The Cilento is a beautiful area south of Salerno that has it all – stunning coastlines with little fishing villages, and inland rugged mountain terrains, assorted agriculture, and yes, good wine.
The only problem that we have is that not a lot of it comes over here for us to enjoy. There are the two best in the area, however.
The De Conciliis winery is in the northern part of the region towards the ancient ruins of Paestum. A family operation, their wines are an interesting array of both tradition and innovation. While their name is on many wines typical from Campania, such as Greco di Tufo and Falanghina, I will focus on their wines made from their Cilento vineyards. In their own vineyards they really focus on the white Fiano and red Aglianico grapes to make wines both of notable quality and interest. With the Fiano grape they produce to “Selim,” a sparkling wine, and two still white wines, “Antece” and “Perella.”
“Antece” harkens to an old tradition in Italian winemaking whereby the grape must is fermented in contact with the skins of the crushed grapes and then left to rest on the skins for an additional week. The wine is then racked into large Slavonian oak casks and left to age on its lees for another 6-12 months, followed by another year in stainless steel and a year in the bottle. White wines made this way, as is often seen in the northeast of Italy, have a subtle tannic quality and richness that makes them a perfect pairing with pork dishes, which we’ve been known to serve from time to time here at Babbo.
“Perella,” on the other hand, is a Fiano that aims more at the German Riesling style of phenolic ripeness and balance. While the wine is also made allowing the grape must to macerate in contact with the skins and a small percentage of the wine is oak conditioned, it is a wine of greater subtlety and finesse than the “Antece.”
For the reds of De Conciliis, Aglianico is the star among the red grapes here as it is anywhere in Campania. They produce “Donnaluna,” an accessible Aglianico wine that is a great value, but then get a lot more serious with “Naima,” an Aglianico aged in French oak that is structured and long-lived.
Luigi Maffini is a producer in the Cilento a little more off the radar than De Conciliis but every bit as serious. He makes an exemplary Fiano called “Kratos” that is fermented in stainless steel as well as “Pietraincatenata,” which is a Fiano wine fermented in French oak.
For reds, there is an Aglianico based blend called Kleos, which represents the value end of the spectrum. It is fermented in stainless steel and then left to age in used barriques. The show-stopper on the Maffini winery is their Aglianico based “Cenito.” Made from a selection of the finest Aglianico of his harvest, it is fermented in stainless steel and aged in new barriques for 18 months with an additional year in the bottle prior to release.
These wines are great for this time of year. The whites from Fiano have a freshness and vibrant acidity that is great with the tomatoes, corn and all other gardened goodness that hits the table tops this time of year, while the reds are great with grilled meats like our Skirt Steak, Guinea Hen, or our epic Rib-Eye for 2.