrei, passing through Irpinia and Sannio; from Caserta to Salerno, with a closing visit to the island of Capri. And every morning the windows opened widely onto the sea of the Amalfi Coast, with the Sun and the Sky flooding the eyes!

An Ancient, Noble, Sacred, Unique, Beautiful Land. The great history of wine in Italy had its birth here in Campania, on these hills, among these volcanic and sometimes dolomitic mountains, in these calderas, in the middle of this sea. And it is a glorious and beautiful story! It was here, from the port of Naples that the world’s finest bottles of wine were shipped to the courts of distant kingdoms, where good wine was a must on the tables of the aristocracy. Since the times of ancient Rome and for many centuries to come, Campania has been consecrated to Bacchus like no other land. But times changed, the art of wine was exported all over the Roman empire, here and there the disciples began to outdo the masters, Campania lost its supremacy for way too long, and everything else is history, including the devastation of phylloxera.

We Italians, however, as we are tremendously attached to traditions, handed down over the centuries and forged in our DNA and in our deepest memory, have recovered almost all of our native grape varieties, reconstructing with meticulous patience the precious National ampelographic mosaic. One would think that here in Campania this kind of memory is a little deeper and more rooted than elsewhere.

“as a matter of fact, there are more than 100 native grape varieties in Campania: a number which has no equal in any other viticultural area of the world. The originality of regional wines, with their strongly recognizable aromatic profiles, is due to the wise choice of the people of the territory to protect and promote, in the course of time, local grapes. In the last twenty years, while all the wine regions of the world were concentrating their attention on “international” varieties, Campania discouraged, and in some cases forbade, the planting of vineyards with international vines, focusing instead on local varieties”. (source Assessorato Agricolture Regione Campania)

Having said that, shall we now let the glasses do the talking? The first day of tasting, dedicated to sparkling and white wines, confirmed the white wine vocation of Campania with the average quality benchmark getting higher and higher each year, and some excellent labels which consolidate their position among the most prestigious white wines of Italy and of the world.

Greco di Tufo and Fiano d’Avellino are getting more and more convincing, both in their interpretation and in their quality, and with some labels challenging time with an interesting aging potential.  We will hear about them for a long time to come! Falanghina is just as interesting and equally pleasurable, simple in its character and complex in its soul regardless of the specific production area.

As a tireless ambassador and a convinced fan of the so-called “children of a lesser god”, I also indulged in numerous tastings of Pallagrello Bianco, Coda di Volpe, Caprettone, Pepella, Ginestra, Fenile and Ripoli, not necessarily in that order and often in a blend. With thinner bodies when compared to their more popular brethren, with a few notable exceptions, they are so pleasantly clear-cut, fresh and charming. They are an important part of Campania’s prized ampelographic mosaic and deserve greater notoriety. Let’s talk about them more often!

The second day, dedicated to rosé and red wines, essentially had two great protagonists: Piedirosso and Aglianico. Piedirosso is definitely on the rise, and strikes for its immediacy, fragrance and gracefulness. A variety not very easy to cultivate and even less to manage in the cellar. The expressions from Vesuvius, Campi Flegrei and Roccamonfina did stand out during the blind tasting, underlining the fact that this vine has evidently found its ideal home on volcanic soils.

With Aglianico the story is a bit more complicated, and I must say I have had a few too many disappointments. However, we should not forget that Aglianico, in a never-ending search for its bond with the land of origin, needs time to explain itself with grace and soften its language, without renouncing its austere strength.  Difficult and grumpy at first, it evolves with shyness and reluctance, and it is only time that can shape its powerful structure and alcohol, and the exuberance of its tannin. It takes time for the wood to facilitate the elevation of its intimate parts, slowly yielding to the seduction of oxygen. There are no shortcuts, and any forcing in this sense will eventually results in wines that are flat, sometimes slightly oxidized, where the presence of wood becomes almost annoying. Perillo’s Taurasi Riserva 2009 proved the point to perfection: Aglianico is for those who wait!

These are the stories from the glasses, a breath of clean, joyful and familiar air, which rises from the sea all the way up to the mountains, and brings with it the scent of colors and flowers. It is a fairy tale that takes me home every time, on the wing of a seagull to this extraordinary land: my Campania!

I will not make a list of my best tastings, this is not the purpose of the tasting to me at the Previews, but as my habit I will mention the label that struck me in a particular way:

Sannio Aglianico Riserva Arcano 2016 – Terre Stregate

Campania Stories 2021 has just begun, and it doesn’t end here! Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it some more! About this Land, this Sea, its beauty, its Art, its traditions and these extraordinary Wines! Talk about it! Because it will remain forever an endless story!