I Love Italian Wine and Food series – Campania Region

Vines in a Naples convent Photo © mafaldablue
Vines in a Naples convent Photo © mafaldablue

An article by: Levi Reiss

Campania is the shin of the Italian boot. It is located in the southwestern Italy on the Tyrrhenian Sea. The region is mountainous and hilly, with coastal lowlands. Its total population is about 5.8 million, making it the second most heavily populated region of Italy.

Over the centuries Campania has been ruled by Greeks, Etruscans, Romans, Goths, Byzantines, Lombards, and Normans among others. It was the breadbasket of Ancient Rome.

Its soil is fertile, often because of volcanic ash. The region provides extensive fruits, vegetables, and flowers.

Campania is said to have given the world pasta and pizza. Other foods abound. Campania is the most industrialized region of southern Italy, with an emphasis on heavy industry and tourism.

Campania’s best-known city is its administrative center, Naples, once glorified by the phrase “See Naples and Die,” which referred to its beauty and not its high crime rate. Other well-known cities include Sorrento, a playground of the jet set, and Pompeii, destroyed by Mount Vesuvius about two thousand years ago.

Campania devotes about 100,000 acres to grapevines; it ranks 9th among the 20 Italian regions. Its total annual wine production is about 52 million gallons, also giving it a 9th place. About 64% of the wine production is red or rose’ (a bit of rose’), leaving 36% for white. The region produces 17 DOC wines and one DOCG wine, Taurasi, one of the two DOCG wines produced in southern Italy. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin, presumably a high-quality wine. The G in DOCG stands for Garantita, but there is in fact no guarantee that such wines are truly superior. Only 2.8% of Campania wine carries the DOC designation. Campania is home to almost three dozen major and secondary grape varieties, with a few more white varieties than red ones.

Campania is not a major producer of international white grape varieties. Common Italian white varieties include Falanghina, Fiano, Greco, and Coda di Volpe.

Campania is not a major producer of international red grape varieties.The best known Italian red variety is Aglianico, best expressed in the DOCG wine, Taurasi, and Piedirosso.

Before we reviewing the Campania wine and cheese that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with Scialatielli alle Vongole; Herbed Pasta with Clams, Garlic, and Cherry Tomatoes. Then try Branzino all ‘Acqua Pazz’; Sea Bass in ‘Crazy Water’. And for dessert, indulge yourself with Coviglie al Caffe’; Coffee Custard and Ladyfingers.

Wine Reviewed Mastoberardino Radici ‘Fiano di Avellino’ DOCG 12.0% alcohol about $20

When you see a green band on an Italian white wine bottle, you have a DOCG wine, Italy’s top of the line classification.

Mastoberardino is the largest and best known producer in southern Italy. Fiano di Avellino is an indigenous white grape variety. They came together in an excellent wine.

The wine had a beautiful straw color. I found it to be delicate yet complex and elegant, not the least bit thin. At the first pairing it held up to spicy barbequed chicken and barbequed eggplant slices. Among the many flavors, it was spicy and smoky.

The next pairing was with whole wheat pasta and chicken meat balls in a peppery tomato sauce. Here the wine took on a floral character.

I would have loved to taste this wine with the Mozzarella di Bufala Campana (Water-Buffalo Mozzarella cheese) described in my article “I Love Italian Wine and Cheese – The Latium Region” but it is not sold in my city. I had to settle for Pecorino Sardo, a nutty cheese made in Sardinia, an island almost directly west of Campagnia. In the presence of the cheese the wine became almost unctuous.

I really feel that this wine deserved its top of the line designation. The best white wines often come from cold climates such as Germany and northern France. Who would have thought that such a fine white wine could come from sun-baked southern Italy? The neighboring woods and eighteen hundred foot elevation of Avellino are certainly an essential part of the final product, well worth the $20, which is more than I usually spend on a wine bottle.

About the Author

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His wine website is www.theworldwidewine.com. You can reach him at ital@mail.theworldwidewine.com.

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