Forty-five minutes East of Naples (with tolls, no Autogrill stop) lies Avellino, home to one of Campania's three more respectable white grape varieties, Fiano. The other two are the minerally-herbal Greco from the little village of Tufo (26 mins north of Avellino, no tolls) and the tropical fruited and floral Falanghina* originally from Campi Flegrei, a super-volcano known in English as the 'Phlegraean Fields', which incidentally was the cosy home to the Roman god of fire Vulcan (that's 61mins back West of Naples from Tufo, with tolls, no Autogrill stop). Before I go on, just a side thought on Vulcan's choice of residence - why not Vesuvius? Seriously though, it's a way more impressive volcano-home for a 'god of fire'; great elevation, million-dollar views of Capri and the Bay of Naples. I guess it does only have one crater though, when Campi Flegrei has 24 craters, and, from the summit, Vesuvius is 34 mins to central Naples (with tolls) while Campi Flegrei is only 26mins to central Naples (with tolls). Neither route has an Autogrill, but if it did I'd imagine Vulcan would stop for a hot pepperoni panini and 35 espressos.
Anyway, back on track. I get the feeling Luigi Moio, the vigneron and proprietor of Quintodecimo is one fascinating person. He, with only a small group of peers, has dragged the key indigenous varieties out of their rustic roots and into an area approaching some degree of noblesse. He's an accomplished scientist and expert in the area of aromatic compounds. He started his career in the dairy industry in France studying sensory compounds in milk products. It appears he has a great belief in the indigenous varieties of Italy and more specifically, Campania coupled with the technical aptitude to realise the great potential of these cultivars.
This Fiano do Avellino has fantastic concentration of flavour. While there is the varietal waxy note, its combined elegantly with a cord of fresh green plum-like acid, there is a smidge of grassiness, nutmeg, a pear skin like crispness and a touch of grainy tannin that sits confidently into the core of the wine adding much length, a bit like quince. The finale is reminiscent of wattle or acacia. It's not wildly aromatic but seems to release more after 24hrs open, but it also doesn't seem like the point of this wine, the palate has plenty and unfolds generously in the mouth. At circa $100AUD so it should. Luigi has a few Aglianico from the Taurasi DOCG that are really special examples of the grape, powerful but restrained enough from their propensity to become angularly tannic and 'blockish' on the palate (and at $300AUD you'd hope they are very refined wines).
Another producer making vibrant, modern and fresh wines in the area is Feudi di San Grigorio of Sorbo Serpico (what a name 😎). Their Aglianico "Rubrato" is a cheery, clean and juicy expression of Aglianico and the company's white wines are jubilant and clear examples of the key varieties and mostly around $30AUD. Importantly, these wines can be found in just about any Autogrill south of Rome, usually in amongst a metric tonne of Toblerone, 60 types of DOP cheese and salami, phone chargers, brake fluid, a wall of Pannetone, stacks of one metre tubes of Pringles. Viva D'Italia.
- Tom Riley
*This is more formally known as Falanghina Flegrei. There is another variety called Falanghina Beneventa from near-by Benevento (1hr 26mins with tolls, no Autogrill stop) which isn't quite as good and has no genetic relationship whatsoever to Falanghina Flegrei.