We headed to Avellino (map) to see two producers and their vineyards: Vadiaperti and Ciro Picariello. By seeing the dirt, vines, and methods of farming, one can determine the grower's philosophy. Vadiaperti has been producing its own wines since 1984, but the family has grown grapes since the early 1900's. The estate is 10 hectares of Coda di Volpe, Fiano, Greco and a small amount of Aglianico. All the wines share a common thread of intense minerality, which is from the gray clay that has formed from the millenia of volcanic ash that is all over the area. We were able to try the 2010 vintage from tank and were astonished that all the wines had gone through malolactic fermentation because of the high levels of malic acid (Malic acid is the bracing flavor you get from green apples. When a wine goes though malolactic fermentation the malic acid is converted to lactic acid which gives a creamy texture and softens the wine). Raphaele believes had he not done this his wines would be unenjoyable. His Fiano is pure, clear and focused - when you take a sip and close your eyes, you can smell the air in the vineyards and the flintiness of the soil. At the end of our tasting, Raphaele shared a 1992 and 1990 Fiano d'Avellino. This cemented my contention that Fiano is the best white wine of Italy! Both wines were stunning, pure, lively, and such a unique experience. I immediately bought some Fiano to put in the back of my cellar to forget and rediscover in 20 years.
Our next visit was to a VERY small winery on the opposite side of the region in the commune of Summonte, Ciro Picariello. The key difference between Picariello and Vadiaperta is the soil. Vadiaperta is in the commune of Montefredane and has compact volcanic clay. Summonte has limestone and pumice. The first tank sample showed this difference in a millisecond. The wines of Picariello are very pretty, floral and there is a chalky note that permeates all the wines. We tasted 2004 through 2010 (in tank) of Fiano. These were some of the best wines I have every tried in Italy. There was purity, focus, and distinct notes of the land in each wine. As the wines age, they give off aromas of candied citrus, honeycomb, and magnolia. I can't wait to go back!