Three days ago I wrote about the ease with which people have dismissed the wines of the South of France in their stampede to drink the more famous, if not always better, wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone.
A similar situation exists in Italy where the renowned regions of Piedmont and Tuscany in the North occupy most critics’ top two positions when considering overall wine quality. It would be churlish of me to argue with this assumed pre-eminence as the magnificence of some of the wines produced here justifies their status. But forget the South and you will regret it. South of Rome there are many wines that offer more than simple pleasure, with the best capable of greatness in their own right.
As with the Languedoc, I have always had a soft spot for Campania and in particular the best red varieties of the region; Aglianico and Piedirosso. The best Aglianico (think Taurasi) is capable of producing complex, mineral and elegant wines whose alluring but controlled ripeness hints at the southerly latitude of the region whilst retaining both poise and the ability to refresh. Piedirosso is more overt and less coy about its strawberry scented best self and is generally less expensive and more approachable than its more age-worthy cousin. Further south still, Sicily produces equally impressive wines from Nero d’Avola and Nerello Mascalese that can be both aromatic and charming with similarities to fine Syrah and Pinot Noir respectively. The idea that these southerly regions only produce jammy, uninteresting wines is wrong. Like the Languedoc the south of Italy offers the novice wine drinker a safer, less financially intimidating experience than that offered by Barolo and Brunello further north. They are also wines that are not so needy of a plate of protein to help make them sing, so my recommendation is simply this: to go forth and discover.
Terredora, Taurasi ‘Campore’ Riserva, Campania, 2006, 14%
Wine-making: Matured in French oak barrels for 30 months
Note: Approaching full maturity this ripe but restrained, sour plum and black cherry fuelled Campanian is the result of Terredora’s best single vineyard site ‘Campore’. It has a fine tannic backbone that lends the wine structure whilst never being hard-edged or unfriendly. My Mum would like this.
Price: Approx 2500NT
Available from: affinatolunetta.com
Rosso del Conte, Conte di Sclafani DOC, Sicily, 2011, 13.5%
Grape: 63% Nero d’Avola with a mixture of other varieties making up the balance.
Wine-making: 18 months in new French oak
Note: Minty and dark with a juicy plushness, this provides pleasure and seriousness in equal measure and is an excellent place from which to begin your appreciation of the merits of Nero d’Avola.
Available from: www.ascentway.com.tw
Ocone Piedirosso ‘Plutone’, Taburno DOC, Campania, 2012, 13.5%
Wine-making: Stainless steel
Note: Strawberry and red cherry yoghurt…what’s not to like?
Price: Globally approx. $15USD
Available from: Not currently available in Taiwan