The posts so far in this thread, except the last one, seem to have been concentrating on Campania, so I think that it may be useful for me to replay some notes on a virtual tour of the southern peninsular dating from October, 2007. Admittedly IMO the Aglianico based reds can show a lot more class than others from Italy's deep south (except good Etna rosso) and Campanian whites like Greco du Tufo and Fiano d'Avellino can also be excellent. But the others are well worth exploring.
In the past, I have not been a big fan of wines from the warmer parts of Europe but I must admit that, in the last twenty years, the wines from Languedoc-Roussillon have made startling progress and now Italy’s Deep South is coming up fast. The reds from local grape varieties have lost coarseness and, while remaining powerful, have gained drinkability but the most striking development is in the whites from local grape varieties which can now be deliciously fresh and mineral like, for example, Campania’s Greco di Tufo and Sicily’s wines from the Grillo variety. I am less enamoured of their wines from international grapes or where these are prominent in blends with local grapes.
This progress was once again demonstrated at a tasting last Monday.
From the lower leg of the peninsular –
Caputo from Carinaro (CE), Campania.
The wines were presented by the estate’s attractive lady oenologist. I liked best the first wine tasted, GRECO DI TUFO 2006 (EUR 12,49), which showed a delightful mineral fragrance and a fresh citrus acidity on a nervy body; 15.5+/20. The LACRIMA CHRISTI DEL VESUVIO Bianco 2006 (EUR 9,12) was prettily fragrant and freshly soft, lacking the nerve of the previous; 14.5/20.
LACRIMA CHRISTI DEL VESUVIO Rosso 2004 (EUR 10,12) was soft and supple but not very interesting; 13.5/20. CLANUS AGLIANICO SANNIO 2003 (EUR 10,98), which sees no new wood, was much more to my taste showing firm structure with full dark fruit and tar notes but enough suppleness for drinkability; 15/20 and fair QPR. The oenologist was very proud of her ZICORRA (Aglianico) 2003 (EUR 23,91), which is of similar composition to the previous but with barrique ageing; it was undeniably smoother, richer and more ingratiating than the previous with liqueur like fruit but the profile was “international” and the Aglianico typicity was submerged; 15/20 for me but would be the favourite from this line-up for many people. TAURASI 2001 (EUR 30,43) showed liquorice and candied notes on the nose and, on the palate, a more austere style than the previous with good, if simplistic, fruit flavours and some depth; 15/20.
I have had much more characterful Aglianico and Taurasi (a bit like very tangy and dark Châteauneuf du Pape with similar class) from Feudi San Gregorio in a modern style and some years ago from Mastroberardino in a more classical style. The offerings here seem too soft.
From the heel –
Leone de Castris from Salice Salentino (LE), Puglia.
This producer works on a commercial scale but the standards are good and the local grapes, particularly Negroamaro (“NM”), make some impressive wines.
SANTERA PRIMITIVO DI MANDURIA 2004 (EUR 10,15) was quite rich, succulent and spicy with some orange peel notes; 15/20 and fair QPR. I made the mistake of tasting MESSERE ANDREA 1999 (85% NM, 15% Cabernet S) – (EUR 17,64) after Donna Lisa (see below) because it was overshadowed and seemed much like a diminished version of that wine with added orange peel notes which many of these Southern wines seem to take on with some ageing; 15.5/20. I was not greatly taken with ILLEMOS 2002 (EUR 20,59), a blend of 50% Primitivo and roughly equal amounts of NM, Montepulciano and Merlot; it was attractively full and soft in a rather populist way; 15/20. The highlight was SALICE SALENTO ROSSO “Donna Lisa” RISERVA 2002 (EUR 26,94), which showed aromas of spicy red fruit and liqueur with leather notes on a rich structured body with some rigour and good length; 16.5/20.
From the toe –
Santa Venere from Ciro (KR), Calabria.
CIRO CLASSICO 2005 (EUR 9) – made 95% from the local grape Gaglioppo- surprised with its quite pale colour and agreeable lightish palate with evolved orange peel notes; where was the legendary black and severe Ciro? 13/20. CIRO ClASSICO 2006 was much more powerful and, if a little rough right now, much franker and closer to what I was expecting; 14.5/20. VURGADA 2005 (EUR 12,02), containing 40% Merlot, was softer, more ample and quite complex but again with orange peel notes; 15/20. Standing out was CIRO CLASSICO SUPERIORE RISERVA “Frederico Scala” 2004 (EUR 19,13); it showed much finer and more complex aromas of dark berries and fruit with some violet notes and a firm, complex and structured palate with leather and tar notes ; 16/20.
From the football –
Firriato from near Trapani, Sicily.
This is another sizeable commercial operation which achieves good standards. The presenter explained that the house’s philosophy is to use local varieties, sometimes blended with international grapes to achieve easier market penetration. Most of the lower and mid range represent very fair QPR.
ALTAVILLA “Bianco della Corte” 2006, mainly from Grillo, (EUR 8,70) was fresh and charming with good minerality but softer and less crisp than a Grillo, which I had at home after a similar tasting two years ago; 15/20. SANTAGOSTINO Bianco 2006, with 40% Chardonnay, (EUR 12,90) was richer and more complex but more international in style; 15/20.
BRANCIFORTI 2004 (EUR 6,82) is the basic red made from the local Nero d’Avola (“NA”) and is strong and simple; 13.5/20. CHIRAMONTE 2004 (EUR 9,41), also made from NA, is a definite step up; more aromatic and complex but also strong; 15/20. I liked ETNA ROSSO DOC 2004 (EUR 9,98) made from Nero Mascalese and Nero Cappunio (I think?); complex with mineral notes; 15.5/20 and good QPR. I did not much like ALTAVILLA Rosso della Corte 2005 (EUR 9,41), where Cabernet S is added to NA and, IMHO, has a dumbing down effect – also caramel notes which I do not like; 12.5/20. SANTAGOSTINO Rosso 2005 (EUR 14,20), where Syrah is added to NA, is much better; unlike Cab.S, Syrah seems to complement the tangy virility of NA just adding a touch of suavity; I also tried this wine from a magnum which seemed to bring more amplitude; 15.5/20.
At the high end, HARMONIUM 2004 (EUR 23,72) from NA shows great depth, tannic structure and character with complex dark fruit, chocolate together with herbal notes; 16.5/20. HARMONIUM 1999 (EUR 67,35/magnum) was unrecognisable as the same wine; it seemed very evolved for its eight years developing a complex fragrance but also orange peel notes which I found on quite a lot of these Southern wines and take to be a sign of (over?) rapid ageing;15.5/20. I liked RIBECA 2004 (EUR 23,72), a blend of NA 60% and Perricone 40%; chocolaty and powerful; 16/20.
I liked the Bordeaux blend CAMELOT 2004 (EUR 28,96) much better than the overblown and confected one (a Gambero Rosso 3 bicchieri winner!) which I tasted two years ago; this one was leathery, fruity, generous and big but not overdone; 15.5/20. CAMELOT 1999 (EUR 80.33/magnum) had developed quite some sweetness and fragrance but like the Harmonium was showing evolution with orange peel notes; 15/20. I prefer these wines with their youthful forcefulness but many may like this evolution. The presenter from Firriato rightly pointed out that these are wines of Sicilian character and evolution pattern which I should not be comparing with Bordeaux.