The wines of Campania, Italy, are not well known by most Americans, but that seems destined to change, thanks, in part, to efforts by winery owners such as Ilaria Pettito of Donnachiara winery. Ilaria passionately extols the virtues of Campania's indigenous grapes, and she's committed to improving the quality of the native wines of the region. Donnachiara was established in 2005 and is named for Ilaria's grandmother.
I had the great pleasure of meeting lovely Ilaria and tasting through her current releases at a media event at Il Gattopardo.
Falanghina Beneventano IGT 2017 - The event began with a crisp, white wine of high acidity with notes of lemon and minerality. A refreshing pour with assorted stuzzichini sul tavolo.
Greco di Tufo DOCG 2017 - This white's freshness can be attributed to its creation in stainless steel tanks and the fact that it does not undergo malolactic fermentation. This limited production wine has depth of flavor and richness from twice weekly battonage. Lime on the attack gave way to herbs such as dill -- with a mouthwatering salinity rounding out the flavor profile. Tufo is a porous volcanic stone found in the region.
Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2017 - Fiano is Ilaria's favorite white grape. This DOCG wine is structured, offering acidity, ripe pear, and a backbone of minerality. It was a great match with the first course of clams with buckwheat pasta.
Beneventano Falanghina IGT "Resilienza" 2016 - This wine represents a new project aimed at building the reputation of Falanghina -- considered a less important grape from the region. The idea of resilience came to Ilaria from her father's work in the steel business. This wine was aged on lees and then spent a year in bottle. The fruit was allowed longer hang time to develop more intense flavor. With a deep gold color, this wine offered rich fruit including apricot and pear along with typical crisp acidity of wines from this hilly region.
After the first course of seafood pasta, we were served the spectacular Colorado lamb and a quartet of reds from the region.
Campania Aglianico IGT 2016 - This wine won a prestigious Tre Bicchieri award and it's no wonder. I found it to have a wonderful nose of ripe plum. On the palate, there were black and red fruits supported by a firm tannic structure and good finish. The fruit retains liveliness from stainless steel fermentation followed by malolactic in barriques.
Irpinia Aglianico DOC 2015 - A Wine Spectator Top 100 Wine of 2017, this red was rounder with fresh cranberry and blackberry notes, and good grip. While many people consider that young Aglianico is too tannic and rustic, winemaking is improving and now these wines have far greater balance than 20 years ago. According to Ilaria, "We believe it's important to wait, but also to enjoy." She aims to make wines that can be pleasurable when released - or when aged.
Taurasi DOCG 2013 - This 100% Aglianico was an elegant red that has matured into a lovely wine. It has an intensely perfumed nose of violets and blackberries with a round mouthfeel and rich blackberry and sour cherry on the palate. I gave this wine four stars.
Taurasi Riserva DOCG 2012 - This 100% Aglianico grown on clay soil was more subdued than the 2013, with fruit profile of pomegranate and cranberry and minerality. It had an elegant balance of acidity and fruit and had a long satisfying finish. The Taurasi Riserva is only produced in best vintages.
The take-away from this lunch is that the wines of Campania are improving in quality with careful winemaking, vineyard selection, and grape growing. More specifically, the team at Donnachiara has proven that they are serious about creating top quality white and red wines from the hilltop vineyards of this southern Italian region. Get them while they're still affordably priced!