In Italy they say “vedi Napoli e poi muori” (“you see Naples and then you die”).
Naples, the biggest city of Campania (cahm-PAHN-ee’ah) is one of the wonders of the world and one of Italy’s most beautiful cities. This is the home of Neapolitan pizza, the original and hands-down the best in the world, some of the tastiest tomatoes that are grown anywhere, and, of course, mozzarella di bufala, buffalo’s milk mozzarella, the authentic, inimitable stuff.
But this is also the land of excellent and refined dishes like Lagane e ceci, strips of fresh pasta (large as a finger) that are cooked and then sautéed with chickpeas in extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and chili pepper, and then served with a crisp Fiano, the superb white wine and grape by the same of this region; it is the land of the rich Neapolitan ragù, made with at least three types of meat and then savored over homemade fusilli with a glass of Aglianico, a robust red grape that is used to make a highly coveted full-bodied red around these parts (Aglianico is one of Italy’s oldest varietals, most certainly brought here first by the Phoenicians and then the Greeks).
In recent years, the countryside areas around Naples and Salerno have become some of the most fertile ground for Italy’s top wines. Today wines like Fiano d’Avellino, Greco, and Aglianico are gracing the tables of North America’s best restaurants and are finding their way to the homes of even the most discriminating italophile gourmets. With a few of the larger producers of wine in the region leading the way (Feudi di San Gregorio the foremost among them), many small boutique labels have begun to make their extraordinary wines available in North America.
In a culture that has reclaimed its taste for wine on the heels of the California success story, the bold, forward wines of this region have begun to amaze connoisseurs and occasional winedrinkers alike: the wines of the region are made with “sun and grapes,” the makers will tell you, and when you taste them you will discover the grand tradition of winemaking that has thrived here since antiquity.