Today I arrived back from my whirlwind tour of the Amalfi coast in an effort to learn more about Campania wines. Two years ago when I moved to Rome I had dreamed of heading down the coast and visiting Naples and its coastline. I'd been warned off visiting the area by my colleagues and friends, we can say that the Romans do not have a very high opinion of the Neapolitan work ethic, driving or dialect but what everyone in Italy can agree upon is the the quality of the food and drink of the region. The Amalfi coast is world famous for its quality local produce, its tomatoes and fish, with the Salt Cod from the region being among the most famous dishes in the world.
The coastline itself, when not dominated by concrete hotels is breathtaking and where I settled, at the Caruso Hotel in Ravello, I found the most fantastic view of the Mediterranean yet. I've lived in Spain and visited all the Costa's as well as the Tuscan, Lazio and Campania coastlines and here, sat precariously on a cliffs edge in Ravello I found the most beautiful vision of Italy yet.
Only a couple of week ago the whole area was completely crippled by sanitation strikes which ruined the image of Naples internationally. Photos and new footage of rubbish mountains in central areas of Naples caused the area huge embarrassment and badly effected the tourist trade. The Hotel Caruso itself is only starting to recover from the bad publicity with reservations for the hotel and the restaurant down 30% on the same time in 2007.
The Caruso Hotel's restaurant, as well as having one of the finest al fresco views in the world, has a tremendous wine list and whilst in Campania, I decided to go for their only D.O.C.G red wine, the full and show stopping, Taurasi. "You know when you've been Taurasi'd" - these wines are always packing some alcohol and serious heat and are a far cry from the feminine Barolos I usually opt for but this time, it was a fitting accompaniment to my Paccheri and rack of Lamb.
So what is Campanian Wine all about? The area is beginning finally to make use of its terroir and produce some wines worthy of the Tre Bicchere. While not overly blessed with D.O.C.G and D.O.C appellations, those it does have are increasing in quality year on year. The volcanic soil of Campania certainly produce something different, powerful reds and tangy zesty whites are coming out of the region in spades thanks to a couple of savvy producers. The area is also home to the white wine de jour of the Italian under 30 set, Falanghina.
Campania has had a crazy run of excellent vintages, with Taurasi, the most expensive and fully able to age wine of the region having success every year since 1993 with only the exception of the dire 2002 harvest. The wine comes from Aglianico grapes grown in the hills northeast of Avellino. The other notable red of the area, the Falerno Del Massico enjoy less international appeal but is a local favourite as is much cheaper than Taurasi. With the whites, Falaghina and Greco di Tufo are the best dry whites with the Fiano di Avellino offering something a little sweet.
Feudi di San Gregorio - By far an away the main players in Campania Wines, an internationally recognisable brand that is also capable of producing quality wines. 3,000,000 bottles a year with the producers top label, Taurasi Riserva Piano di Montevergine, taking a 95 point score from Parker in 1999. Also producing a sought after ITG wine "Serpico".
Galardi - Tiny production of 15,000 bottles but taking all the accolades for the region. Produces the most expensive wines releasing top labels at $300 a bottle. Produces just one wine, the Terra di Lavoro, an Aglianico/Piedirosso blend capable of ageing.
Montevetrano - Another producer focusing their efforts on one award winning product, the IGT Montevetrano, a really fruity blended wine of Cabernet, Merlot and Aglianico. However with only 10% Aglianico this is pretty much a Super Tuscan producer just 200km too far south. 30,000 bottles per year.
Baring in mind I spent one day in Naples and one night in Ravello I still managed to try two bottles of wine which I think you'll agree is impressive, or shameful. Either way, here they are.
Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici 2001 - BUY - €22
Dark purple in the glass, dark and heavy. On the nose the wine is all Taurasi with licorice, cherries and meat on the nose, a smoky barbeque style wine infact. On the palate the wine is full bodied and smooth and the fills every inch of your mouth, a real palate coating wine. Good length on the finish I suspect a few more years will do it some favours - 91 Points
Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina 2007 - BUY - €7
A straw yellow in the glass with green highlights. A great nose, honeyed, aromatic and tropical fruits coming forth. Really creamy bold palate, textured and fruity, some fresh hints of melon. I love this wine for QPR, a firm favourite - 88 Points
Where can I buy this wine? (Mastroberardino)
Where can I buy this wine? (Mastroberardino)
Europeans - Enoteca Carotenuto - €22
Americans - Corpwines - $38
Brits - Enoteca Carotenuto - £15
Question of the Day
Where is the most beautiful view in your world?