RKS Wines: Campanian Memories: Wine and Other Things

One thing for sure in this world is that a trip to Italy will evoke gastronomical, oenological, architectural   and topographical memories.

Since this is a wine column, we might want to talk about wine memories of Italy. My most recent memories are of the Greater Naples area few years ago, pre plague days, where I was invited by the Italian Trade Commission for a trip to Naples to experience its gastronomy, wines and tourism sights. I stayed on after the media trip and spent 4 days discovering Naples and then another two weeks exploring the Greater Naples area. You may have a preconceived notion it is some dangerous city best kept to a departure point to see Positano, Capri and Sorrento. Not so. It is one of the most beautiful cities of the world steeped in the old way of life. It has so many beautiful sites to see including what I would say an outstanding Archaeological Museum. I am not a great fan of marble statues but what I saw at the Museum had my jaw dropping. And the subway of Naples makes Toronto’s subway look like a third world barrio. And most importantly tourists are not rampant like in Roma or Venice.

Oh the pizza of Naples: Photo Robert K. Stephen

And here is Vesuvius and the spectacular Pompeii. And Capri, Sorrento and Positano just to name a few.

The food of Naples? Well it rivals Tuscan and Roman cuisine. Just visit Umberto’s in Naples and you might never want to leave. Superior dining in a casual setting that rivals the best in the world. And the pizza of Naples is enough to send you back across the ocean to tear into the world’s best pizza.

Not forgetting about wine the volcanic soils of Vesuvius add an element of complexity to the wines grown in that soil. You can pick out notes of charcoal and carbon in many of these wines. Incredible Barbera, the deadly smooth Lacryma Christi (tears of Christ) and the feisty Piedirosso (red chicken feet) and the Greco di Tufo all of which are so rarely seen in Canada and if they were they would give Tuscan wines a run for their money.

Sorry for meandering but why not try a Campanian wine from Donnachiara, its Aglianico. Aglianico is most often found in Campania and Basilicata concentrated in Campania in the provinces Benevento and Avellino.

This Aglianico has a transparent garnet colour and has aromas of bright red cherry, dark chocolate, strawberry, prunes, espresso and raspberry. On the palate one notes that this a tight and compact wine. One might say disciplined! Very restrained red cherry, cranberry, pomegranate and rhubarb. I might call this an old school European wine refusing to open its raincoat and reveal its fruit until it is ready to do so which in this case might be in 3-5 years. If you want to consume now decant for an hour. The label says good with strong pasta sauces, steak and cheeses. Generally speaking I’ll agree with that but wait what about a pizza made with Capputo flour and baked in a Matozzi pizza oven!

On the local Train to Pompeii: Photo Robert K. Stephen

OK so I am talking about Napoli pizza a bit too much. I am in a dilemma as now is not the time to return to Naples so I wake up with chills and night sweats dreaming of Napoli pizza. There is no pizza rehab centres here in Toronto specializing in Napoli pizza withdrawal. I am hanging on!

My favourite restaurant in Naples! Photo Robert K. Stephen

(Donnachiara Campania Aglianico 2019, IGT, Donnachiara, Montefalcone-Avellino, Italy, $18.95, Liquor Control Board of Ontario # 19334, 750 mL, 13%, Robert K. Stephen A Little Birdie Told Me So Rating 91/100).

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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