April 2013
outhern Italy’s vineyards have
only earned widespread re-
nown since the 8
century BC,
when Greek colonists arrived
in Italy’s boot heel and dubbed the re-
gion Oenotria, or “Land of Wine.” But
truthfully, up until the last two decades
or so, the quest for volume trumped the
push for quality across the Mezzogiorno,
a region which encompasses Puglia and
Campania most notably. The same is
said about Sicily, where, until recently,
most vineyard owners were guilty of
rampant over-production.
Today southern Italian and Sicilian
reds are capturing the hearts of restau-
rateurs, sommeliers and merchants in
search of high-quality yet affordable
wines. Leading the way are such in-
digenous grapes as Aglianico (most fa-
mously in Taurasi from Mastroberadino,
the pioneer of Campania’s DOCG of
the same name), Negromaro, Primitivo,
Nero d’Avola and Nerello Mascalese—
the latter pair blended in Corvo, long
credited as Sicily’s best-known brand.
Consumers are likewise flocking to these
lip-smacking, food-friendly wines.
“In pairing Sicilian and Pugliese red
wines with southern Italian and Sicil-
ian cuisine, I want to balance all the
flavors coming together in our recipes
—sweet, sour, salty, nutty and the natu-
ral acidity of the dishes we serve,” says
Melissa Muller Daka, chef and owner of
Eolo Sicilia Tavola in New York City.
Eolo’s wine list is 95% Sicilian, the bal-
ance from Italy’s boot-heel as well as a
few bottles from Tuscany. While noting
that staff tastings are important, Eolo’s
policy of offering small tastes to diners
really sells glasses and bottles. “This
also allows the consumer to make up
their own mind, and relieves pressure
on servers to describe this or that wine’s
taste,” Daka notes.
Back at the source, modernization
has been key. Michael Foulk, Partner in
MFW Wine Co., a New York City-based
importer representing Alcesti from Cam-
pania, among other artisanal producers,
explains, “Winemakers from Campania
to Sicily have been very busy adopting
all the latest technology and vinification
techniques. Over the last 20 years, this has
really enhanced the quality of both their
international and indigenous wines.”
Mezzogiorno’s Renaissance
Southern Italy’s Return to Indigenous Varieties
Triggers Quality and Sales
In Campania’s Irpinia region,
Feudi di San Gregorio has
pioneered the use of technology to
put a modern spin on indigenous
grapes such as Fiano di Avellino,
Greco di Tufo and Aglianico.
Each of the estate’s vineyards is
equipped with a solar-powered
meteorological station that
gathers data continuously.
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