Campania’s best three wines are Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo and Taurasi–and Donnachiara winery has a winning trifecta with its renditions.
The province of Avellino is part of the Campania region in southern Italy. One of Italy’s poorer regions, it’s rich in wine history and grape diversity. In addition to its indigenous grapes, the Greeks brought aglianico, fiano and Greco, which became the most important red and white grape varieties in Avellino.
The region’s pervasive poverty prevented the acquisition of modern winemaking equipment and emphasized quantity over quality, leaving it a reputation for inferior wines. Yet its soil and climate offered the possibility of first-rate wines for the adventurous winemaker willing to make the investment of time and money.
Donnachiara winery was founded in 2005 by Chiara and Umberto Petitto, who named it for their grandmother Chiara Petitto, a woman of noble ancestry born in 1883. Five generation of Petittos have owned the vineyards and its female members have always tended them. Currently, Ilaria Petitto, a law school graduate and second child of Chiara and Umberto, directs the winery while her mother oversees the vineyards.
A month ago, I tasted a selection of wines made by Donnachiara’s winemaker Angelo Valentino. I started with the 2010 and 2011 Greco di Tufo. This ancient Greek grape generally produces a light, dry, nondescript white wine, but Donnachiara offers a more pronounced version that is made and aged exclusively in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. Both vintages exhibited fresh and clean apple-like flavors with supporting acidity. The additional year of aging gave the 2010 more richness and body. Both wines retail for approximately $16.
The Donnachiara 2010 Fiano di Avellino follows the same winemaking recipe as the Greco di Tufo. Its mild fruit aroma and flavor, with matching acidity, reflects Fiano’s classic style. Fiano is delightfully fresh and refreshing for the scorching heat of Campania, but that doesn’t restrict it to being a summer wine. Try this pleasing wine with fried calamari, a crab salad, or sushi rolls and you’ll discover its year-around versatility. The Donnachiara 2010 Fiano di Avellino retails for about $14.
Taurasi is a red wine made with a minimum of 85 percent aglianico, and takes its name from one of the villages in the Avellino province. Taurasi has had a meteoric rise: Twenty years ago, one winery made this wine; today, there are hundreds of wineries producing Taurasi.
Donnachiara’s 2007 Taurasi Riserva is pure aglianico, with a black cherry hue and enticing aromas ranging from black fruit to black tea and sage. It meets the wine regulations of one-year barrel aging and three years in the bottle.
I was struck by its balance of soft, integrated tannins with tasty bitter cherry and raspberry fruit flavors. Too many Taurasis overpower the palate with intensive vanilla-like new oak aromas and flavors, exaggerated black fruit taste and high alcohol. The 2007 Donnachiara Taurasi Riserva had none of those flaws. It’s ready for consumption, and will be delicious with a winter’s pot roast, lamb chops, or lasagna. It retails for about $50.