Along with Friuli in Italy’s northeast, Campania is the (somewhat unlikely) home to Italy’s greatest white wines. Though this region that contains the great and ancient city of Naples is rife with obscure and completely local and fascinating vines fruiting both black and white berries, the triumverate, the “big three” Campanian white varieities are Falanghina, Greco, and this evening’s subject, Fiano.
So many of the vine varieties currently growing in Campania can be traced, via various literary references, directly back to the identical vine varieties being grown there in Roman times and Fiano is no exception to this. There are numerous references in Latin sources that refer to a “vitis apianum” which translates as “vine of the bees”, and indeed, in the vineyards, Fiano’s flowers do seem to be especially attractive to the little honey drippers. Further, within Fiano’s home territory, there’s a town called “Apio”, and the wine Fiano produces typically shows flavors and aromas of honey. Case (nearly) closed.
Most people who are familiar with the name Fiano however are likely to associate it with the words “di Avellino” following it, and indeed this is the name of the most celebrated area in which Fiano is grown, but it’s definitely not the only one. If you exit from the eastern gate of this town, and continue in that direction, the land rises to the foothills of the Matese Mountains and into a sub-region called Irpinia. This is an area that is dotted with extinct volcanos, and if you’re not already aware, there is no type of soil that vines love more than volcanic soil, and grapes grown in it always reflect its smokey minerality. And with this region’s higher elevations and its greater distance from the sea in comparison with Avellino, the wines from Irpinia are leaner and with more “nerve” when compared to the somewhat lusher Fianos from Avellino, all thanks to the ancient God of Magma.
I served this very elegant and expressive wine with a first course of conchiglie (shells) pasta with cauliflower, peas, olive oil, anchovies, garlic, oregano, etc. and than some “Italianized” crab cakes made with potatoes, basil and parsley, with smothered and caramelized (Jersey-grown) radishes as a side dish.
Ciro Picariello Irpinia Fiano 2011
Slightly greenish, pale gold color. Very complex and sophisticated nose of pear, cantaloupe, and tangerine fruit supported by aromas of coal smoke, sawdust, fresh yellow flowers, hay, almond, fresh ginger, and balsamic notes. In the mouth the wine shows a very tightly wound and well-structured medium-full body with an exceptional balance of richness and super fresh acidity that reveals flavors of apple juice, pomelo, papaya, shiitake mushrooms, and minerals. Long and very clean bittersweet honey on the finish. A very elegant wine.