The Campania region was first inhabited by the Greeks, settling in Cuma, north of present day Naples in the 8th century B.C., their settlement fell to the Etruscans in the 6th century B.C., and in the 4th century B.C. Campania was taken by the Roman Empire and given the name Campus or ‘plain’ from which the area derives its current name. Then in 79 A.D. the volcano Vesuvius suddenly and violently erupted burying the neighbouring cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum under lava and suffocating ash.
The regions unique cuisine, gave the world dishes like pasta and pizza, also Neapolitan coffee, a brew stronger than regular Italian espresso, also Limoncino or Limoncello - along with Strega, a sparkling Spumante and Grappa.
Winemaking has been going on in this region since the 13th century B.C. There are more than a hundred native grapes in Campania, with several unknown outside the region. The region’s diversity and success owes much to the varied landscapes and micro-climates, along with dry hot summers, mild winters, a long growing season and its volcanic soil.
The coastal Mediterranean breezes blow in from the Tyrrhenian Sea and across the Apennine Mountains to temper the heat, encouraging bright acidity in the grapes. Traditionally the local wines are intended for immediate pleasure and consumption, which has led many outsiders to consider the local wines as second-rate. Though starting in the late 1980’s through to current day, the region has seen a dynamic resurgence and distinctive wines have appeared in many provinces, bringing the DOC denominations from 9 in 1975 to 19 in 2000.
A few of Campania’s native varietals include; Fiano, a grape known to the Romans as Viti Apiana, Greco that was first introduced by the Greeks, Coda di Volpe, so named by Pliny after the shape of the grape cluster and Pedirosso. Instead of seeking out international markets by planting Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay, Campania’s winemakers have stayed true to their heritage of indigenous varietals that best reflect Campania’s terroir.
Especially in the Taurasi DOCG area, a handful of winemakers have been pro-actively producing notable reds and whites that have gained national respect. Campania now has 4 DOCG appellations for the ancient wines of Taurasi, Fiano di Avellino, Falerno del Massico and Greco di Tufo. Taurasi is the region’s most prolific wine made from the Aglianico grape, whose name is derived from ‘Hellenic’ as the grape was first introduced by the Greeks. Sometimes known as ‘The Barolo of the South’, Taurasi and other exceptional reds from Falerno del Massico reflect the sheer potential of the grape. Like Barolo the wines have great ageing potential, although the flavours that emerge with age show the wine to be markedly different from the renowned Nebbiolo wines of the north.
Modern whites from Fiano and Greco are richly perfumed with a distinct mineral character. Production of white wines from Falanghina - a delicate, mineral-rich white grape - is on the increase. Campania is unique in that many of its vines are planted on their own rootstocks, whereas most of the world’s vines are grafted onto American rootstock in order to remain resistant to the destructive Phylloxera louse. It has been found that the pest struggles to survive in Campania’s volcanic soils.
The islands of Capri and Ischia are also included in the region’s DOC appellations and some very fine reds and whites are also produced along the coast in Penisola Sorrentina and Costa d’Amalfi. About 75% of Campania’s production is now DOCG, DOC and IGT wines.
Campania DOCG wine appellations:
Aglianico del Taburno, Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo, Taurasi.
Campania DOC wine appellations:
Aversa, Campi Flegrei, Capri, Castel San Lorenzo, Cilento, Costa d'Amalfi, Falanghina del Sannio, Falerno del Massico, Galluccio, Irpinia, Ischia, Penisola Sorrentina, Sannio, Vesuvio.
Campania IGT wine appellations:
Beneventano or Beneventano, Campania, Catalanesca del Monte Somma, Colli di Salerno, Dugenta, Epomeo, Paestum, Pompeiano, Roccamonfina, Terre del Volturno.