Discovering the wines of the Italian region of Sannio

Located just 50 kilometers inland from bustling Naples and the attractions of the Amalfi Coast, the Sannio region of Campania remains relatively unknown to Japanese travellers. But that could change as the region’s long history of wine production finally gains international recognition, and with it a new legion of wine lovers.

Sannio wines were recently in the spotlight at a tasting masterclass held at the Tokyo American Club. Samples from a wide range of large and small scale Sannio growers were offered for the first time to a select group of industry experts.

Centered on the historic town of Benevento, the Sannio region has more than 60 different types of wine and 8,000 winemakers, including large cooperative wineries. While wines from Sannio’s neighbors such as Taurasi and Fiona di Avellini have historically garnered more praise, local producers have focused on Falanghina, a delicious dry white grape variety, and Aglianico, a robust, medium-bodied red grown primarily on the slopes of Mount Taburno. .

Promotion of the region has increased in recent times, largely due to the efforts of the Consortium Sannio, originally founded in 1999. The group supports viticulture in the region and promotes local producers in the region, small and large, helping to forge links with international markets. These efforts are part of a larger plan to increase tourism in the region with a focus on wine, slow food and showcasing the region’s natural diversity to the world. “Compared to its more famous neighbours, Sannio offers excellent value for money when it comes to food and accommodation for the traveler,” says Consortium President Libero Rillo.

Sannio vineyards near Mount Vesuvius in Italy Photo: Sannio DOP

Sannio lies in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, the ashes of which play an important role in the volcanic nature of the soil. The landscape itself is defined by viticulture and environmental protection is strongly linked to the economic future and sustainability of the region. The province is currently applying for UNESCO Geopark status for Mount Taburno and the Matese Massif. This would not only protect an important area of ​​biodiversity, but it would also open the door to wine-based agritourism. “There are few places in Italy that offer so much diversity in such a compact area,” says Rillo. The region is also home to some very attractive towns such as Sant’Agata dei Goti, where you can enjoy a glass of Falanghina in the old cellars of the Mustilli family winery, which also has a restaurant and a small hotel on site.

Although the area experienced economic decline after World War II, it was actually a blessing in disguise since most farmers could not afford to uproot their “old” vines and replant with more profitable vines. such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. As a result, Sannio is home to a surprisingly high number of indigenous grape varieties. The Falanghina is by far the most planted. With its pleasant acidity, minerality and aromatic complexity, this wine is perfectly suited to current wine trends. Falanghina del Sannio DOC covers a large area of ​​the province of Benevento, producing 80% of all Falanghina grown in southern Italy. The altitude of the vineyards varies from 350 to 500 meters, which plays an important role in the dynamism and the characteristic freshness of the wine.

Rillo, who also operates one of Sannio’s most successful vineyards, Fontanavechia, says this wine pairs extremely well with Japanese cuisine, especially fish dishes. “What’s exceptional about this wine is the depth of character that follows the initial freshness,” he says. Other well-known Falanghina wineries include Ocone and La Guardiense whose Janare Falanghina del Sannio has been well received.

Aglianico del Taburno, the region’s king of reds, has been grown around Mount Taburno for centuries and has different characteristics from the more familiar neighboring wines of Taurasi and Vulturi. The tannins generally balance out younger and stand up well to the region’s rustic cuisine. They are known for their velvety long and structured finish. Some of Aglianico’s vineyards are very old with some over 200 years old and planted long before the phylloxera epidemic destroyed so many vineyards in the 19th century. Rillo produces one of the best-known Aglianicos, Vigna Cataratte, a 100% Aglianico aged in French oak barrels for 18 months.

The consortium plans to continue its efforts to promote its wines not only in Japan but also in the Asia-Pacific region. Rillo added: “Ensuring the excellent quality of local wines is one of our main objectives, but the overall image contributes to the economic and cultural future of the region.” With such a wealth of wine and history, and a centrally located location in the Italian ‘boot’, Sannio is poised to be on the map of travelers and wine lovers.

Sannio wines are available at https://search.rakuten.co.jp/search/mall/Sannio/100317/

© Japan today

Shirley M. Pinder