The wines of Campania were virtually unknown in the world a mere 20 years ago. Difficult to imagine these days, with so many Campanian wines being distributed throughout the world and garnering much critical acclaim. If anything, one might then have come across the odd bottle of Lacryma Cristi del Vesuvio or Taurasi. The grand old producer at the time, of course, was Mastroberardino, and the wines were world class, but there was precious little competition. What has happened since then is nothing short of a revolution.
In red wine image terms, Campania is dominated by aglianico, while in the white wine department, fiano and greco prevail. Cantina del Barone (www.cantinadelbarone.it) specializes in fiano, which has a millennial history in Campania. Many think that this is the variety that the ancient Romans knew under the name of vitis apiana, which made the famous wine called Apianum. Fiano is naturally low-yielding and gives wines with aromas of honey, nuts, slightly resinous notes such as sage and a fruitiness from apples to peaches and apricots (depending on the terroir and ripeness). Skins are thick and can yield a slight, attractive bitterness in the wine. The area around Avellino is especially rich in fiano vineyards, many of which by now have reached considerable age. Fiano di Avellino is the DOCG wine from the area, and good to excellent wines abound by now.
Campania has undergone what I would consider to be a classical Italian evolution from having at the most a handful of good to great producers to now having a huge number of excellent producers. The initial producers are large and to some extent industrial, but with time a group of small producers, in love with their own plot of land and their local area, emerges. In the end, we end up with a varied selection of large, medium, small and tiny producers. Invariably, the most interesting wines end up coming from the two latter categories. At the moment, I consider the Fiano di Avellino denomonation to be on its way into the final phase, with a number of small producers on the brink of leaving a very clean, technically highly proficient, quasi-international, slightly boring style and coming up with wines of strong terroir character and inimitable style.
At the very forefront of this development is Cantina del Barone, the tiny property of enologist Luigi Sarno. The property consists of 2 hectares of fiano vineyards and half a hectare of aglianico vineyards. According to the web site, 4 wines are made, a fiano, a greco, an aglianico and a Taurasi; I am guessing that at least the greco and Taurasi are made from bought-in grapes. Also, in contrast to the web site, two fianos are presently made, both classified as Fiano di Avellino, and these were the wines that Luigi had chosen to bring along to the one-on-one event at Radici del Sud.
Viticulture is organic, both wines are partially fermented on the skins and they have no sulphur added. This is definitely bang-up-to-date, and expectations were high for some really interesting wines big on terroir and varietal character. I was not let down, here are my tasting notes:
Fiano di Avellino 2011
12,000 bottles are made per year on average. Slightly reductive nose with apple, appetising slightly herbal character, a bit of yeast character, extremely minerally, quite a dark and serious nose. Soft, relatively broad in the mouth, fresh, slight hint of tannin from the grape skins. Long, with apple, slightly herbal, extremely minerally. A lovely terroir wine, would be very food-friendly.
Fiano di Avellino Particellla 928 2010
This hails from a single vineyard with half a hectare of old vines. The wine is stored for 6 months on the lees, with occasional batonnage; average annual production is 4,000 bottles. Quite big, round, complex, very minerally and flowery nose, with ripe apple, peach, almond, slightly herbal, then elderflower and acacia flower, the merest hint of reduction. Fresh in the mouth, approachable and round, but also minerally and juicy, with a slight hint of tannin to lend further interest. Long, very complex, repeating all of the aromas from the nose, fresh, juicy, minerally and clean, yet profound and so much of an expression of terroir. A fantastic effort. If this is the future for Fiano di Avellino, then we are in for some glorious times.
In my original background post on the Radici del Sud 2012 event (https://oleudsenwineblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/radici-del-sud-2012-impressions-and-results/) I commented on my somewhat negative impression of labels and the web site. Luigi Sarno has since then written to me to say that he will be taking a look at both aspects. My comments were based on my great liking for the wines and my perception that these aspects could stand in the way of wider distribution of the wines. I generally care only for what is in the bottle, but I would want these wines to be available to me here in Denmark (and to all of you out there, so long as I can get my share!), so would not want the unimportant things to be in the way of that. I am sorry if my original remarks were in any way viewed as disrespectful or arrogant.