From Puglia down to Sicily and regions in between, come distinct wines that tempt all types of palates. If you like powerful, well-extracted red wines, or sweet libations, or fortified wines, or pleasant, fruity white wines, you will find them in Sicily, Campania, Puglia, Calabria and Basilicata.
The history of vitiviniculture is the history of this region. In the 8th century B.C., the Greeks planes vineyards in Sicily, followed closely by forays in Campania. Eventually grapes cultivation found its way to Calabria, Basilicata, and Puglia.
Southern Italy has been producing bulk wine ever since, and exported tanker loads to France, and mother regions in Italy for blending.
Huge changes in quality and scientific vineyard selection started in the second half of the 20th century and today many of the wines of southern Italy compete successfully on world markets.
All offer good value because of low land prices, relatively low labour cost, ad guaranteed suitable climate during the growing season with few diseases that must be eliminated by using chemicals. Puglia forming the heel of Italy, has become famous with its Primitivo di Manduria (aka Zinfandel in California) and Salice Salentino. Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera, Uva di Troia represent the backbone of viticulture. Torrevento Vigna Pedale Riserva, 2006 (19.95), from Castel Monte, Primitivo di Manduria ($16.95) from the Giordano Collection, Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva ($ 16.95) from Leone de Castris are only some of the red wines I recommend form Puglia.
Sicily looks back on 28 centuries of viticulture, and now can proudly claims to produce outstanding wines on high-elevation vineyards of infertile volcanic soil, but with abundant sunshine. The only problem is sufficient precipitation, which is compensated by judicious irrigation.
The legendary Mount Etna’s vineyards yield fine wines called Etna Rosso.
Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappucio, Ansonica, Moscato are popular indigenous varieties, but Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, even Chardonnay are planted and yield very fine wines.
Chiaramonte Ansonica, 2009, ($ 18.95) from Firriato; Nero d’Avola, 2008
($ 14.95) from Morgante, Nero d’Avola, Cusumano ($ 9.95) are some of the Sicilian wines I recommend.
Campania was a popular recreation and holiday region in the Roman Empire. Here fine red and white wines of distinguishing flavours can be paired successfully with local specialties. Lacrima Christi, Hirpinia, Fiona dÀvellino are only some of the finest Campania produced by Mastorberardino, and Terredora wineries. Both wineries products represent good value (Agliancio, 2008,and Terredora ($ 14.95).
Calabria and Basilicate have all stepped up their game. Calabria has become famous with its Ciro appellation made with the Gaglioppo grape, but you can also select Greco (white) from this region. Greco Bianco Ciro, 2009, Santa Venere ( $ 14.95); Aglianico, 2008 from Terredore; Rosso del Vulcano Aglianico del Vulture, 2007, from Macarico are the wines I recommend.
Popular grape varieties of the south
Negroamarao – thick skinned, deeply coloured, yield robust wines, and constitutes the backbone of Salice Salentino blended with Malvasia Nera.
Uva di Troia – yields deeply coloured wines that are aromatic with floral and spice notes.
Nero d Avola – deeply coloured, full bodied wines with ripe black plum flavours.
Aglianico – yields deeply coloured wines exuding chocolate aromas and plum flavours.
Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccia from Etna are similar. Nerello Mascalese yields spicy aromatic wines, whereas Nerello Cappuccio offers structure and acidity.
Greco planted mostly in Campania, but now also in Calabria. Greco smells of green apples, citrus with mineral notes. Ampelographers think that Greco is the progenitor of Grechetto, Garganega, and Trebbiano grown further north.