I have long loved the Campanian white wines Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo, in fact they are my favorite Italian white wines; real mountain wines, they are vigorous and very expressive, full of nuance and drenched in minerality, no doubt from Campanian volcanic soils.
I tasted Ciro Picariello's Fiano in the United States when visiting there a couple of years ago and immediately thought - I need these wines! A bit like when I tasted the brilliant Baroli of Giovanni Rosso. Finally this year we are able to offer them in Australia.
Ciro Picariello’s tiny 7 hectare estate lies at the heart of Campania’s white grape region of Avellino among the Irpinian hills. More precisely, he has four hectares of Fiano and red Aglianico perched on the slopes above Summonte at 650 metres altitude on volcanic, calcareous clay and ‘pietra di rame’ (copper stone) soils. The remaining 3 ha of Fiano and Greco are to be found 10 km away in the village of Montefredane, at 550 meters altitude on more clay dominant soils.
Ciro first planted his vines in 1990, then started selling fruit to Feudi di San Gregorio in 1993; since 2004 he bottles everything for his label. His is helped by his wife, while his son Bruno is at viticultural school. Their vineyards lie in a north-south orientation to benefit from the cleansing air currents that shuttle up and the down the hills. He works ‘naturally’ in the vineyard, all by hand. He counts himself fortunate in that the region receives plenty of beneficial spring rain annually.
Grapes are picked in late October and given a clean but minimal treatment in the cellar; slow and gentle pressing with only the first pressing used; the fermentation ensues with natural yeasts, the gross lees are removed shortly before the fermentation finishes and the wines are fermented completely dry), the wine is then kept in tank on the fine lees until the end of the following summer, when it is bottled. Use of SO2 is minimal; The wine is clarified naturally and not filtered. These wines are 'natural' - as we like it - but Ciro has the touch, and these are superb, expressive and character filled wines that I feel are some of the best white wines being produced in Italy today.
The story of Ciro Picariello represents another one of those “Ah-ha” moments on the wine trail. I was having dinner with some importer friends (at the superb restaurant, Frasca, in Boulder, CA) and we started with the usual throw-down of big boy Whites…Coche, Lafon, Dagueneau, Raveneau, etc. One of the attendees – Ciro’s California importer – quietly slipped in a 6-year old bottle of Fiano di Avellino on the table. Not only did the wine hold its own in that elite company, but it ended up being the bottle that that was drained first, with everyone fighting over the last sip! So, at that moment, we started on a mission to track down this great under-the-radar producer. Douglas Polaner, Polaner Selections.