The best white wines from southern Italy | Wine
Carlogmagno Fiano, Puglia IGP, Italy 2019 (£ 8.95, davywine.co.uk; mrwheelerwine.com) Winemakers in southern Italy have always been reliable suppliers of bold red wines at lower prices than their northern peers. These are wines made from grape varieties whose names – negroamaro, nero d’avola, aglianico – evoke to the point of onomatopoeia by their dark, sweet and sour and heady characteristics. And they have a loyal following among British Italophiles looking to bring some of the warm south to the northern shores. In my experience, white wines from Mezzogiorno cannot count on the same loyalty or recognition. Is there a feeling, perhaps, that we can’t quite reconcile the sunny vineyards of Campania, Puglia or Sicily with the freshness that we want our white wines to bring? Perhaps. Or it may have taken a little longer for the winegrowers in the region to produce wines in a way that fully shows the strengths of their local white grape varieties. Either way, the easy, open charm of the fiano – the most ripe citrus fruit, some peach flesh, a wave of sea breeze – is very apparent in the high-value Apulian Carlogmagno.
La Sibilla Cruna de Lago Falanghina, Campania, Italy 2016 (£ 27.67, justerinis.com) Fiano is arguably the most visible of the southern UK white varieties, with clean, respectable, if not always abundantly exciting versions being an integral part of the own-brand facilities in most UK supermarkets for a few years now. The best examples are usually found in Campania, where the altitude as you move inland and volcanic soils provide the kind of perfect conditions to produce complex whites with mineral flavors (salty, even a little smoky). as it ages) and the pleasant tension of acidity and roundness of stone fruits. 2018 Avellino’s Pietracupa Fiano (£ 22.95, thewhiskyexchange.com) has all of these qualities in a harmoniously balanced abundance. And it’s not just fiano. Another local variety that can thrive under specific Campanian conditions is falanghina. Again you’ll find the odd clean, clean, perfectly OK brand here and there, though Lago’s La Sibilla Cruna takes the variety to a whole new level of immaculate fluidity and sophistication.
Salvatore Tamburello 204N Grillo, Sicily, Italy 2019 (£ 21.04, independent wine) In Sicily, many white grapes were originally planted to make what for centuries has been the island’s most important style of wine: marsala. But while you can still find good bottles of marsala – and if, like their fortified sherry and Madeira peers, the best are some of the best deals on fine wines in the world – most catarratto and grillo plantations are used in nowadays dry whites. For my money, the Grillo is the most interesting of this pair, and it jostles with the caricante found on Etna for the title of best white grape in Sicily. Like fiano and falanghina, it finds its place in many pleasant but somewhat harmless traffic jams. But it is also responsible for wines evocative of character, length and complexity. Look for the wines of Marco de Bartoli (lescaves.co.uk), a Marsala estate now run by the sons of the talented founder of the same name. Or this wavy, lemony and flowery white by Salvatore Tamburello.
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