Wines from Italy’s Volcanic Arc: Campania

Wines from Italy’s Volcanic Arc Campania

The diversity of Italy’s wine regions is fascinating. You can’t compare north to south or east to west. You can’t write a vintage report for Tuscany and expect the same conditions for Umbria or Lazio. If you’re looking at grapes, you must compare both red and white due to the drastic differences in the growing seasons and harvest dates. The fact is that every region of Italy is incredibly unique, and if there’s one thing that sets Campania apart from all others, it’s the volcanic arc that forms its landscape and soils. Campania’s geography consists of 50% hills, 35% mountains and only 15% plains. Throughout the hills and up onto the lower slopes of both volcanos and mountains, we find the vineyards. These vines are growing at high elevations, from 400 to 600 meters and up, even when close to the sea, and the soils that we generalize as “volcanic” are a diverse mix of rocks, ash, sands, clays and minerals that have been deposited here over the course of many millennia. From Mount Roccamonfina on the northeastern coast of Caserta, to Mount Epomeo on the island of Ischia off the coast of Napoli, and the still-active Mount Vesuvius across the Gulf of Naples, which last erupted only in 1944, Campania is a land of volcanos. Now, add the various mountains that run down and along the Campanian Apennines, intersecting the region from top to bottom. Suddenly, the unique landscape of Campania becomes apparent. The grapes that grow in these landscapes are every bit as diverse.

A New Awakening
Before delving into the grapes, regions and styles, I want to make one very important point that was reinforced throughout the tastings that built this report: Campania is starting to open its eyes to a more modern outlook on farming and winemaking. Natural, sustainable, organic, biodynamic, biodiversity; these are all terms that I would seldom hear from a producer in Campania five years ago, but today they are spoken about regularly. That, along with the emergence of smaller, quality-minded producers, is beginning to change the landscape of the region. In many cases, these wineries have existed for over a decade, yet they are only now starting to be discovered and imported outside of Italy.

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