The second Italian focused NGW Wine School episode takes us to Southern Italy. Whilst, the wines of Southern Italy may not be ranked in the same level as those of the centre and north with their clusters of DOC’s and DOCG’s, they, nevertheless offer some great value Italian wines and can attain greatness as well.
Previously, many of the wineries of Southern Italy were churning out vast amounts of mediocre, full-bodied, over-extracted and rather uninteresting wines. However, as new ideas from the New World began to penetrate and modernise the wines of Italy, better quality wines began to emerge here in Southern Italy. These wines were full-bodied, high alcohol ‘sunshine in a glass'.
We start our tour of Southern Italy in Calabria, at the toe of the Italian boot. Here, the standout Red is Ciro from the Gaglioppo grape and the standout White is the Greco di, Bianco.
Moving to Basilicata where there are a myriad of grapes across the region, as common with most of Italy. The main white grape variety here is Malvasia, as well as some Fiano, Greco and Moscato. The main Red variety here is Aglianico, accounting for half of all grapes planted here. Additionally, you will find some Montepulciano, Primitivo and Sangiovese. In Basilicata, most of the vineyards are in hilly or mountainous areas away from the sea that laps two sides of the region, and the extinct volcano Mont Vulture is where the best sites can be found.
A better-known region is Campania, known due to its higher concentration of DOC and DOCG wines, as well as its proximity to the Amalfi coast. One of the most famous sites here, as in Sicily, is the volcano Mount Vesuvius, overlooking the coastal city of Naples, and the colossal eruption that destroyed Pompeii in CE 79 covered swathes of the surrounding area with ash which makes for superb agricultural and vineyard land. There are more native grapes here than any other part of Italy, and it is estimated up to a hundred are not yet genetically identified. The whites of Campania may be considered some of the best Italy has to offer, whilst the reds are a bit more uneven. The top whites from here are Fiano and Greco, both having DOCG’s in Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino. The standout red here is Primitivo but there is a whole host of local varieties.
Across to the heel of the Italian boot, we reach Puglia. Its falt, fertile plains are ideal for agriculture and, therefore, grape growing. Whilst this could be an unbearably hot semi-desert because it is a partial peninsula, cooling breezes from the surrounding sea moderates the climate. Whilst a lot of good wines are made here, there are fewer great wines which is reflected in the lack of DOCG status wines for such a large production area, but this is not to say you will not find some fantastic everyday wines here. Reds from this area are characterised by a richness and depth of fruit and flavour, these are generous wines that pair well with the local food. The red grapes in Puglia also make some of the best Roses in Italy. White grapes are widely grown but lack distinction. These include Fiano, Bombino Bianco, Verdeca, Minutolo, Greco Bianco and Trebbiano.
Watch the episode here to find out even more about the wines of Southern Italy and let us know if you taste any of the wines that Phil talks you through.
See you for the next episode where we will explore the wines of Central Italy.