Bubbles from the Volcano: Exploring the Sparkling Wines of Campania

Bubbles from the Volcano: Exploring the Sparkling Wines of Campania

When it comes to Italian wines, the regions of Tuscany, Piedmont, and Veneto often steal the limelight. However, nestled in the southern part of Italy, the region of Campania is a hidden gem that boasts a long history of winemaking and produces some exceptional sparkling wines. While Campania is known for its stunning coastal landscapes, ancient ruins, and vibrant culture, its sparkling wines are a delightful surprise for wine enthusiasts seeking something unique and off the beaten path.

Campania’s winemaking history dates back to ancient Roman times when the region was renowned for its prized wines. But for many years this fertile land was forgotten and it wasn’t until the early 1970s that its former splendor was regained owing to the development of DOC and DOCG wines. Today, Campania boasts a total of 29 prestigious appellations – 15 DOCs, 4 DOCGs and 10 PGIs. With more than 20,000 hectares of vineyards and an annual production exceeding one million hectoliters, the region is renowned for its exceptional wines, particularly its four esteemed DOCGs: Aglianico del Taburno, Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo and Taurasi.

Campania’s favorable Mediterranean climate, with its warm days and cool nights, along with the volcanic soils, provide ideal conditions for growing grapes, resulting in distinctive and high-quality sparkling wines. The production of sparkling wines in Campania generates revenue ranging between 8 to 9 million euros, largely attributed to the numerous DOCs and DOCGs for sparkling wines in the region. Campania produces over a million bottles of sparkling wine from various grape varieties, including Asprinio, Falanghina, Greco, Fiano, Coda di Volpe and Aglianico.

However, these figures only serve as an illustration of the region’s impressive scale. Over the past few years, Campania has evolved from a sentimental wine-producing region to a more market-focused proposition, with a significant increase in vineyards allocated for sparkling wine production. This rising interest has led to regulatory changes, and many regional appellations now include sparkling wines in their production specifications. Furthermore, there is growing demand for sparkling wines made from native grape varieties, which are closely connected to regional traditions. The innovative mindset of vintners and the use of these indigenous grape varieties have led to the production of unique and remarkable wines, often crafted in small quantities and remaining relatively undiscovered as boutique offerings.

Campania’s sparkling wines are made in a variety of styles, ranging from dry and refreshing to sweet and luscious. They are produced using both traditional and modern winemaking techniques.

One of the standout sparkling wines from Campania is Falanghina Spumante. Falanghina is a white grape variety that is widely grown in Campania and is a key component in the production of many sparkling wines from the region. Falanghina-based sparklings are known for their fresh and aromatic profile, with flavors of citrus, green apple and tropical fruits along with fine, persistent beading, making them perfect for celebratory occasions or as an aperitif.

Another gem in Campania’s sparkling wine portfolio is Aglianico Spumante. Aglianico is a red grape variety that is primarily associated with the production of still red wines. However, it is also used to produce rosé sparkling wines, which are gaining popularity in the region. They are characterized by their deep color, firm tannins and complex flavors of dark fruits, spices and herbs. These wines are often aged on the lees for an extended period, which adds depth and complexity to their flavor profile. Aglianico-based sparkling rosé wines from Campania are famous for their elegance, structure and long aging potential.

Indigenous to Campania, Greco di Tufo is a white grape variety celebrated for its rich and aromatic character. Greco di Tufo Spumante exhibits a complex bouquet of ripe stone fruits, honey and mineral notes, with a creamy texture and lively effervescence. It pairs beautifully with roast poultry, creamy pasta dishes and maturecheeses. 

Coda di Volpe, which translates to “tail of the fox”, is a white grape variety that is widely cultivated in Campania. Sparkling wines featuring Coda di Volpe are marked by floral and fruity scents, with notes of white flowers, pear and apricot. They are often characterized by their round and harmonious palate, with a good balance between acidity and sweetness. Typically crisp, the wines are lively and refreshing, making them a popular choice for festive occasions.

Piedirosso is another red grape that is occasionally used to produce rosé sparkling wines. These are famous for their light color, delicate aromas of red berries and spices, and crisp acidity. They are typically light-bodied and refreshing, with a lively palate and a fine mousse.

In addition to the traditional method, Campania’s sparkling wines are also made using the Martinotti/Charmator Tank Method. This involves fermenting the wine in large pressurized tanks, resulting in a fresh and fruity style of sparkling wine. One such example is Asprinio di Aversa Spumante. The grape variety has a zesty, tangy character as a result of which Asprinio di Aversa Spumante offers lively citrus and green apple notes, vibrant acidity and persistent beading. It is an excellent match for seafood, salads and light appetizers

One of the most iconic sparkling wines from Campania is the renowned Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Spumante. Crafted from a blend of Coda di Volpe, Falanghina and Greco grapes, grown on the sun-drenched slopes of Mount Vesuvius, the wine captures the distinct mineral essence of the volcanic soil. With refreshing notes of citrus, apple and floral aromas, it perfectly complements seafood, soft cheeses and delicate desserts.

The production of sparkling wines in Campania is concentrated in two main areas: the Sannio DOC and the Vesuvio DOC. Sannio DOC, located in the inland hills of Campania, produces a wide range of sparkling wines using different grape varieties, including Falanghina, Aglianico and Coda di Volpe. The wines from Sannio DOC are known for their freshness, elegance and versatility, with both white and rosé styles available.

The Vesuvio DOC, situated on the slopes of the iconic Mount Vesuvius, is a unique and fascinating region for the production of sparkling wines. The volcanic soils of Vesuvio, rich in minerals, impart distinct characteristics to the wines, including a savory and mineral profile. The vineyards in Vesuvio are planted at high altitudes, benefiting from the cooler temperatures and constant breezes from the nearby Tyrrhenian Sea, which helps to maintain the freshness and acidity of the wines.

Campania’s sparkling wines are a genuine reflection of the region’s rich viticultural heritage, showcasing a diverse range of grape varieties and winemaking techniques.

From the aromatic Greco di Tufo Spumante to the elegant Coda di Volpe rosé sparkling, and the iconic Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Spumante, the wines offer a broad spectrum of flavors and styles and are a true delight for wine enthusiasts.

Valentina Phillips

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