When the topic of vintage arises, inevitably the discussion centers on red wines, especially those that have the cellar potential to drink well for 15-20 years or more. For Italy, wines such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino, Amarone della Valpolicella and others have this capability of long aging, so critics and collectors alike seek out particular vintages that are considered “great,” (whatever great means these days) of these wines.
Yet when it comes to whites wines from Italy (or many other regions around the world), few consider the meaning of vintage except for the information the year on the label tells us about the age of the wine. As we have been told often, white wines – with only a few exceptions – should be consumed when they are fresh and lively, or to put it in numbers, within four to five years of the vintage. There are a few exceptions of course, such as German Rieslings, Alsatian whites or white Burgundies, but few other white wines are considered to be worthy of cellaring for more than five years.
I mention all this because the white wines of Campania are a notable exception to the common belief that you need to consume whites wines at an early age. The best known whites of Campania are Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino from the inland district of Irpinia; these two wine types are highly complex and typically drink well when they are seven to ten years of age, while 15-20 years is not uncommon when we are looking at the best vineyards and producers in an ideal year. They are among the longest lived of all Italian whites, along with Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi from Marche and a few examples of blended whites from the Friuli region in far northeast Italy; one could also argue that Campanian whites as a whole, are the finest in all of Italy.
This brings us to the 2021 vintage, a year that can be described as excellent or in some instances, outstanding for Campania, as well as most Italian regions. The top examples of Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and other Campanian whites such as Falanghina and blended whites from the Amalfi Coast and Salerno display great varietal character, wonderful overall harmony and impressive structure. It is the examples of Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino however, that have the capability from the vintage to drink so well for so long, say 15-20 years, or even longer.
What made the 2021 growing season in Irpinia so remarkable? Antonio Capaldo, proprietor of Feudi di San Gregorio, an Irpinian producer well-known for their excellent offerings of Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino (among other wines), comments.”I believe that the key was the wonderful September and beginning of October that we enjoyed almost everywhere in Italy: wonderful fresh and dry weather but fresh, with strong temperature gap between day and night. This allowed a slow and progressive maturation of the grape.
“The wines reflect this, they reached their balance rapidly and show a great potential of longevity … I believe the balance of these wines is the real key of their quality.”
Having tasted several dozen of these Irpinian whites, I concur with Capaldo on his assessment of overall balance, which is always a key factor to aging potential. I have also found that the best 2021 whites have highly distinctive aromatics, as well as impressive richness on the palate, along with notable complexity. Combine these factors, and you can start to see why the 2021 white wines from Campania are so extraordinary.
Here are my notes on some of the finest Campanian whites from 2021:
Greco di Tufo
Terredora di Paolo “Loggia della Serra” – Aromas of Meyer lemon, citrus peel and golden poppy. Medium-full, there is tremendous complexity, and the wine needs another year or two in the bottle to blossom, with peak in 6-8 years, perhaps longer. Highly distinctive! (94)
Benito Ferrara – Lovely perfumes of Mandarin orange, oolong tea and lemongrass. Medium-full with very good to excellent concentration. Very good acidity, excellent persistence, outstanding harmony and superb varietal purity and typicity; there is a subtle note of minerality in the finish. I love the subtleties of this wine, as it is quite complex and at the same time, very delicate on the palate; this is like few examples of Greco di Tufo I have ever tasted. (94)
Feudi di San Gregorio “Cutizzi” – Aromas of citrus peel, chamomile and peony. Outstanding persistence and varietal purity along with beautiful ripeness and complexity. This is one of the finest examples ever of this noteworthy Greco di Tufo. Enjoy over the next 6-8 years, though peak drinking will probably be in another 10-12 years. (94)
Cantine di Marzo – Aromas of lemon peel, magnolia and melon. Very good acidity, lovely harmony and varietal purity, with delicious notes of mandarin orange on the palate. The lengthy finish offers an appealing note of minerality. Clean and focused, with excellent complexity, this is a classic Greco di Tufo with beautiful typicity that is very enjoyable at present and should drink well for at least 5-7 years. (93)
Colli di Lapio di Romana Clelia – Greco di Tufo “Alexandros” – Lemon peel, green tea and melon aromas. Beautiful textured palate, excellent persistence, lively acidity and a distinct mineral notes in the finish along with a hint of sapidity. Excellent complexity, harmony and varietal purity. I love the subtle intricacies of this wine! This should age beautifully for at least 7-10 years. (95)
DiMeo – Aromas of Meyer lemon, papaya and hints of daffodils and marigolds. Medium-full, this has very good acidity, impressive persistence, and lovely varietal purity. I love the wonderful complexity and typicity. Enjoy over the next 6-8 years. (93)
Donnachiara Greco di Tufo Riserva “Aletheia” – Aromas of jasmine, lemon zest and a hint of anise. Medium-full with very good concentration. Outstanding varietal purity – this wine reflects the essence of Greco. Ideal harmony, precise acidity and notable complexity. Wonderfully made wine with a great sense of finesse and charm – just lovely. Enjoy now or over the next 5-7 years, although this may be in excellent condition a few more years after that. (94)
Tenuta Cavalier Pepe Greco di Tufo “Nestor” – Aromas of red apple, spearmint and hints of basil and green tea. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Beautiful ripeness, with flavors of tangerine and quince on the palate. Noteworthy persistence, wonderful complexity, outstanding typicity and varietal purity. Enjoyable now, but this will improve for several years; peak in 7-10. (93)
Antonio Caggiano Greco di Tufo “Devon” – Aromas of lemon zest, red apple and hyacinth. Medium-full with very good to excellent concentration. Ideal ripeness, very good acidity, outstanding persistence; there is a distinct minerality in the finish along with notes of citrus peel and a hint of almon and pecan. Excellent typicity and superb varietal purity. So appealing and well balanced, this is very enjoyable now, especially paired with shellfish, but has the promise of revealing greater complexities over the next 6-12 years. (94)
Fiano di Avellino
Mastroberardino “Radici” – Aromas of lemon oil, lime, golden poppy and hints of melon and honey – just lovely! Medium-full with excellent concentration, the mid-palate is rich and slightly oily; there is lively acidity, outstanding persistence and superb varietal purity; the lengthy finish displays layers of fruit along with notes of green tea, honey and pear. Outstanding wine- this is highly impressive at present and shows the structure and intensity to drink well for at least another 7-10 years. A highly memorable Fiano di Avellino! (95)
Fonzone – Striking aromas of jasmine, citrus peel and dogwood. Medium-full with impressive depth of fruit, lively acidity, excellent varietal character and very good persistence; there are notes of lemon zest and orange blossom in the finish. Beautiful harmony; this is very delicious and appealing. This would be excellent paired with calamari or baccala. Enjoy over the next 5-8 years. (93)
Donnachiara “Empatia” – Aromas of yellow peach, orange zest and papaya. Medium-full with very good concentration. Rich mid-palate, very good acidity, excellent persistence, beautiful typicity. Outstanding harmony, notable persistence; the fruit is perfectly captured and has a lush character; yet there is wonderful finesse and subtlety about this wine. Enjoy over the next 5-8 years, or even a few years beyond that. (94)
Benito Ferrara “Sequenzha” -Aromas of lemon peel, red apples and hints of saffron and lemon candy. Medium-full with excellent concentration. There is outstanding persistence, with a powerful finish with notes of citrus fruits and yellow flowers. Lively acidity, impressive structure, a rich mid-palate and beautiful varietal character. This is quite a robust Fiano di Avellino that makes a statement, but it needs to settle down a bit; try again in another year; peak in 7-10 years. (93)
Feudi di San Gregorio “Pietracalda” – Appealing aromas of golden apples, lemon oil and hyacinth. Rich mid-palate, lovely texture, excellent persistence and very good acidity. Beautiful varietal character and complexity; enjoy over the next 5-7 years. (92)
Claudio Quarta – Appealing aromas of lemon zest, magnolia and yellow apples. Medium-full with impressive concentration; excellent varietal purity, very good acidity, notable persistence and complexity. Well made, this is delicious now and should drink well for 5-7 years, perhaps another two or three years longer. (92)
Colli di Lapio di Romano Clelia – Aromas of fresh lemons, grapefruit and lillies. Medium-full with excellent ripeness and freshness, lively acidity, outstanding harmony and notable persistence; the lengthy finish offers notes of lemon oil and golden apples along with a distinct touch of salinity. Beautifully focused and with great varietal purity, this is sublime! Peak in 7-12 years. (94)
Antonio Caggiano “Béchar” – Aromas of lemon zest, honeysuckle, orange rind and a hint of pineapple. Medium-full with excellent concentration; the mid-palate is full of lush, ripe, appealing varietal fruit notes. This is so enjoyable now, but clearly this will be even better when it settles down in another year or two; peak in 5-7 years, perhaps longer. (92)
Tenuta Cavalier Pepe “Refiano” – Aromas of Anjou pear, lemon peel and acacia flowers. Medium-full, with excellent ripeness, very good acidity, impressive harmony and good persistence; the finish offers notes of tangerine and melon. Nicely balanced, with good complexity and varietal character. Nicely refined. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. (91)
Other Campanian Whites
Capolino Perlinghieri Falanghina “Preta” – Aromas of spearmint, melon and oleander. Medium-full, this has a beautifully textured mid-palate with appealing varietal fruit, styled in a subtle approach. There is lively acidity, excellent persistence and marvelous complexity; the finish is ultra-long and has notes of grapefruit and lemon essence. This is stylish and displays a nice amount of finesse, along with admirable typicity. Enjoy over the next 3-6 years. (92)
Terredora di Paolo Falanghina “Corte di Giso” – Aromas of orange blossom, lemon oil and peony. Medium-bodied with very good concentration, this offers delicious young fruit, lively acidity and impressive texture; there is good length in the finish that features notes of lime and lemon zest. Enjoy tonight with most seafood; peak in 4-6 years. Nicely done! (92)
Terre Stregate Falanghina “Svelato” – Lovely aromas of lime, apricot and honey. Medium-bodied, this has excellent ripeness and varietal purity, lively acidity and noteworthy harmony and freshness. The finish is a bit short, but otherwise, this is an excellent effort from this well-regarded Sannio producer. Enjoy over the next 2-4 years. (91)
Bosco de’ Medici Pompeii Bianco 2021 – 100% Caprettone from ungrafted vines; macerated and vinified in amphorae. Aromas of lemon oil, hibiscus and passion fruit. Medium-full with appealing ripeness, this has excellent structure, very good acidity and admirable harmony; the finish offers notes of white flowers and lemon, along with a pleasing touch of minerality. This is a lovely, very pure, highly distinctive wine to be enjoyed over the next 5-7 years. (91)