It’s no secret that I have an affinity for France, and the wines I’ve selected thus far for Collecting with Kev reflect my predilection for le beau pays de lumière. I studied in Paris. I wear a French sailor shirt. And my taste tends toward the juicy, high-tone wines of Beaujolais, Languedoc-Roussillon, & the Loire Valley. Contrary to popular belief, however, I drink a lot of wine that’s not French. I’d even go so far as to claim that a couple of my favorite wine appellations are located across the border in Italy. So, without further ado, let’s leave the land of wine & cheese… for another land of wine & cheese.
Italy can be a difficult & often frustrating wine culture to get a grip on. Unlike France, whose noble grapes are grown universally (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, chardonnay, etc.), most of Italy’s grapes are indigenous to esoteric appellations and aren’t grown outside of those defined areas. Even a well-known grape like sangiovese has relatively few plantings outside of its home in Tuscany compared to the vast amount of cabernet plantings outside of Bordeaux – for example – or of pinot outside of Burgundy. Then there are the hundreds upon hundreds of obscure varieties that never see the light of day outside of their little hillocks. Ever heard of grapariol, the Veneto variety that was recently rescued from extinction? Me neither.
I don’t approach the study of wine academically, and I have little ambition to set about memorizing obscure grape varieties and appellations. Therefor, I have few expectations when exploring a country like Italy, especially outside of the Piedmont, Tuscany, & Sicily. Instead, I like to wander in somewhat blindly – to be taken for a ride. This month’s pick for Collecting with Kev - the Fiano di Avellino produced by Ciro Picariello – did just that, it took me. Grabbing me by the nostrils, it led me to happy valleys of green apple acidity, citrus, herbs, & flinty minerality. I was happy to go.
Fiano is by no means an obscure grape variety. It was widely planted before the arrival of phylloxera and currently it makes its home in Campania - Italy’s shin. Fiano is typically full-bodied with a waxy texture, great acid, and notes of almond, herbs & citrus fruit. The grape is not nearly as aromatic as Campania’s most popular white, falanghina, but the subtleness of its complex profile is arresting and its taut & waxy texture give tonality to which I’m very much attracted.
When done right, fiano has great aging potential, thanks to its high-tone composition. Like a Keith Whitley song, the beauty of its arrangement strikes the palate with seemingly effortless simplicity. By the third time around, the genius of its harmony takes your breath away. Suffice it to say, Ciro Picariello is doing it right.
Farming two parcels within Fiano di Avellino, Ciro Picariello harvests by hand and practices natural winemaking in the vineyards & cellar. The vineyard sites are located on clay, loam, & sandstone soils at a relatively high elevation for Campania, resulting in a fresh wine with higher acid levels than one might expect from the region. Only the first fraction of the press is used for the Fiano di Avellino bottling. The wine ages for 11-12 months on its lees and is bottled without fining of filtration.
I love high-tone wines and enjoyed drinking the Ciro Picariello Fiano di Avellino upon release. I’m also intrigued to see what it will do in 2-5 years, as the acid backs off and the fruit and herbs reveal themselves more distinctly. According to the importer Polaner Selections, the wine could easily age for 15 years. “Miami, My Amy” and “When You Say Nothing at All” are both aging well too, incidentally.
Fiano di Avellino, Campania, Italy