Central And Southern Italy: A Wine Lover’s Paradise

by Antonio Galloni

At a time when prices for so many of the world’s great wines continue to spiral out of control, there aren’t too many regions that offer a level of breadth, quality and value that can match the best of Central and Southern Italy. My tastings this past year were by far the most comprehensive I have undertaken in eight years. Readers will find notes on many old favorites, but I am personally most excited about the many new estates that are appearing in these pages for the first time. I would like to apologize to my readers for the tardiness of this report. Several factors outside of my control made it impossible for me to finish these reviews in late 2012 as originally planned. Those issues have been resolved, so readers can expect to see new releases from Central and Southern Italy reviewed on a timely basis again later this year.

It’s hard to know where to start with the wines of Central and Southern Italy. The truth is that as time passes the number of world-class producers in some regions is increasing at such a rate that there may be a time in the near future where some of these regions merit their own separate reports. Some years I have been most struck by the wines of Campania, other years the Marche has been utterly captivating, but this year it is Sicily that seems to be front and center, perhaps because I discovered a number of estates that are new to me.


Indigenous varieties reign supreme. Nero d’Avola and Nerello Mascalese are on fire. Nero d’Avola yields juicy, flavorful, fruit-forward wines in a number of places within Sicily, whereas Nerello Mascalese flourishes on the slopes of the Etna, where the wines are mid-weight and gracious in the style of Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo. The same thing is true of whites. Inzolia is intensely floral, while Carricante and Catarratto, among others, tend towards the mineral side of things.


Campania remains an endless source of fascination. The famous whites include Falanghina, Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino, while Taurasi is the king of the reds. At the same time, the revival of a number of nearly forgotten, heritage varities such as Pallagrello and Casavecchia is one of the great stories in wine. There is no region in southern Italy that can match Campania’s breadth of world-class whites and reds. At the high end, Taurasi, sometimes called the "Barolo of the South", is an exceptional wine with serious long-term aging potential.


Sardinia never seems to get enough respect. Floral, vibrant Vermentinos and a host of other reds, including the indigenous Carignano, Cannonau and Bovale Sardo are endowed with serious character and personality. Sardinia is remarkable for the presence of many old vineyards that were never decimated by phylloxera because the high percentage of sand in the vineyards protected the wines from the spread of the disease. As a result, a number of the old-vine Cannonaus and Carignanos made on the island are remarkable.


A few years ago, I took my family on a vacation in Puglia. I was struck by the 400-year-old olive trees, the stunning vistas and the oenological potential of the region. Puglia is my favorite region for delicious, flavorful reds in the under- $15.00 category. Primitivo, Negroamaro, Nero di Troia and even Aglianico remain compelling red grapes full of potential. I remain less enamored with the whites.

And there is so much more. The bold, Aglianicos from Baslicata’s Vulture district, the many compelling Vedicchios, Montepulcianos and Sangioveses of the Marche, the Sagrantinos of Umbria, the Trebbianos and Montepulcianos of Abbruzzo, the Gaglioppos of Calabria. Well, you get the point. The many regions of Central and Southern Italy remain full of fabulous, distinctive wines that won’t break the bank.