Italy is often divided into pieces. The country, made up of 20 political regions, can also be split into its northern and southern halves, with the attendant jealousies. The North (think Milan and Florence), historically a bastion of industry, culture and wealth, has also been closely associated with some of the world’s greatest wines, such as Barbaresco and Brunello. But, although it has been previously overlooked by serious wine lovers, Southern Italy is finally getting the recognition it deserves. And in this vein, Campania is gaining a following for its rich whites and intense reds.
About an hour’s drive from the famed Amalfi Coast, Campania’s wine growing is centered in the north-central area of the region, near the towns of Avellino and Benevento. Here, the climate is vastly different from the Mediterranean feel of the coast, receiving over 200 days of rain, due to its location in the mountains.
Campania, home to Pompeii and Vesuvius, offers up volcanic soils and an incredible breadth of varieties. The emphasis is on indigenous varieties with the key white grapes including the floral Falanghina, the structured Greco and Fiano, which displays a little of each of the characteristics of the two. Reds include Piedirosso and Aglianico. This latter grape is also grown in neighboring Basilicata, but is best known for the Taurasi DOCG wines produced in the region.
With its reputation for producing powerful, concentrated, tannic wines, it is said that Taurasi is often called the Barolo of the South. When asked about this point at a recent press luncheon in New York City, Antonio Capaldo, whose family owns Feudi di San Gregorio, suggested that perhaps, instead, Barolo is the Taurasi of the North.
However, what does horrify the young chairman and commercial head is the notion of drinking wine without food, believing strongly in the marriage between great food and great wine. It is precisely for this reason that the Capaldo’s created Marennà restaurant on their property, which earned a Michelin star in 2009. The family has also established a wine bar, Vulcano Buono, in Naples which further reinforces this connection.
Bringing together the historical Roman, Greek and Church elements of the area, Feudi di San Gregorio is named for Gregory the Great. But, the company itself only has a 25 year history. Established in 1986, the winery presently employs 100 people and owns 300 hectares, with an additional 300 hectares closely managed in coordination with local farmers. Antonio noted that a positive side effect of the weakened economy has been to keep the next generation of Italians at home in the vineyard since there aren’t jobs to be had in the city.
The technical and agricultural aspects of the business are handled by Pierpaolo Sirch, CEO and general manager. Throughout the company’s history, it has continued to focus on its vineyards, working in concert with Professor Scienza of Milan University and others, to select the right grapes, the best areas and the ideal trellising and training systems.
Feudi's total production features 65% white wines and 35% reds, inclusive of Metodo Classico (Traditional Method) sparkling wines which were added in 2002, in collaboration with Champagne producer Anselme Selosse. Despite the diverse portfolio, there is a common texture of acidity, freshness and minerality that runs through all of the wines.
I first traveled to Campania in October 2010 during which time I had the pleasure of visiting both Mastroberardino and Feudi di San Gregorio. Consequently, it was lovely to receive an invitation to lunch with Antonio this month.
While at the winery back in 2010, we enjoyed tasting the sparkling wines, but were dismayed to learn that they were not exported to the U.S. Thus, it was a nice surprise to be greeted with a glass of the DUBL Greco Brut upon my arrival at the restaurant, Nerai. Importer Palm Bay is also now bringing in the DUBL Rosato, produced from Aglianico.
Reviewing my notes from the first visit, I was reminded how much I had liked the single vineyard Cutizzi Greco di Tufo and the Piano di Montevergine Taurasi Riserva 2002. While we didn't get to taste the Cutizzi this time around, the recent tasting reiterated my preference for the Piano di Montevergine Taurasi Riserva, with the current 2007 vintage. It once again showed good fruit concentration, richness and complexity, culminating in long length.
For the softer side of Aglianico, the Rubrato Aglianico Irpinia DOC 2010 was a lovely option with its shorter oak regimen and later harvest date to ensure that the tannins are sufficiently ripe. Other standouts included the highly aromatic Falanghina del Sannio DOC 2012 and the beautifully intense and structured Taurasi DOCG 2007.
While the whites range in suggested retail price from $15.00 for the Falanghina to $21.00 for the Greco and Fiano, other than the Rubrato ($18.00), the reds are significantly more expensive, starting at $45.00 for the Taurasi. But, frankly, this pricing is on par with the quality of the wines. And, of course, is priced similarly to the "Taurasi of the North," if not a bit less expensive, further adding to the comparison between the north and south. Regardless, Feudi's wines are well worth seeking out and acquainting your palate with high quality Campanian wines.