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16/01/2021

Ancient New Wines

We’re very excited to announce that we recently took delivery of a range of wines from Fontanavecchia, in the Sannio region of Campania, north-east of Naples, on the slopes of the extinct volcano Mount Taburno. 

Many of the vine varieties grown here are ancient, as in ancient Greek and Roman; sip a glass of Falanghina or Greco and you’re sharing an experience with Pliny the Elder and Virgil. Think about that for a moment...

The other extraordinary thing about these vines is that most of them are grown nowhere else on earth. Until about fifty years ago, few people had even heard of them in Italy, because they’re hard to grow and (chicken and egg) no-one had heard of them so they couldn’t sell them; the wines just went into anonymous blends. 

One of the families that helped turn that situation round is the Rillos, who’ve been at Fontanavecchia since the 1860s. Their belief in the local varieties, especially Falanghina and Aglianico, led them to vinify them as varietals. People have heard of them now: the wines win awards all over the world.

Our new range includes three whites, Falanghina, Greco and Fiano, and three reds, Piedirosso, Aglianico del Taburno and the single-vineyard Vigna-Cataratte Aglianico del Taburno Riserva. 

Falanghina del Sannio Taburno is fresh, floral/herbal and lingering, and will accompany light fish, pasta and pastry dishes beautifully. It was awarded Tre Bicchieri (3 glasses) by Gambero Rosso, Italy’s equivalent of the Michelin Guide, as well as 3 stars by Vinibuoni d’Italia, and was the Judges’ Selection at the Canadian Alberta Beverage Awards.

Greco is one of Campania’s finest – and oldest – white varieties. This example has citrus, pear and white peach aromas and a long, clean finish, and would go really well with seafood linguine, creamy poultry dishes or goat’s cheese. Vinibuoni d’Italia gave it 3 stars.

With complex flavours of acacia, citrus, herbs and hazelnut, Fiano was apparently a favourite wine of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, back in the 12th century. Try it with salads, asparagus, shellfish or watercress soup, and let us know if you agree.

Piedirosso means “red feet”. The name refers to the stalks attaching the grape-bunches to the stem. It’s a naturally light variety, in both colour and style – compared to Aglianico, anyway – and is a good match with charcuterie, lamb, vegetarian dishes and lighter cheeses.

Aglianico is one of Italy’s (maybe the world’s) greatest wines, certainly comparable to Nebbiolo. Its name may come from “Ellenico”, Greek: this part of Italy used to be part of the ancient Greek Empire and the vine has probably been grown here since at least those times. A hill-loving variety, Mount Taburno’s volcanic soil suits it well. It has thick skins and ripens late, producing complex, full-bodied, dark-coloured reds that can age for many years.

Fontanavecchia’s regular Aglianico is a classic example, elegant and complex, with powerful tannins, dark fruit, liquorice spice, black pepper and tobacco character. Pair it with wild-boar sausages or cassoulet. 

The Riserva version is one of SlowWine’s 2021 Top Wines; they described it as “full on the nose: prune and blood-orange flavours, cocoa and black pepper. Elegant and balanced palate, slightly smoky finish.” Vinibuoni d’Italia gave it their top award, 4 stars and a crown; La Guida ai Vini d’Italia (the Italian Sommeliers’ Association guide) and Bibenda’s 2021 I Migliori Vini d’Italia (Italy’s Best Wines), agreed. Winemag pointed out that it’s still young, so don’t rush to drink it: put it somewhere cool and quiet for a few years to enjoy it at its peak.