This week I had the good fortune to host a Masterclass on wines from Irpinia and their 4 denominations – Fiano d’Avellino DOCG, Greco di Tufo DOCG, Taurasi DOCG, and Irpinia Aglianico DOC. I love Aglianico and it was a great time to explore the variety and the regions where it grows. Aglianico generally is grown in Campania and Basilicata in Italy. When I first heard about Irpinia, it was in the context of the terrible earthquake in November of 1980 that left thousands dead and injured and almost 250,000 people homeless.
In the 1990s I worked in the Associated Press office in Milan. They had this picture above on the wall and this haunting image stayed with me for years. That level of destruction is hard to come back from. But the people from this area did come back from it. The next time I really thought about Irpinia as a region was 2014 when they created their own circle at Vinitaly and had their own pavilion. Vinitaly is so huge and the pavilion’s so large that I realized this must be a wine area to get to know. Of course I knew of Taurasi for many years but I didn’t associate it with Irpinia, oddly enough.
A few years earlier I had met Ilaria Petito from Donnachiara. At first I didn’t focus on the fact that she was located in Irpinia, until I went to visit her in the Irpinia Pavilion. Irpinia doesn’t have big cities such as Naples or Salerno or Caserta but it is said to resemble Tuscany in an earlier phase with beautiful small villages, art, wonderful restaurants and great wines. Irpinia is around the town of Avellino. It had three D.O.C.G. wines: Taurasi, Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo as well as Irpinia Doc. There is a Consorzio called Consorzio Tutela Vini d’Irpinia. Still it seemed to me to be less well known than it should be.
Aglianico has great acidity and sexy, smoky notes. The ones from Irpinia are from vineyards at elevation because Irpinia is in the foothills of the Apennine Mountains. Irpinia has a continental climate rather than a Mediterranean one. There is considerable thermal excursion and this allows the grapes to reach phenolic ripeness. The soils are a mix of volcanic ash, sand, clay and limestone with fossil materials and generally good drainage.
The wines can be made into Irpinia Rosso, still, sparkling, novello, liquoroso and passito versions. Campi Taurasini is another appellation here where Aglianico must be 85% of the blend.
Wines from Irpinia tend to come from these areas: Taurasi, Bonito, Castelfranci, Castelvetere sul Calore, Fontanarosa, Lapio, 3 Luogosano, Mirabella Eclano, Montefalcione, Montemarano, Montemiletto, Paternopoli, Pietradefusi, Sant’Angelo all’Esca, San Mango sul Calore, Torre le Nocelle, Venticano, Gesualdo, Villamaina, Torella dei Lombardi, Grottaminarda, Melito Irpino, Nusco, and Chiusano San Domenico.
To really understand Irpinian wines, one should consult Luciano Pignataro’s guide. It’s a great resource but may only be available in Italian. As I was thinking about these wines I realized that the very big producers from Campania such as Feudi di San Gregorio are located in Irpinia. They are located in the village of Sorbo Serpico. The winery was founded in 1986 and this is their super modern winery today.
I’ve had their Rubrato which is 100% Aglianico from Irpinia made in stainless steel and then aged six months in the bottle. I found that some of the producers whose wines I tried use oak while others do not. Rubrato was very fruit forward with berry flavors which I loved.
My friend Ilaria at Donnachiara, makes a wonderful wine with the Irpinia label but since we sometimes work together, I am not going to write about it but will link to Lauren Walsh’s recent piece on the Swirling Dervish.
This recent visit I met 10 amazing producers from the area that I did not know before. I will be writing about each one separately in the coming days. Irpinia is a really exciting region. Join me in discovering all it has to offer this month and this year.
Aglianico from Irpinia seems to me to be more fruit forward and perhaps more approachable at a younger age than some of the Taurasi labeled wines I have had. It also has a nice price point between $15-$25. I think it’s a great way to get to know Aglianico.
If you are going to the Tre Bicchieri event tomorrow in NYC, I am sure we can find some great producers to try. See you then.
Glad you focused on Irpinia Susannah. Being an Aglianico and southern Italian wine novice, I researched Aglianico and questions came up- you’ve answered them here. Thanks for sharing your Italian wine knowledge in another great article. Now I’m intrigued to try Aglianico from Irpinia!
After meeting Ilaria and having the chance to sample her wines, and now reading your post, Irpinia is a place I want to visit. I love that it is so close to cities we know well, yet remains relatively undiscovered. Thanks for the intro! And thanks also for the link back to my earlier post.
I keep reading this reference to ‘Barolo of the South’ but no one really seems to agree with it, or just passes the phrase lightly. What’s the backstory on that?
Great post – you’ve been blessed!
Funny. I think it’s a way of saying that Aglianico is a noble grape like Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. Probably it isn’t meant to be taken literally. Thanks for stopping by at Avvinare, Susannah
So sorry about your first post. How frustrating. Glad you came back and rewrote it. Great information.
It was frustrating but I rewrote it and thought more about the lovely area so all good. Thanks for stopping by at Avvinare, Susannah
New to Aglianico and Italian wines in general, your post about Irpinia is most informative!
Thanks so much for stopping by at Avvinare. Aglianico is a great wine, I learned a lot about Irpinia writing it. Susannah
Susannah, Thank you for rewriting your post. I know I learned a lot! And, now, I can’t wait to track down some of the bottles you mention. Cheers for Irpinia.
What a nice Irpinia and Aglianico overview. Thanks Susannah!
Thanks so much Jeff. Great topic.
This is very informative and you showcased some really wonderful producers. Cheers!
Thanks for your insight into Irpinia and a number of different wines. You have had some great exposure to wine from all over Italy. Lucky!