Italian Selections

ItalyIn this article, the International Wine Review focuses once again on the wines of Southern Italy. In Report #6 The Wines of Southern Italy: From Quantity to Quality, we noted that while wines of the South have never achieved the recognition nor the acclaim of the wines in the north, their status and standing has begun to improve dramatically.  The tremendous quality and value of Southern Italy wines is shown once again in this review of Southern Italy selections.


Part III.  Southern Italy 

The wines reviewed here are from Campania, Puglia, Sicily and Sardinia.  They include top fine wine producers such as Feudi di San Gregoiro, Ocone, Matané, Planeta, and Mazzei as well as producers of outstanding value wines such as Mandra Rossa in Sicily. Aside from the rich history and marvelous tradition of wine in southern Italy, perhaps the most interesting aspect of these wines is the incredible range of indigenous grapes--both white and red--that can be found in each region.


Feudi di San Gregorio was established in 1986 in a joint venture between two families of Irpinia. The wines are made by owner and winemaker Enzo Ercolino with the assistance of consulting winemaker, Riccardo Cotarella. Having constructed a modern winemaking facility and aging cellar in 2004, Feudi is clearly at the forefront of winemaking in Campania.

Feudi di San Gregorio 2007 Falanghina Sannio Campania ($20) 92

This is an elegant 100% Falanghina sourced from a cluster of small high altitude vineyards in the district of Sannio. Medium lemon in color, it exhibits rich aromas of honey, apricots and peaches. On the palate, it offers beautifully focused sweet and pure ripe fruit flavors with mineral notes and lively acidity. A real gem! 

Importer: Palm Bay International

Feudi di San Gregorio 2006 Greco di Tufo Campania ($25) 89

This 2006 Greco di Tufo displays a light lemon color with lovely scents of fennel and a touch of minerality. On the palate it boasts flavors of ripe pear and honey and combines good acidity with a firm long lasting finish.

Importer: Palm Bay International.

Feudi di San Gregorio 2005 Rubrato Aglianico Campania ($21) 93

This Rubrato, produced with the assistance of the famed consulting enologist Ricardo Cotarella, is a first-class Aglianico from one of Campania's top producers. It exhibits a dark ruby color with aromas of red/black cherry fruit.   Rich and elegant, it is medium weight with a beautifully structured palate of spicy ripe red and black fruit and notes of chocolate and toasty oak. It is a big wine with round tannins that need time to soften, and it has a rich long finish.

Importer: Palm Bay International.

Feudi di San Gregorio 2004 Taurasi Campania ($45) 92

This Taurasi exhibits a dark ruby color and scents of sweet black cherry notes of tar, earth and leather. On the palate it is silky smooth and delicious with ripe black fruit and chocolate. It is beautifully balanced, with round firm tannins and a long finish.

Importer: Palm Bay International.


Ocone, located about 40 miles east of Naples on the slopes of Mount Taburno in Campania, has played a leading role in cultivating the traditional grapes of this region. It practices biodynamic viticulture.

Ocone 2006 Greco Taburno Campania ($16) 89

This Ocone Greco is a golden lemon colored wine made from the traditional Greco grape, reputedly brought to the region by the ancient Greeks. The nose is redolent of waxy honeycomb, very ripe stone fruit and a hint of marzipan.. On the palate there are pleasant flavors of pear, wax, and a hint of pine needles; it finishes clean with slight bitterness. All told, an interesting and well-made wine that cries out to be paired with food.

Importer: The Marchetti Co.

Ocone 2003 Ocone Aglianico del Taburno Taburno ($16) 87

Relatively light and innocent for an Aglianico, this is an easy-drinking wine of mild black cherry flavors. The nose is quite lovely—plum, black olive and leather—but the promise of the bouquet doesn’t fully carry through to the quite dry palate.

Importer: The Marchetti Co.


Matané 2007 Primitivo di Mandaria Puglia ($NA) 88

This is a simple but tasty bottling of 100% Primitivo. Dark ruby in color with a nice, fruity nose, a soft attack, and appealing black cherry and pepper on the palate, this wine is both fun to drink and very reasonably priced.
Importer: Empson USA Inc.

Matané 2007 Primitivo-Merlot Tarantino Puglia ($20) 91

The Il Mantane is a creamy, big black wine that is simultaneously intriguing in personality and fun to drink. A blend of 70% Primitivo and 30% Merlot, it's opaque ruby in color with expressive violets, minerals and blue and black berries on the nose followed by a soft attack. It’s packed with big, juicy blackberry and cassis flavors and round tannins on the finish.

Importer: Empson USA Inc.


Lagaria 2006 Syrah-Nero Davola Sicily ($NA) 87

This fruity, well-made dark ruby blend shows rich, fruity aromas. The medium weight, straightforward palate is spicy blackberry with a fairly tart mid-palate and good acidity. Overall, this is an appealing, everyday wine that you might just want to drink every day. It goes wonderfully with pizza.

Importer: Empson USA Inc.

MandraRossa 2006 Fiano Sicily ($11) 88

The 2006 MandraRossa Fiano is a ripe and full flavored offering clean fresh floral aromas with white peach and tropical fruit flavors.  Beautifully balanced and fresh tasting with a touch  of sweetness, it would be hard to find a Fiano of this high quality for the price.  Importer:

Importer: Palm Bay International.

MandraRossa 2006 Nero d'Avola Sicily ($11) 88

It is hard to find a Nero d' Avola as good as this one for the price. This MandraRossa (like the others in the series), displays an up front ripe fruit character. It offers easy drinking black cherry fruit aromas, with ripe fruit flavors, excellent balance, good acidity and a dry finish.

Importer: Palm Bay International.


Planeta is a large family winery owned and operated by cousins Alessio, Francesca and Santi Planeta assisted by oenologist  Carlo Corino. In a little over a decade since it was established, Planeta has become one of Sicily’s top producers. The winery has acquired over 60 hectares and produces outstanding wines from both international and native varieties.

Planeta 2006 Cerasuolo di Vittoria Sicily ($23) 90

The Cerasuolo di Vittoria is a lovely blend of 60% Nero d 'Avola and 40% Frappo. It displays attractive perfumed cherry scents with ripe spicy cherry on the attack. On the palate it boasts beautifully balanced and delicious fruit with a dry spicy aftertaste on the finish.

Importer: Palm Bay International.

Planeta 2006 La Segreta Bianco Sicily ($16) 89

La Segreta Bianco is a blend of 50% Grecanico, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Viognier. It is yellow gold in color and offers lovely aromas of tropical fruit, pineapple, honey and minerals. On the palate it is crisp and dry with clean fresh fruit flavors. Very well done and offered at a terrific price.

Importer: Palm Bay International.

Planeta 2006 La Segreta Rosso Sicily ($16) 89

La Segreta Rosso is a blend of 50% Nero d'Avola, 25% Merlot, 20% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Franc. Medium ruby in color it exhibits aromas of raspberry and black cherry. On the palate it is soft and spicy with dried red berries and good acidity.

Importer: Palm Bay International.

Zisola 2006 Zisola Sicilia IGT Sicily ($26) 91

This is one of the finest Nero d'Avola wines we have tasted. Produced by the Mazzei family of Tuscany, this elegant bottling exhibits a dark ruby purple color with aromas of blackberry and dark cherry fruit spice. It has a generous and soft texture on the attack and reveals lovely ripe spicy black fruit flavors rounded tannins and a long finish.
Importer: Palm Bay International.


The Shardana 2004 Valli di Porto Pino is produced by importerNeil Empson and one of Italy’s most respected consulting winemakers, Giacamo Tachis.

Santadi 2004 Shardana Valli di Porto Pinot IGT Sardinia ($37) 92

A blend of 90% Carignano and 10% Shiraz, the opaque ruby carmen 2004 Shardana reflects its unique vineyard—sandy soils at the edge of the sea with 100 year old pre-phylloxera vines. Oenologist Piero Cella gives the Shardana 10 months in barrique to yield a truly original wine with complex aromas of earth, herbs, roasted meat, and cedar. On the palate there is the sensation of black pepper, ripe dark fruit, and tar with a touch of licorice on the finish. This is a well-balanced, superb wine!

Importer: Empson USA Inc Alexandria, VA

By Mike Potashnik and Donald Winkler, February 2009