Wine drinkers run the gamut, as far as drinking preferences go. Some will gulp down whatever bottle (or box!) is open, while others spend their lifetimes filling wine cellars with rare bottles that will never be opened. Most people fall somewhere in between, sipping a glass here or there and knowing whether they best enjoy a Cabernet or a Chardonnay. But die-hard wine connoisseurs are a breed of their own, searching the world for the best glass and the richest color, aroma and flavor. Where the wine is, they will go, and often they find themselves touring vineyards in the Campania region of Italy.
Glorious Italy. The boot. Ciao, bella! There are so many things to learn about this fascinating country. And though Italy is known for its delicious pastas and sauces, beautiful language and breathtaking architecture, nothing quite tantalizes the soul like the awe-inspiring vineyards of the coastal region of Campania. Visualize Italy as a boot. Campania is located at about where the front of the ankle would be. The region includes Naples, Capri, Pompeii and Ischia, all situated along the Amalfi Coast [sources Italyguides.it, Cellar Tours]. Welcome to wine country.
You want reds? They got 'em. You want whites? They have those, too. Campania's history and culture have had a significant influence on the wine that's been produced in the region for centuries. In this article, you'll read about the origins of the region and its people, agriculture and famous wine varieties. You'll find out the significance of its name and how its physical geography has affected the region's economy and made the region a center for wine production.
Go ahead and pour that glass of vino. Now let's journey back to the days of the ancient Greeks to learn about the story of Campania and its wine.
Campania Wine Region History and Culture
The name Campania comes from the Latin phrase "campania felix," which roughly translates as "fertile land" or "rich or happy land." This is understandable, considering the beauty of the landscape. Just about every ruling ancient empire spent some time in this region throughout its history. Perhaps the first to truly make their mark on the area were the ancient Greeks, whose mythology is connected to the origin of Naples. Have you heard of the Sirens? They were the bewitching, singing beauties that tried to lure Ulysses to his death with their songs. One of the Sirens was named Parthenope. She was absolutely heartbroken that Ulysses ignored her. Like any good, dramatic mythological creature, she threw herself into the rocks off the coast of Italy. The Greeks found her body and erected a monument, around which Naples formed centuries later [source: Lancaster].
From there, Campania passed through the hands of many rulers. There were the Romans, of course. Then the area was ruled and developed by the Byzantines, Normans, Spaniards, Austrians and French. Eventually, in 1870, "the boot" became the Kingdom of Italy when the unification of Italy was completed [source: travelplan.it].
Because all of these groups came through Campania at one time or another, echoes of multiple cultures helped shape the region. It's no surprise, then, that Italy contains massive amounts of archeological artifacts, paintings, sculptures and historical centers. It's the country with the most sites on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's World Heritage list [source: UNESCO].
Campania is home to a number of museums, churches, fountains, squares, castles and villas. But perhaps its most notable contribution to the world comes from the earth.
Are you hungry yet? Read on to learn about Campania's agriculture and tempting dishes.
Campania Wine Region Agriculture
The agriculture of Campania goes well beyond grapes. In fact, we can thank this region for one of the world's most popular dishes -- pizza. This delicious food had been eaten in different forms for centuries before it was invented in its modern-day style in Naples.
Long ago, people actually believed that tomatoes were poisonous, so they didn't serve them. But some were so poor that they had no choice but to risk eating tomatoes [source: Gordan]. With Naples' role in the creation of pizza, it should come as no surprise that Campania produces a variety of tomatoes and cheeses. The region also grows an abundance of additional agricultural products, including:
By far, Campania is most famous for its buffalo and goat cheeses, as well as its chestnuts. The buffalo mozzarella cheese (Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP) is made by hand and is famous worldwide. Salerno offers a few mozzarella festivals throughout the year if you have a passion for this tasty delight [source: Delicious Italy]. And what goes better with a glass of wine than a selection of gourmet cheese?
Have you finished that last drop of wine yet? If so, get another -- in the next section we'll learn about the famous wines of Campania.
Famous Wines of the Campania Wine Region
Whether you're a red or white wine drinker, choosing a wine can be overwhelming. There are so many things to consider, such as dryness, fruitiness and even woodiness, when you're looking at a rainbow of choices. And if you're standing in the liquor section of a grocery store, it's not likely that you can pop open a bottle and have a taste.
Campania's Taurasi is a notable red wine, but the region is probably best known for its whites, like Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo. Keep in mind that if you choose a Taurasi, you must be patient -- they must be aged for a minimum of four years.
Consider trying some of these wines of the Campania region -- many offer flavors and aromas of the local fruits and flowers. The acronyms after each name signify regional ownership and approval.
- Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso DOC
- Baiardo Taurasi DOCG
- Monsignore Aglianico IGT Campania
- Montevetrano IGT Colli di Salerno
- Terra di Lavoro IGT Roccamonfina
If you're enamored with Campania and want to enjoy the region's wines in the countryside that produced them, put some of these popular wine estates on your travel list:
If you make the trip to Campania, you'll get the chance to enjoy the region's wine, fruits, scrumptious local dishes, and history and culture. And be sure to make a toast -- A votre santé!
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
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