I recently had the opportunity to introduce three friends, all wine merchants, to some Italian wines that have yet to make an appearance in this country. The range of wines were very diverse but the wineries all shared something in common and that was a commitment to making seriously good wines within the context of their respective frameworks of location, grape varieties and heritage. My particular interest in the wines that we were tasting was that they all had either organic credentials or inclinations. For now I will comment on the wines from the two wineries in the south of Italy and I’ll write up my tasting notes on the wines from the north of Italy later on.
First we tasted the white wines of Fonzone Fonzone Winery which is at Paternopoli in Irpinea well inland from Naples. This area has a few DOP wines and three DOCG wines as well; Taurasi, Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino. The white grape vines at Fonzone are planted on sandy clay at 500 metres above sea level. The 2017 Fiano di Avellino was very authorative: full bodied but not fat, quite astringent with a long finish. I have tasted a few Fiano wines but this was the best I have tasted. I believe the wine has garnered high praise in Gambero Rosso Gambero Rosso Guide and there’s no surprise there. We then tried a “Sequoia” 2016 Fiano which had received some judicious partial oak ageing. The wine was still very fresh, a bit of honey though on the nose for me this time, good acidity and a very long finish. After that we sampled a Greco di Tufo 2017 which had massive flavour and a really long finish. With the red wines we tasted a “Scorzagalline” 2010 vintage Taurasi which was frankly quite stunning. I have to say that the Fonzone wines made a big impression on all of us.
Most southern of the wineries that we tried was Ferreri Ferreri Winery at Santa Ninfa on the north-west corner of Sicily. I found the whites, a Grillo, a Catarrato and a Zibibbo rather unusual both in aromas and flavours. The Grillo was very herby and the Zibibbo full of lime sherbet and Turkish delight falvours. They were not really to my taste, but taste is personal and all three of the wine merchants who tasted them were very taken with these wines. The reds though from Ferreri all four of us thought good and I was very impressed. A Pignatello (aka Perricone) was a maceration carbonique style of lush red with low tannins, an attractive and unusual bouquet and flavour (reminiscent of Zinfandel or Pinotage perhaps?) and I found it very easy and satisfying to drink. A Nero d’Avola was very good, one of the best examples of that grape variety that I have tasted. Then to emphasise what really can be achieved with this grape variety there was a wine labelled “Brasi”. This was from a vineyard at 290 metres above sea level planted with 25 year old vines. The wine is aged for a year in chestnut oak barrels. Adjectives tumbled into my mind as I tried it: blackberries and black cherries, chocolate and licorice. It was a real class-act; a satisfying balance of fruit, acidity and tannin and it’s finish was long and elegant.