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Fruit from the volcano

See Naples and die, they say. I have another take on that: taste some of the wines from that region and enjoy a little heaven on earth. Campania may not spring off the tongue like Chianti, but it is the home of some of Italy's finest, going back to the days of the Roman Empire.

And if the torrid heat of southern Italy doesn't inspire images of fine wine, it is at the cooler altitudes in volcanic soils (remember, this is Vesuvius country) that it yields its treasures, now also benefiting from investment and innovative winemaking.

A brief introduction to some of its most notable grape varieties may be necessary because, suddenly, more of them are making their way on to Irish shelves.

There is Aglianico, an emperor of a red, and a trio of aristocratic whites: Greco di Tufo, Fiano and Falanghina.

Aglianico's firm structure and concentrated dark fruit makes it one of Italy's best grapes. It performs particularly well in the Taurasi area, so much so that when produced there it has DOCG status, the highest designation in Italy's wine hierarchy. It can age really well, but may also be enjoyed young.

Greco di Tufo has a peaches and almond quality, and the volcanic soils in the Tufo area impart a minerality that makes it the perfect match with the milky mozzarella cheese.

Did you know that the premium buffalo mozzarella is also a native of Campania?

According to Antonio Capaldo, president of the Feudi di San Gregorio winery, a driving force in Campania's wine renaissance, Greco "washes" the mouth after milky dishes and raw fish. He describes Fiano as the most structured and complex varietal of the region, making wines that can age for 10-15 years, and a good choice with pastas, fish and spicy food.

It is best around Avellino, marrying the minerality of the soil with softer and sweeter elements, such as honey, apricot/peach, white and yellow flowers and roses. "In other words," says Antonio, "it is a tribute to our overall ecosystem."

Fiano name comes from Latin apiano, so called because the bees prefer it for its sweetness.

Then there's the less serious, but hugely enjoyable, Falanghina, whose floral, fruity notes have made it a hit with the young set in Italy. Increasingly, they are turning to it in preference to Pinot Grigio.

Star wine

Antolini Valpolicella Classico 2008 — from northern Italy, light bodied and fresh with a nice lingering aftertaste, its raspy, berry fruit and plum flavours and classic Valpolicella bite went down a treat with pizza. 12.5pc alc. €10.17.

Available from winesdirect.ie. Tel: 1890 579 579 (minimum order six bottles).

email: weekendwine@independent.ie

Irish Independent