Our autumn holiday started at Naples airport searching for a hire car in a large car park, thinking it has got to be here somewhere. Equally, at 9pm at night, we found that the coast road to Sorrento is currently diverted through Vico Equense for the winter months (while they repair one of the impressive tunnels on the hilly coast road). It just so happened that the chestnut festival was in full swing in the town, slow going. Good spirits restored by a cheerful night attendant who found a glass of white and red for us at 11.15pm, having reached the hotel. He was very apologetic about the wines once he discovered we were interested in wine, but these simple glasses make the point. Probably basic Falanghina and Aglianico, they were both delicious in their own way – the white slightly nutty, the red with excellent depth of fruit and quite sophisticated use of oak.
Sorrento now lives and dies by tourism and apparently has done since Roman days. Its position is fabulous, with great views of the Bay of Naples and the 1000m high Vesuvius. Lunch offered the first real opportunity to taste quality wines, Mastroberardino’s Falanghina not being available we plumped for the now equally well known Feudi di San Gregorio. This stood up well to mixed plates of starters, marinated anchovies, plates of prosciutto, highly charged sausages and even desserts. Complex and nutty on the nose, great mineral notes after a couple of hours in the glass, a excellent example of what the ‘standard’ bottle can deliver when made this well. What makes Campania stand out is the range of whites, along side great reds – a unique attribute in Italy? Our hosts, Sara and Roberto, insisted
that after caffè you have to try mazzacaffè, coffee-killer. So crema di lemone, amaro, fennel liqueur and apple liqueur followed – only one glass of each I hasten to add.
Supper was a simple, one course affair at Zi’ntonio, excellent pizzeria and more. After the fine white at lunch we went for the big red, Delius 2003, Cantina di Taburno, 100% Aglianico. This was a dense ruby with some slight browning at the edge. The nose which opened out with time (we should have asked for a decanter) was quite powerful, integrating oak liquorice, plums and raisons. The palate was fascinating, a marked contrast between the initial big mouthful of fruit and rounded alcohol (13.5%), followed by a great swoosh of tannins and decent acidity. Quite a drying finish. Powerful rather than elegant.