Learn to navigate the most complicated country in the wonderful world of wine. Once a month you receive four hand selected small batch production bottles of Italian wine. We share with you the stories of the people and terroir behind each one, the grape variety that makes the wine, and the regions of Italy that bring the whole story together. While normally one would say “crack ’em open!” at Bergamot Wine Co. we encourage you to take an extra moment to pause, dig in to the Tasting Notes for each month’s collection, and start expanding your wine knowledge one bottle, one winemaker, and one grape at a time.
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FEBRUARY: CAMPANIA– A BIG GUN OF THE SOUTH FLEXING ITS VOLCANIC SOILS
If there were ever a place that I would call ground zero for my Italian Wine education and love, it is Campania. I owe this portion of my wine education to my dear friend and colleague, Shelley Lindgren who has been instrumental in championing these wines to the US market. And what a wonderful and gracious champion she is.
The eyes of the wine world have always been drawn to the South of Italy – but this beautiful region is truly the source of the draw. East of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius there are three DOCG level wine appellations: Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo and Taurasi. It is their proximity to the iconic volcanic landmark that is the key to their success, by way of their unique soils. In fact, soil is the common factor for the recent rise and success of other southern Italian wines as well (see: Etna). In turn, this factor has also been a catalyst for attention given to so many small and regionally unique Italian grape varieties throughout all of Italy. It defines how we view this wealth of diversity today. You know the old adage: “a rising lava lifts all varietals…” or something like that.
-Kevin Wardell, Wine Protagonist
QUICK NOTES: A little white pepper, a little celery salt, a ton of minerality. The mineral quality is the most pronounced- think river stones from fresh stream. A crisp wine, sharp with white grapefruit acidity, herbal with cut wheat grass, and focused from start to finish.
GRAPE: 100% FALANGHINA [FA-lan-GHEE-nah] Falanghina may now be the most recognized white wine from Campania, even though perhaps it’s still not considered the best. It’s recognition likely comes from the combination of approachability in both price point and in over-all deliciousness. And maybe because it’s just fun to say. It’s an ancient grape (maybe one of the very oldest?) that we only very recently discovered is actually two different grapes in fact (maybe 3, perhaps 4?!) The Falanghina from the coast (from the Flegrea volcanic peninsula) is an early ripener and tends to have a more fruity driven profile, where Falanghina Beneventana shows more floral and mineral complexity. Perhaps when this is all sorted out there will be a rise in the status of great Falanghina, and it is surely wines like this one that will help make that happen.
GROWER: Ciro is a shooting star within the ranks of Campania white wines, an amazingly talented bunch in their own right. His mastery of the classic whites of Campania is now a well known commodity amongst those who are paying attention, but it was only two years ago that Falanghina was included in his repertoire. These grapes come from a small high altitude property just outside Benevento, an hour north of Ciro’s Avellino estate. His winemaking process is unorthodox, as he allows his whites to rest and develop in stainless steel tanks for far longer than most would ever dare. As with his other wines, this is to showcase the more nervy and mineral side of the grape variety. He believes that this approach will lend to his Falaghina being equally as ageworthy as his Fiano and Greco. I can’t wait to experience that. But who am I kidding, mine is already empty. How’s yours?
GLASS: What is this magic? Isn’t Falanghina supposed to be the light hearted, fun and frivolous one of the bunch? This reminds me a bit of a more serious Gruner Veltliner; a little white pepper, a little celery salt, a ton of minerality. The mineral quality is the most pronounced- think cold spray from a waterfall or river stones from fresh stream. What it is NOT is what you may expect from a Campanian white, which is more along the lines of a flinty and smoky volcanic minerality. This crisp wine is sharp with white grapefruit acidity, herbal with cut wheat grass and simply focused from start to finish. Goes to show that Falanghina can truly show incredible structure when in the right hands. Bravo Ciro! Keep ‘Emm coming!
SIDE NOTES: Falanghina, from Latin ‘falangae’ based on the resemblance of the poles used to support the vine rows and resemble formations of Roman military legions. Those same legion movements are a useful tool in tracking how different grapes moved around Italy!
QUICK NOTES: On the nose is jasmine, orange blossom and warm ripe grapefruit. The smidge of maturity gives a perceived sweetness to the fruit on the palate– a delicious mix of asian pear and lemon curd. A crushed rocks minerality finishes off this mighty, layered and incredibly complex wine.
GRAPE: GRECO DI TUFO [GREH-coh dee TOO-foh] The name Greco actually refers to a family of different interrelated grapes, but the one that both receives and deserves the most attention is the Greco grape from Tufo. Tufo is the town name, the appellation name, and the word for the volcanic soil type made that makes up this area. That volcanic influence is clearly the vital reason why Greco here stands head and shoulders above the rest. It is also a grape that presents a number of growing challenges, so making a great wine from it is clearly limited to those who are first and foremost steadfast in the vineyards. Experimentation with growing it in different soils and climates is certainly appealing, but it remains to be seen if the results can reach anything remotely close to the type of textural beauty that occurs in this very small pocket of Italy. It’s all about the sweet spot.
GROWER: In 2016, I Favati was bestowed the Italian white wine of the year award for it’s Fiano di Avellino. Naturally, as soon as the word was out it was very quickly a hard wine to find, and so many new people suddenly found a love for Fiano. Thankfully, however, I was still able to get my hands on the very last of the Greco di Tufo from the very same incredible vintage… And it’s clear that there was a little magic in the cellar that year. As I’ve enjoyed the wines from this small family winery for many years, I’ll be honest and state I’ve always kinda preferred their Greco. With their total production at less than 5000 cases, and their Greco vineyard only about 4 acres, it’s easy to sense just how special this labor of love is even before you get it into a glass. Savor it well.
GLASS: This Greco is mighty. It is layered and it is simply gorgeous. I’m first met with jasmine, orange blossom and warm sun ripe grapefruit. I find that Greco always has a helping of citrus oil to it, and in this case it’s like a sweet smelling rind that’s been freshly zested. The acid is naturally an important part, but it is not at all angular or sharp. This is both due to a great ripening year for the grapes but also a couple of years in the bottle. That small amount of maturity has also developed a perceived sweetness to the fruit giving the palate a delicious mix of asian pear and lemon curd. Lastly, as to be expected, there is certainly a healthy dose of a kind of crushed rocks minerality that finishes off what is just an incredibly complex wine.
SIDE NOTES: The importance of a producer like I Favati getting recognized at this level for their wine cannot be understated. Not only for the family themselves, but for the entire region; something that Campania truly deserves on the world stage.
QUICK NOTES: Ripe golden apples, honeysuckle, sweet rosemary and just a whiff of toasted almonds– makes you want to bury your nose in this wine forever. On the palate is crisp apples, and stone fruit, like yellow plum, balanced by a rich nutty quality which provides a textural weight. Tertiary flint-y and pine resin-y volcanic notes make this a very fine Fiano indeed.
GRAPE: FIANO [fee-AH-no]
‘I think Fiano may well be Italy’s greatest native white grape’ says Ian D’Agata. Sing it, brother. Historically speaking this grape likely goes back to the days of Pliny. It’s wild to think that it was only as recently as forty years ago, the early 80’s, when Fiano was actually was correctly identified and produced as a varietal wine. Credit for this, as with many other landmark moments in Campanian wine, goes to the Mastroberardino family for doing all the groundwork in the vineyards. Their wines are classic benchmark examples and they have led the way in the selection massale process of these native grapes. The allure of this noble grape variety has definitely reached our shores and there are a handful of thoughtful producers putting some serious love and attention into making great Fiano here in California (See: Unti, Ryme, Giornata…)
GROWER: Sabino Loffredo has long been one of my top favorite winemakers. Not only are each of his wines simply stellar across the board, he is also one of the greatest characters I’ve met in my years of travels to Italy. He’s been producing wines since the late 90’s and of the three grapes he works with it is clear that Fiano is his favorite. (Though don’t miss any opportunity to experience his Greco and Aglianicos.) Sabino certainly has a distinct style, as each of his wines have this beautiful saturation to them – meaning that they are truly seamless and impossibly long on the palate – not that they are in any way big or over concentrated. Quite the contrary. The wines character also match their maker in this case, Sabino’s ardent passion and intensity are hidden behind his humble manner and wry humor.
GLASS: Yet another white wine that I could just bury my nose in forever. Ripe golden apples, honeysuckle, sweet rosemary and just a whiff of toasted almonds. The aromatics perhaps suggest a bigger wine than it is overall, but really it’s all about the complexity that makes this special. The crisp apples, as well as stone fruit like yellow plums, saturate the taste buds perfectly and are equalled by a rich nutty quality that helps provide a fair amount of textural weight as well. And then there are the reminders that we’re dealing with volcanoes here people, or at least older soils with several layers of volcanic influence. This is Fiano at its finest here, with tertiary notes of flint-y and pine resin-y essence that add even more to the wealth of delectable elements already present.
SIDE NOTES: Pietracupa was built to showcase the special nature of historic commune of Montefredane. There is no word in the English language to describe the level of pride and attachment amazing producers like Sabino hold to their native grape varieties and soils. I can only hope that there one in Italian.
QUICK NOTES: Seek thee a bowl of cherries and throw them directly into the mighty volcano to appease it’s restless soul. Gosh we love Aglianico. This is a classic example of a ‘Bold Red’ in all the right ways. Tarry smoke, ground pepper, gritty earth, old leather and an enormous burst of cherries.
GRAPE: AGLIANICO [al-YAN-ee-koh] Aglianico is a hidden treasure that ticks all the boxes for a grape with potential for great, nay, epic wines. It is one of the most special red grapes in all of Italy and is still tragically under known globally when compared to its peers: Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. Big names to compare to, clearly, but that is precisely the company Aglianico keeps with regards to Italian wine royalty. The fact is that due to this lack of household recognition, the prices for world class Taurasi (Taurasi = Southern Italy’s Barolo) is still remarkably low. Building a cellar? Buy up now. They age remarkably well and will likely be the wines you drink down the road with friends that shows you know your stuff!
GROWER: The Lonardos are are the finest example of what is so great about wines from this area. It is such a small winery (only 8000 bottles of this wine and that is the most, by far, out of his line.) Sandro Lonardo is a farmer and his wife Enza is a local school teacher. Despite their humble professions the wines that we receive and present here are, without question, world class. His single vineyard Taurasi bottlings are the ones to seek out, as they are truly age worthy beauties that would knock the socks off any serious wine collector who might still be unfamiliar with the potential of Aglianico. Sandro is also the only producer which makes a wine out of rare local grape called Roviello Bianco, aka Grecomusc (unrelated to Greco) and it is equally, and humbly, phenomenal.
GLASS: Seek thee a bowl of cherries and throw them directly into the mighty volcano to appease it’s restless soul. Gosh I love Aglianico. Tarry smoke, ground pepper, gritty earth, old leather and just an enormous burst of cherries. What’s not to love? This is such a classic example that sticks the landing with equal parts. Some are more muscular and brawny, but this one doesn’t sacrifice nuance in place of strength. The word ‘Bold’ red is often misused in my opinion, in that it is too often pointed towards wine that are hit with lots of oak. This straight up Aglianico is the perfect example of the natural quality of perfectly grown fruit and unique terroir; and is perhaps more deserving of the moniker in my opinion.
SIDE NOTES: Such a confusing label. The winery is called Contrade di Taurasi, yet the label only displays the family name Lonardo. From the village of Taurasi, has Taurasi in the brand name, but ‘declassified’ fruit makes it an Irpinia Aglianico. Not Taurasi.