As some of you know, one of my study methods is to create a quick “Top 10,” an at-a-glance list a few key points from a certain country or region. They’re broad, general facts that will test my memory (or, more like, alert me to the things I still have to memorize). I want to provide my Top Southern Italian 10 for you here, but I’ve included a few anecdotes as well—just a few findings that I found interesting that may help with memorization (or, at the very least, entertain you for a moment).

Mt. Etna, Sicily, Italy
Mt. Etna, Sicily, Italy

For basic information about Southern Italy’s wine region based on WSET Level 3, please see Wine Region Overview: Southern Italy


1. Campania has a warm Mediterranean climate; inland vines are planted at altitude (cooling influence); most varieties are late ripening.

INTERESTING ANECDOTE: “In spite of its southern location, Campania is known for its white wines, as daytime temperatures are largely mitigated by elevation in the mountainous inland (Campania boasts its own ski resorts) and its many DOCs and DOCGs are capable of retaining freshness and acidity in a warm climate.” —Oxford Companion to Wine (Fourth Edition).

Snow’s white, white wines—me (First Edition)

2. Campania can be organized by soil type:

    1. Limestone and clay soils in the hills, which provide balance between good drainage and adequate water retention. Mostly found in…
      1. Fiano di Avellino DOCG—white wine made with Fiano
      2. Greco di Tufo DOCG—white wine made with Greco INTERESTING ANECDOTE: Limestone was called ‘tufo’ by the Romans, hence Greco di Tufo (NOTE: it’s not tufo as we know it, as in the Loire…just FYI)
      3. Taurasi DOCG—red wine made with Aglianico
    2. Volcanic and sandy soils found near Naples:
      1. Campi Flegrei DOC—tuff, pumice, and sandy soils, typically fast-draining; wines principally from Falanghina or with Piedirosso for reds and rosés
        1. INTERESTING ANECDOTE: Campi Flegrei “the ‘fire fields’ named by the Romans who built thermal baths on the slopes of these extinct volcanoes” —Oxford Companion to Wine (Fourth Edition).
      2. Vesuvio DOC—wines made principally from Coda di Volpe (white wine) or Piedirosso; soil types same as above
    3. Alluvial sediments, found in a number of denominations, all of which make wines from a range of Campanian and Italian varieties, including…
      1. Sannio DOC
      2. Beneventano IGP

3. Campania is notable for wines made with local varieites:

        1. Falanghina “Campania’s signature white grape“* (Campi Flegrei DOC)
        2. Greco “Potentially fine, aromatic, but notably firm Campanian.”* (Greco di Tufo DOCG)
        3. Fiano “Rich, waxy, strongly flavored, fashionable southern Italian”* (Fiano di Avellino) DOCG
        4. Aglianico “High quality, late-ripening, tannic and ageworthy southern Italian red”* (Taurasi DOC)
        5. Piedirosso “Piedirosso, meaning ‘red feet,’ comes from the red color fo the stalk and the stem at harvest time, which look like the claws of a pigeon.”* (Vesuvio DOC)

4. Basilicata wine production is dominated by IGT or “wine” categories; most important DOC is Aglianico del Vulture DOC/Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOC

SAD FACTOID: “[Basilicata’s] name has become synonymous with the extreme poverty in, and abandonment of, much of Italy’s deep south. Little commercial or industrial activity exists, and the countryside has been drained by emigration since the end of the Second World War, while its unspoilt natural beauty still awaits any significant tourism boost to the regional economy.” —Oxford Companion to Wine (Fourth Edition).

5. Puglia is hot Mediterranean with moderating sea breezes, low rainfall, fertile soils, and permitted irrigation—most suitable for high volume production

INTERESTING FACTOID: “Its name derives from the Roman a-pluvia or ‘lack of rain.'” ——Oxford Companion to Wine (Fourth Edition). Pretty much confirms the above description. —me (First Edition)

6. Puglia key grapes:

    1. Primitivo (Primitivo di Manduira DOC; Gioia del Colle DOC) INTERESTING ANECDOTE: Gioia translates to “joy” in Italian; Colle translates to “glue” in French. Interestingly, Gioia del Colle DOC, despite its reputation for the higher quality grapes grown at elevation, is the one that requires the least amount of primitivo, allowing blending of other grapes such as Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Negroamara, and even the white wine grape, Malvasia (as well as other local and international varieties)—or “gluing” together to create the “joy” that is the region’s red wines. However, the region was so-named before some monk guy brought over the primitivo grape, which he named prima-tivo because of its early-ripening-ness (prima meaning first or early). —me and my remedial Italian and French (First Edition)
    2. Negroamaro “Makes sweet-tasting, early-drinking reds and some good rosés on the heel of Italy.”* (Salice Salentino Rosso/Riserva DOC)
    3. Nero di Troia/Uva di Troia “High-quality, flavorful, firm northern Puglian that has declined considerably in the last 40 years.”* (Castel del Monte/Riserva DOC/G)

7. Sicily produces both large volumes of bulk wine and distinctive local varieties

8. Sicily key grapes:

    1. Catarratto “Widely planted and variously named Sicilian white with potential for quality in the right hands.”* (allowed in many DOCs; often blended with Grillo, Inzolia and other local or int’l varieties)
    2. Grillo “Increasingly popular high-quality, full -bodied western Sicilian white.”* (allowed in many DOCs; often blended with Catarratto Inzolia and other local or int’l varieties)
    3. Inzolia “Nutty Sicilian white.”* [Nutty like…crazy? —me (First Edition)] (allowed in many DOCs; often blended with Grillo, Catarratto and other local or int’l varieties)
    4. Moscato—Three styles produced: Dry, Late Harvest, Passito
    5. Nero d’Avola “Sicilia’s most widely planted red wine variety valued for its color, full body and aging potential.”* (Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG)
    6. Nerello Mascalese “Important, noble Sicilian of particular signficance around Etna. The firmer, longer-lived Nerello.”* [That last sentence is in reference to Nerello Cappuccio—a common blending agent in the noted DOC. —me (First Edition) (Etna Rosso DOC)
    7. Carricante “Potentially very fine, crisp and distinctive Sicilian white variety”* (Etna Bianco DOC)

9. Sardinia has a warm Mediterranean climate, low rainfall but adequate rain for grape growing; cooling influence comes from altitude; warm winds come in from the sea

10. Sardinia key grapes

    1. Cannonau/Grenache Noir (Cannonau di Sardegna DOC)
    2. Vermentino (Vermentino di Sardegna DOC; Vermentino de Gallura DOCG)
    3. Carignano/Carignan (Carignano del Sulcis DOC)

These three you should know from other regions previously studied. —me (First Edition) 🙃

What are some of your amusing/interesting anecdotes that help you get through your studies? Let me know in the comments or contact me directly. Cheers!

*Quotes taken from “Wine Grapes” (Robinson, Harding, Vouilamoz)

BriscoeBites officially accepts samples as well as conducts on-site and online interviews. Want to have your wine, winery or tasting room featured? Please visit the Sample Policy page where you can contact me directly. Cheers!

Educational posts are in no way intended as official WSET study materials. I am not an official WSET educator nor do I work for a WSET Approved Program Provider. Study at your own risk. Read the full disclaimer.
**Please note: all reviews and opinions are my own and are not associated with any of my places of business. I will always state when a wine has been sent as a sample for review. Sending samples for review on my personal website in no way guarantees coverage in any other media outlet I may be currently associated with.**

Leave a Reply