This time Luciano Pignataro takes the stand.
Hooray for Johnny Come Latelys! After just a year the comment may seem like an exaggeration, but it’s not. Those who hold back in the world of wine respect the grapes, and therefore follow a more intelligent commercial strategy, one not pressed by cash, but by the desire to appreciate the bottles they sell.
Those who hold back immediately stand out from those who regularly release upon the year, taking their places in a higher division.
Those who hold back with Fiano are by now, to my great joy as I have been advocating holding back for at least a decade, a considerable number, and I always recommend their wines, because this Irpinian white is one of those wines that gains more and better from time than most reds. Because to drink a year-old Fiano is barbarous, like draining the pasta when it’s still crunchy.
Here is a quick rundown of the growing number of wineries that are holding back, and at this point those holding back are necessary if one is to evaluate the 2011 vintage, because to evaluate a vintage one needs wait until the cutting edge of Irpinian viticulture has given the order to open the first bottles.
The 2011 vintage was fairly difficult, with heavy spring rains and early heat that resulted in an anticipation of the vegetative cycle. July and the first half of August were average, with strong day-night temperature excursions, while the next three weeks were searing, like 2007, though not quite like 2003.
What I have learned in this hot decade is that late-ripening grapes can recover well. And indeed this happened in 2011, in which the Fiano was harvested in the first ten days of October. According to Assoenologi the vintage in Campania 2was of interesting quality, good overall, with several areas of excellence.”
It goes without saying that Fiano takes its place among the peaks of excellence of the vintage.
The first to present Fiano in steel (Mastroberardino had already done so with More Maiorum) after a year was Guido Marsella. It was revolutionary but the facts supported him, and now that he has been joined by a goodly number of other winemakers, he intends to prolong the wait to two years. His 2011 is in any case fabulous and rich, with beautiful fumé and underbrush accents that promise a complex evolution.
Following is Antoine Gaita of Villa Diamante. His Vigna della Congregazione took its first timid, fantastic steps at Vinitaly. A full wine, of the sort preferred by Diamante and Antoine’s French palate, rich and long. Great aging potential.
The third winemaker to start directly with a delay was Ciro Picariello, a presence since 2004 with his wine initially from grapes from Summonte, and subsequently Montefredane as well. This artist of Fiano, surrounded by his wife Rita and his two daughters, manages to capture each vintage’s distinctive characteristic. That of 2011 is powerful freshness immersed in a rich and varied bouquet.
To my great joy another great small artisan of Lapio, Ercole Zarrella of Rocca del Principe, has changed pace, bringing out a new wine in a new bottle. Tremendous ability in bringing out the full fruit of the hills, immersed in freshness and balance. A wine destined to go far.
Also at Lapio, Filadoro has adopted what was once called a two-track policy. A basic wine, and Santari in better vintages, of which 2011 is clearly one. Winemaker Valentino’s goal is a rich, full Fiano that brings out the fruit of this new winery’s beautiful vineyard.
The same winemaker’s hand at DonnaChiara, which begins with a small lot of Fiano Riserva, Esoterico 2011, aged in oak and not bottled as Fiano DOCG, but rather Campania IGT. The attempt to highlight this grape along side the base wine takes its first steps.
Also in wood is Liugio Moio’s Exultet, a great Fiano di Avellino obtained from a proprietary Lapio vineyard that with every vintage invariably does a better job balancing fruit and wood. A must of the restaurants of the Penisola Sorrentina.
Masseria Murata of the Argenziano family is also ready to take the leap; the winery adjacent to the Abbazia di Mercogliano has extended its release time to a year.
We continue in wood in the Brancato 2011 Fiano di Avellino DOCG produced by the Tenuta di Cavalier Pepe. After a 2010 vintage overly marked by new wood, this wine, which is being released in September, was from a very early harvest, and was aged in 2-year old barriques. The result is extraordinary, fresh ripe fruit, body, and a clean surprising finish.