Campania’s Little Gems

October 30, 2007

I first learned about Campania’s wines in A16, a neighborhood restaurant in the Marina district of San Francisco a few years back. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I had barely heard of Campania beforehand. Campania is a major region in Southern Italy boasting Naples, the largest city in Italy south of Rome. It is also the home of the Amalfi coast, Pompei and fantastic wines made from the Aglianico grape.

Because by the time I had the chance to travel to Campania I had learned quite a bit of its wines and tasted about two dozen different reds I very much looked forward to visiting the region and get to see some of its wineries. Wineries in Southern Italy are nowhere near as commercial as they are in Northern Italy (at least compared to Tuscany or Piemonte) and this means less of them have English speaking staff and even if they do, you need to call ahead and make appointments. Well, me being absurdly hard headed, I did not call ahead. I chalk it up to pure luck that we ended up not only visiting but also staying overnight at the Agroturismo (sort of like a bed and breakfast) of one of the region’s prestigious wine houses, Mustilli in Sant’Agata dei Goti.

At the Agroturismo we had a chance to taste some of Mustilli’s wines and bring back home a couple of bottles. One of these was the Mustilli, Conte Artus, vintage 2003, a perfectly balanced blend of Aglianico (50%) and Piedirosso (50%). In case you have never heard of the grape Piedirosso, which I have not, this is also a varietal typical to Campania. It is also one of 3,000+ varietals found in Italy, so if you have not heard of it don’t sweat it.

I tend to think Aglianicos are fantastic, but I get a bit too much acidity in most, which renders these fantastic food wines (especially with tomato based pasta dishes) but they are not to be had alone. I am not certain if it is because of the Piedirosso grape, but this wine was definitely more drinkable standalone than typical Aglianicos. It was a bit heavier than other Campania wines I have had with a bit of a dark cherry tone both in the taste and in the color. Other than that, I do not remeber anything to write home about it. Its bigger brother I tasted at the winery, the Briccone Vino da Tavola Rosso Mustilli was in a different category. There is still a bottle of that in my wine rack so watch for a write-up in the next month or so.

Name: Mustilli, Conte Artus, 2003

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Body: Medium to Heavy

Price: approx. 10 euros

Got it at: Mustilli Winery, Sant’Agata dei Goti, Campania, Italy

Mustilli, Conte Artus, 2003