From Sicily to Southern Italy

After leaving Sicily via ferry from Messina to Villa San Giovanni, Italy, we traveled to Vietri sul Mare - a small town on the Amalfi Coast where we stayed in an ancient villa. The Amalfi Coast is in the southern region of Campania - probably better known for Naples, Capri and Pompeii than for its wine. There are three other regions in the southern peninsula - Apulia, Basilicata and Calabria. These four regions make comparatively few wines of high quality.

It was in Campania that the Greeks introduced three of the south's most impressive grape varieties: aglianico, fiano and greco. All three varieties thrive in the volcanic soils northeast of Mount Vesuvius, a still-active volcano that erupted violently in A.D. 79, destroying the nearby city of Pompeii. The three varieties are often called the archeological varieties and at least one producer is replanting the slopes of Mount Vesuvius with vineyards, as they might have existed in antiquity. While visiting the ruins of Pompeii we saw grapes being harvested and transported via wagons to the winery near the Forum Boarium. I tried to find out what variety of grapes but language was a barrier. Upon some further reading I believe those grapes were piedirosso or sciascinoso.

The aglianico, a red variety, is the basis for the south's most famous red wine, Taurasi. It is almost black in color with bitter chocolate, leather and tar aromas and flavors. Fiano and greco are white varieties which make up two of Campania's best white wine: fiano de Avellino and greco di Tufo. Both wines have a bitter almond character and an intriguing ashy aroma. We tried both whites while dining out at lunch or dinner. One such lunch we had in Maori on the way to Ravello and Amalfi via the coast road that took an hour (or it seemed) to navigate just a few miles, my brother-in-law and I had a glass of the fiano de Avellino, recommended by the server.

We didn't visit Apulia, Basilicata or Calabria regions, but just a note on their wines: Apulia's leading grapes are negroamaro (which we drank all through our travels in Sicily) and primitivo; Basilicata has but one important wine, the red aglianico del Vulture; and Calabria's Ciro, a medium-bodied grapey, spicy red made from ancient gaglioppo.

You don't need to travel to Italy, France or Spain to taste new wines - if you live in wine country, as Marilee and I do, just visit wineries in your area and sample their wines. Also, check out wine shops and markets that cater to both world wine and local vintners in your area. Just drink wine and drink responsibly.


Durella DeGrasse
Certified Wine Professional

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