A few weeks ago, I invited my new WSET buddy, Tim, along with his husband, Elliot, to join me for dinner at A16, my very favorite Italian restaurant in San Francisco. The restaurant lives up to its name by giving you the feeling you’re being transported, just as the autostrada, A16, literally does, to the gorgeous wine regions of Campania in southern Italy. It’s the restaurant’s wine list that really takes you there; its selection rivals that of any fine restaurant in the region.
Last September I tracked a few hundred kilometers on the actual autostrada A16, visiting different towns, wineries, and the Parco Naturnale Regionale Taburno-Camposauro. I had been excited to get back to the restaurant ever since returning home and equally excited to tell you all about both experiences. But I was side tracked by a trip to Burgundy and northern Rhone! (I’m not complaining!)
But back to A16. While Elliot doesn’t dork out on wine like Tim and I do, he sure was a good sport about us doing so. His height delegated him as the “glass-orderer” at the bar, which proved quite fruitful as he somehow convinced the bartender to serve us up two flights of three whites, both blind. The first flight was all whites from Campania (Greco, Falanghina, and a blend from Ischia), and the second was all whites from southern Italy (Malvasia, Vermentino, and Trebbiano). I surprised myself by hitting the nail on the head with most of them. But I couldn’t have done it so well without Tim’s help, and needless to say, Elliot’s—a welcomed virtue of sharing wine with friends.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to share my trip to Campania with friends. I made the trek all by myself. But that’s the way it usually works with the enotecaMarcella adventures. Luckily I can later share these with you all!
What most people don’t realize is that Campania has a later harvest season than most of the rest of Italy with the whites coming in at the end of September and the reds maintaining typical harvest dates through October or at the very end of October (Aglianico). While mountainous, Campania’s elevations don’t rise as high as the Alps. Nevertheless harvest dates are on par with those of Valle d’Aosta and Valtellina. The summers are hot and dry (usually) and winters wet and cold; the inland areas have a continental climate while the areas closer to the coast have more of a Mediterranean climate. What else makes it interesting is the proximity of Mount Vesuvius. Its eruption in 79 AD left striations and clusters of ash in the soils, which are now buried all around different sub zones of Campania. The presence of ash is better suited for growing red varieties. However, the Vesuvio DOC, that closest to Mount Vesuvius, allows reds (Piedirosso, Sciascinoso, Aglianico) as well as whites (Coda di Volpe, Verdeca, Falanghina, and Greco).
The regions’ wineries can be huge and well-established in history, like Mastroberardino, which dates back to 1878 or Feudi di San Gregorio with land holdings of nearly 300 hectares, or more family-run like Cantine Lonardo or somewhere in between like Ocone.
Stand-out wines from my trip included the following:
Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi Riserva 1998. Taurasi Riserva DOCG. Aglianico 100%. In this year the wine aged for two years in large chestnut barrels and French oak barrels. Fruity on the palate with a smooth texture and a tart, rustic finish. Herbs, red cherry, marzipan, caramel. ★★
Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi Riserva 2006. Taurasi Riserva DOCG. Aglianico 100%. This vintage aged 2.5 years in large Slavonian oak barrels and French oak barrels, followed by 5 years in bottle. Leather, smoke, minerals, olive, black plum, red licorice; finishing with soft, rich, refined tannins ★★
Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi Riserva 2007. Taurasi Riserva DOCG. Aglianico 100%. The 2007 aged 2.5 years in large Slavonian oak barrels and French oak barrels, followed by 4-5 years in bottle. Concentrated black cherry and plum with wet herbs, milk chocolate, soy, smoke, perfume; fresh and tart finish. Needs time to soften. ★★
Cantine Lonardo Grecomusc’ 2012. IGT Campania Bianco. Rovello bianco 100%. Golden yellow color. Flavors of honey, apricot, tropical fruit; floral, full, spicy, nutty, fresh grip on the finish. ★
Cantine Lonardo Taurasi 2007. Taurasi DOCG. Aglianico 100%. Super dark maroon color. Plums, blackberries, and pomegranate; forest floor, leather, cocoa powder, Christmas spice. Agreeable wine, but not too deep. ★★
Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina 2013. Falanghina del Sannio DOC. Falanghina 100%. Aromatic with a hint of apricot and crushed rocks; on the palate it is fresh with some salinity, a spritz of lime and a smooth, pleasing finish. ★★★
Feudi di San Gregorio Fiano 2013. Fiano di Avellino DOCG. Fiano 100%. Limestone dust and a healthy dose of tropical fruit; smooth palate full of yellow peach. ★☆
Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo 2013. Greco di Tufo DOCG. Greco di Tufo 100%. Even more dusty in the bouquet; a bright and straightforward white. ★
Feudi di San Gregorio Rubrato 2012. Irpinia Aglianico DOC. Aglianico 100%. Blackberries and red licorice brightened up with flavors of sweet, ripe heirloom tomatoes and lifted by a hint of smoke. ★
Feudi di San Gregorio Aglianico dal Re 2012. Irpinia Aglianico DOC. Aglianico 100%. Dark and brooding; well-developed fruit, balanced by spice, smoke, and chalky tannins. ★☆
Feudi di San Gregorio Piano di Monte Vergine Taurasi 2008. Taurasi Riserva DOCG. Super dark and fruity like Amarone, wet forest floor, deep and layered, lots of potential. ★★☆
Ocone Vigna del Monaco 2013. Falanghina 100%. A single-vineyard wine with a noticeable and unique personality. On the nose the wine is complex with a sweet honey and nutty character. The flavors are bright and framed by spice, high acid, and a rocky, dusty texture. Super age-worthy and impressive. ★★★
Ocone Oca Bianca 2013. Fiano 85% and a mix of other grapes, mostly Coda di Volpe. Fiano IGT Beneventano. Fresh peach and caramel with a lush texture, bright acidity, and a pleasing spicy and mineral-driven finish. ★★
Ocone Apollo 2009. Aglianico 100%. Aglianico del Taburno DOC. Wet forest and vanilla extract on the bouquet with fresh, crisp blueberry and plum fruit, followed up by young, velveteen tannins. ★★
Ocone Calidonio 2012. Piedirosso 80% Aglianico 20%. Taburno Piedirosso DOC. The wild boar on the label is a symbol of Benevento. Complex set of sweet aromas: purple fruit, watermelon, meringue cookies. On the palate: spicy and smoky, fleshed out by a ripe cherry character and balanced with a bright acidity and sweet tannins. ★★★
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I’m not always stuck in tasting rooms and cellars. This trip was obviously no different. Besides exploring the Parco Naturnale Regionale Taburno-Camposauro, which actually had no trails that I could find—only goats!—I also spent a day on the Amalfi Coast. How could I not?
Such a dazzling place! I can’t wait to go back!
PS – Don’t forget to add this U2 song to your Campania adventure—especially if you’re by yourself!