Most people who are interested in Italian wine are familiar with the wines that come from Tuscany and Piedmont in the northern regions of the country. I thought it would be fun to talk about some of the lesser-known areas to the south.
To the east of Rome lies Abruzzi. A dry hilly place with coastal breezes off the Adriatic, it is the most productive wine region in central Italy. Unfortunately most wine produced here is unremarkable, with the exception of a red wine called Montepulciano de Abruzzo. which is rustic, but satisfying and very food friendly.
The region south of Rome known as Campania is more famous for its beautiful Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri than for its wine. However there are some good wines made here. A wine called Lacryma Christi (tears of Christ) is a delicious dry white wine, and a red wine made by Taurasi from a grape called Aglianico is also quite good.
South of Abruzzi and east of Campania is the region of Apulia. Here some good everyday wines are made from Negro Amaro and Primativo.
Basilicata is nearly landlocked between Campania and Apulia. It is a poor region, but makes one important wine (one of my favorites) Aglianico del Vulture, a rich, earthy full-bodied red wine.
Moving south of Apulia is the arid, mountainous region of Calabria. The most important red wine made here is the medium-bodied, spicy red called Ciro, made from an ancient grape called Gaglioppo. From the southernmost point of Calabria comes Greco di Bianco, a wonderful dessert wine made from partially dried grapes, that has a fascinating herbal and citrus flavor.
Sicily is a large island with some wonderful wine production. There are some really good reds made from Nero d’Avola and Primitivo made here. There are also some delicious white wines made with the grapes Catarratto, Inzolia, and Grillo. Sicily is perhaps most famous for the fortified wine Marsala, which is available in three different levels of sweetness, fairly dry, noticeably sweet, or very sweet. It also comes in three colors, Oro (golden), Ambra (amber), or Rubino (ruby).
The other large island in the Mediterranean is Sardinia. Like Sicily, Sardinia has been ruled by a succession of people. The Spanish had more influence here and most grape varieties grown are of Spanish origin. Cannonau (related to Garnacha), Carignano (Carinena), and Giro all make very good red wines in Sardinia.
There are a wealth of interesting wines available from the lesser-known areas of Italy and they are often great values. I hope you get a chance to try some of them.
“In Italy, they add work and life on to food and wine.” Robin Leach
This month’s white wine of the month is Real Compania Macabeo, 2012 from Castilla Spain. It’s medium-bodied, elegant, crisp and dry, with citrus notes. Our red wine of the month is Montemar Syrah, 2009, from Chiles central valley. It’s loaded with black fruit, big bold flavor, and spice.
Wine Club members please come in early to pick up your wine. I hope to see you all at our next wine tasting.