Many Italian professionals look to Campania, where Naples is the capital, as a region full of unrealized potential.
That might be true on many issues, but if we look to wine, aspirations have been realised in terms of the most important red grape in Campania, Aglianico, mostly known from the DOCG Taurasi, although the grape is also found in other DOCs (and in the neighbouring region Basilicata).
Aglianico is often considered to be Southern Italy’s answer to the northern Italian grape Nebbiolo, and in terms of taste, one can understand why. Aglianico is similarly no immediate charmer, for it produces wines which, at least initially, has a slightly closed nose and powerful tannin structure that in most cases requires maturation in wood and bottle before the wine starts to open up.
And after maturation there is no doubt that you have a great wine in the glass, although Aglianico may not be quite as good at expressing differences in southern Italian terroir as Nebbiolo is at catching the character of every single vineyard in Piedmont.
Another red grape variety, Piedirosso, is even more local than Aglianico Campania grape, but plays only a supporting role alongside a trio of white wines: Fiano, Greco and Falanghina.
These are grape varieties which, with modern winemaking techniques, have come out of the shadows, and during the latest years we have seen a development where all of the three grape varieties are represented by excellent wines.
Fiano has probably drawn the most attention, in part because of the Fiano di Avellino DOCG, followed by the equally DOCG – promoted Greco di Tufo, while the last variety of the trio, Falanghina, has not (yet) been elevated with its own DOCG.
This is an administrative choice, which of course can be discussed in more detail, but basically circumstances have led producers to use more energy and money on their Fiano wines than on their Falanghina wines, and that may have worked in their favour (in the sense that Falanghina often acts as a more humble wine e.g. without oak ageing, but with an appealing drinkability).
Previously Campania as a wine region was only known through one single cantina, Mastroberardino. It is not like that anymore, even if Campania still has not completely met the expectations of the wine-experts for this region.