History of viticulture in Campania
Many aspects make Campania, a fascinating region: a precious interweaving of history, natural beauties, art, traditions and viticulture. In the culture of Campania, wine has always played a fundamental role, becoming an important element in the history of this region. A story that takes shape in the many native grapes and its many famous wines, starting from Falerno, one of the oldest wines in Italy.
As witnessed by the greatest classical writers and the numerous archaeological finds, the territory of Campania was undoubtedly one of the first and most important centers for the establishment, cultivation, study and diffusion of vine and wine.
The history of the viticulture in Campania begins with the arrival of the ancient Greeks in the areas that will later take the name of Magna Graecia. They owe the merit of having introduced the seeds of vitis vinifera in this region and of having turned a domestic wine production into commercial activity. In fact, most of the autochthonous grapes of Campania, such as Aglianico, Greco Bianco, Fiano, Falanghina, Biancolella and Piedirosso, are, very probably, grapes of Greek origin. The influence of the oenological culture of the ancient Greeks is still visible today in the “gobelet” training system and pruning techniques.
The best moment for the viticulture in Campania came during the Roman Empire. Several historical evidences show that the ships that reached the Mediterranean countries and Gaul departed from the ports of Pozzuoli and Sinuessa. It is said that the prestige of Falerno wine was such that an amphora could even be worth the price of a slave.
Decline and rebirth
The fate of the viticulture in Campania followed those of the Empire, reaching the darkest period during the Middle Ages. To understand the causes of this decline, it should not be forgotten that in this region wine production was mainly entrusted to small producers. Unlike other areas therefore, Campania has not benefited from the strong influence of the monasteries and their work of conservation and development in the wine field.
To witness the revival of the viticulture in Campania and in particular of the famous wines Mangiaguerra, Aglianico, Asprinio, Fistignano, Falanghina, Corsara, Cerella, Lagrima, Coda di Cavallo and the many types of Greek, we had to wait for the Renaissance period. However, the eighteenth century has led to a new decline in viticulture and in the early twentieth century, a severe infestation of phylloxera destroyed most of the vineyards.
Thanks to the commitment of local producers and institutions involved, which over the decades have been dedicated to the recovery of native varieties, the viticulture in Campania has been able to resume the path of quality.
In the last twenty years the wines of Campania are recording incredible successes and considerable interest from consumers, both for whites and for reds. Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino, Falanghina, Taurasi and the different expressions of the imposing Aglianico are just some of the many wines that make Campania one of the most interesting regions of Italy from an oenological point of view.
The main wine areas
The production of wine concerns the entire region, however a greater concentration is recorded in the Sannio and Irpinia: the richest wine area of the whole Campania. It extends from the province of Avellino – area from which come Taurasi, Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino – and Benevento, whose wines belong largely to the interesting DOC Sannio and Taburno. Here the vineyards are located between 400 and 700 m above sea level and subjected to a strong temperature range.
The Alto Casertano, characterized by soils of black volcanic earth, is the home of the Doc Falerno del Massico (composed, among others, of Aglianico and Piedirosso grapes) and of the Doc Aversa (made of Asprinio grapes).
The Sorrento Peninsula and the Islands (in particular Ischia) boast the production of excellent white wines from Biancolella and Forastera grapes and reds with Piedirosso grapes.
The area of Vesuvius is distinguished by the production of its Lacryma Christi, already appreciated since 1500 in the sweet version, today it is predominantly produced in the dry version as white, red and rosé.
Finally, the Cilento is imposing itself on the national scene with its wines that have a strong appeal to the territory: fiano, aglianico and aglianicone.
For many years, the impressive Taurasi was the only wine of Campania to be recognized with the Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin. Since 2003, this wine has been joined in the category by Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino.
To date, in Campania are defined 18 zones of Controlled Denomination of Origin, namely: Aglianico del Taburno, Aversa, Campi Flegrei, Capri, Castel San Lorenzo, Cilento, Amalfi Coast, Falerno del Massico, Galluccio, Guardiolo or Guardia Sanframondi, Irpinia, Ischia, Sorrento Peninsula, Sannio, Sant’Agata dei Goti, Solopaca, Taburno and Vesuvio.
Finally, in the region there are interesting wines classified in the category of wines with Typical Geographical Indication (IGT), produced both with native grapes and with “international” grapes.
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