Wine tourism in Campania
Where is Campania?
I'm taking you to Italy. Campania is the region between Latium - the region of Rome - and Calabria - the boot of Italy. The big city of the province is Naples, a bustling city, full of contrasts. As everywhere in Italy, wine is produced in Campania. Italy is indeed the only country in the world where wine is produced in ALL regions. No wonder that it is regularly ranked first producer and exporter of wine in the world - France however arrives at the top of the list in certain years, according to the volumes of products.
Wine production in Campania
The peculiarity of Italy when it comes to wine production is that many indigenous grape varieties are grown there. They cannot be found outside the country, and are sometimes only grown in precise wine-growing regions. The international grape varieties are little planted there. Four grape varieties are worth discovering in Campania, which is also the province in southern Italy that produces the most DOCG wines (Denominazione de Origine Controllata e Garantita).
White and red grape varieties and DOCGs
Three white grape varieties grown in Campania are worth discovering:
- Falanghina, a grape variety of Greek origin, already used in the Roman times, which gives crisp, lively and fruity wines. To taste with seafood risotto, for a nice pairing.
- Fiano, used to make Fiano di Avellino DOCG, also has medium acidity and aromas of stone fruit (peach, apricot), melon, pineapple and mango. I tasted it with grilled swordfish, a dish it paired perfectly with.
- Greco, used to produce Greco di Tufo DOCG, generally has more acidity than Fiano and aromas of green apple, stone fruit and passion fruit. The one I tasted had been aged in barrels and expressed more minerality. I drank it with roast pork cooked in beer and zucchini alla scapece - grilled courgettes deglazed in white vinegar and served with finely chopped mint - a delight!
This acidity in the white wines of Campania can be surprising, as the temperatures in summer and at harvest time can be very high in the region. However, many vineyards are planted inland, at altitude, on the foothills of the Apennines, where the climate is cooler. As for the vines planted by the sea, they are gro wn using pergolas - we will talk about this training system below - to prevent the grapes from getting hit and burnt by the sun.
As for the red grape varieties, I fell in love with Aglianico, which is very famous in the south of Italy. It gives deep-coloured wines (ink-colored, some Italian winegrowers say), with medium to high acidity and intense aromas of black fruit and forest fruit. The wines are rather light and have medium tannin. I had the opportunity to taste a Campania Aglianico IGT: what a treat! I wish I had tried Taurasi DOCG, which is the flagship DOCG of Campania and is made with Aglianico, but I didn't have the chance to: a bottle costs at least € 30...
Lacryma Christi: the wine of Mount Vesuvius
There is one special wine you should try when going to Campania: Lacryma Christi (literally "tears of Christ"), which is the wine produced on Mount Vesuvius. Wine was already produced on the slopes of the volcano in the 5th century BC: it is the Greeks who founded the city of Naples (called Parthenope at the time) and who planted the first vines in the region. The Romans then developed viticulture in Campania felix (literally "happy countryside", hence the name of the province today). The vineyard is now part of Mount Vesuvius National Park. The name 'Lacryma Christi' refers to a Roman legend which holds that Bacchus cried with joy when he saw such fertile land. It is indeed, and the volcanic soils containing a great many minerals make excellent wine terroirs. Lacryma Christi is can be white, red, rosé and sparkling wines. These wines are produced with the same indigenous grape varieties as in many centuries ago: Coda di Volpe and/or Verdeca (minimum 80%) and Falanghina, Caprettone and/or Greco (maximum 20%) for the white wines; Piedirosso and/or Sciascinoso (minimum 80%) and Aglianico (maximum 20%) for the red wines.
What I've tasted: Lacryma Christi bianco
I had the opportunity to taste a Lacryma Christi white (bianco) from the Mastroberardino winery, bought at a small local grocery store and brought back in my suitcase at the end of my trip. A very dry wine, with very iodic, mineral and slightly woody notes: the wine had been visibly aged in barrels but the oaky aromas were very subtle, to give way to aromas of lemon and green apple. I served it with oysters, which was a perfect match and a real delight.
Vines on pergolas
The region has impressive wine-growing landscapes, especially by the seaside where the vines are planted on terraces - the slopes are sometimes dizzying - and pergolas. The winegrowers use chestnut wood to form the structures on which the vines will then grow and spread. This training system is used to protect the grapes from the rays of the sun and the reflexion of the sun on the sea - temperatures can be scorching there in summer. This technique also allows the growers to optimize space and leave room for other agricultural products that they grow under the vines.
What about food in Campania?
You will enjoy the traditional pasta, pizza and risotto... as well as delicious pastries. In any case, simple products, but always of high quality: this is what makes the food tasty. I had the opportunity to try spaghetti with tomato sauce, basil and Parmesan at the restaurant: a very simple dish, but the quality of the products, and in particular of the tomato sauce, made it delicious. In Naples, you should taste pizza Margherita, which has the colors of the Italian flag (tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil) and was created in 1889 in honor of Queen Margaret of Savoy, who visited the region and loved pizza. But the original pizza of Naples is the marinara, made with tomato sauce, garlic marinated in olive oil and oregano. Delizioso! Another local dish is gnocchi alla sorentina - named after the town of Sorrento, south of Naples - served with tomato sauce and mozzarella. And if you want to taste local pastries, do not miss the sfogliatella, the number 1 pastry in Naples. It has the shape of a shell and is made of puff pastry filled with ricotta, cinnamon and candied orange peel. Rum baba, often served with cream and/or whipped cream, is also a classic of the city.
What to see, what do to... wine bars in Pompeii!
You don't have to be a wine lover to go to Campania! The region has a lot to offer. Youi should spend at least two or three days in Naples to walk around survey its many neighbourhoods,
discover its impressive monuments, visit its museums, its countless number of churches, and to feel the bustling and contrasted atmosphere of the city. A hike on Mount Vesuvius with a
guide-geologist will allow you to understand what happened in 79 AD, when the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried under metres of ashes, during the eruption of the now dormant volcano.
These two archaeological sites are of course a must-see in the region. In Pompeii you can admire magnificent thermopolium, the ancestors of our fast food restaurants and wine bars. Charles
Fraenkel, a French geologist and a wine lover, explains that "the Pompeians often had lunch outside. Pompeii counts about 200 taverns, with superb marble mosaic counters and with a great many
amphorae still present on the sites. Not far away, in the city of Herculaneum, visitors can still see a sign above which the price of wine is
indicated . For 1 sestertius - the Roman currency, which today amounts to a little over 0.50 euro
cents- you could get a grand cru".
If you love hiking, the region is made for you! Nature tourism has been developing in Campania for a little more than five years. The hikes on the island of Capri, or around the villages of Amalfi and Positano, south of Naples, by the sea (the famous path of the gods) or in the mountains inland, offer magnificent landscapes and panoramas. Finally, Italy was a pioneer in the development of agritourism: you can stay at a farmer's or winegrower's, taste the house products and why not get involved in the growing process. Some wineries, for example, organise harvest days for the tourists.