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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
11 Jul 2014

From €12.25, 21 Swiss francs, $24.99,  £17.16, 167 Swedish krone

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It's hardly news that Italy is making some seriously exciting white wine. And what is particularly titillating is the sheer number of characterful and distinctive grape varieties responsible for them, as I pointed out last month in Mining Italy's riches.

Many of these Italian whites are best drunk young but I had the chance recently to taste vintages back to 1982 of what might be called the flagship Fiano, the top, single-vineyard Fiano di Avellino of one of Campania's leading exponents of it (and of Taurasi) Mastroberardino (see A long-lived dry white - Mastroberardino Fiano). I must admit that the 1982 was a bit long in the tooth for me, but all of the vintages in the 1990s that I tasted were still in fine shape. The 1992 has another three years' good drinking in it, for example.

But, as you can see from the prices listed above, this is not a wine that sells for grand cru burgundy prices. And nor is it difficult to find. It seems to be available in most European markets and is relatively well distributed in North America, Japan and Russia. (The Mastroberardinos, quite apart from having nurtured the Fiano variety from near-extinction in the 1970s, have been enthusiastic exporters for decades.)

Winesearcher.com (from which the image above was taken) lists serious stockists (as opposed to Italian eBay) for vintages back to 2010 but I am recommending in particular the two current vintages, 2012 and 2013. They are very different. The 2013 is already extremely approachable and charming whereas the 2012 is unusually concentrated and magnificent and will probably reward keeping for at least another couple of years.

Like the Aglianico red wine that is its Campanian counterpart, Fiano wines have obvious nobility. Much denser and less aromatic than the Puglian variety that used to be called Fiano Aromatico and has been renamed Minutolo, Fiano's character is much more on the mineral spectrum with hints of blossom, quinine, wax and smoke. And, as my vertical tasting of Mastroberardino's Radici Fiano di Avellino (DOCG, no less) demonstrated, it has admirable capacity to develop complexity with age. But the alcohol level is only around 13%.

The variety's undoubted quality has been recognised by others and it has been enthusiastically planted in Sicily and in Australia by the alternative varieties crew. But the fact that it is native to Campania, very possibly to the Avellino zone in mountainous country in the hinterland of Naples, with vineyards up to 600 m elevation, imbues the Mastroberardino wines with real intensity. It's the altitude that prolongs the growing season this far south. Our picture shows the vineyard responsible for this wine.

I think both 2012 and 2013 are bargains. But you will need patience to get the most out of the 2012.

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