Posted by: tomciocco | August 2, 2012

FIANO AND BEES, HONEY!

The bees’ knees indeed… Along with Greco and Falanghina, Fiano is the third grape in the vanguard triumverate (Campania has a bazillion fascinating “minor” native grape varieties that could be the next big thing) of white wines from Italy’s Campania region. If Greco is slightly austere and aromatic, and Falanghina is super-fresh and pretty, then Fiano is all about complexity and voluptuousness.

Fiano is one OLD variety. There is little doubt that the grape alluded to in several Roman-era documents under the name “apio” or alternately, “vitis apianum” is today’s Fiano. The root “api-” in Latin refers to bees (think “apiary”) and in fact these magical, treacle-making social insects seem to have a real attraction to Fiano vines’ flowers and fruit, and The Romans clearly knew it. This cuvee` from near Avellino is culled from a very old, highland vineyard site (over 1500 feet above sea level) called Colli di Lapio…I think you get the picture…

And what might be the single most interesting fact about Fiano is that nearly all of the wines made from it display a clear and prominent honeycomb flavor component, which seems to point to one of  Mother Nature’s (with some additional human handiwork as well) strange little symbiotic relationships: bees need pollen to make…honey, and vines need bees to pollenate and propagate, so why wouldn’t the clever vine (and vignaiolo) together evolve/develop a notable aroma of…HONEY?!

One of Fiano’s greatest matches at the table is real, fresh mozzarella. So because I can get that, handmade by my man Enzo, just two blocks from here, and the beautiful Jersey tomatoes are starting to roll into the farmers’ markets, and my basil plants are kickin’, with the addition of some great olive oil and salt, yields one of the world’s greatest summer first courses – l’insalata caprese. The main course was a pair of pork chops (some nicer crap-free, less industrial pork [though not strictly “organic”] that’s been showing up at my supermarket lately) simply browned and then braised with fennel seeds, sage, garlic, and white wine, with some broccoli rabe (rapini in Italian)done up in my usual mode: blanched and chopped, and then sauteed with olive oil, garlic, breadcrumbs, pepper flakes, and anchovies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clelia Romano “Colli di Lapio” Fiano di Avellino 2010

Slightly greenish straw/gold color. Beautifully complex nose of pear, almond milk, minerals, rosemary, honeydew melon, vanilla bean, and chanterelle mushrooms. The palate is deep, textured, and rich, but still feather-light on the tongue, with a wonderfully fine acidity that opens the way for subtle grapefruit notes, and apricot nectar, honeycomb, orange blossom water, and applesauce flavors. Long, very complex, and sumptuous finish featuring notes of ginger and green tea. 

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