The story of Ciro Picariello represents another one of those “Ah-ha” moments on the wine trail. I was having dinner with some importer friends (at the superb restaurant, Frasca, in Boulder, CA) and we started with the usual throw-down of big boy Whites…Coche, Lafon, Dagueneau, Raveneau, etc. One of the attendees – Ciro’s California importer – quietly slipped in a 6-year old bottle of Fiano di Avellino on the table. Not only did the wine hold its own in that elite company, but it ended up being the bottle that that was drained first, with everyone fighting over the last sip! So, at that moment, we started on a mission to track down this great under-the-radar producer.
Ciro Picariello has quickly become one of the star producers of Fiano di Avellino. He and his wife started their winery in 1997 but their first vintage under their own label was not until 2004. Their 7 HA of vineyards are located at relatively high elevation in the province of Campania; the vineyards are divided between the villages of Montefredane (1,600 feet above sea level) and Summonte (2,100 feet). The harvest for the Fiano occurs in late October, very late for white wine. The grapes are hand-picked and carefully sorted and then pressed slowly with only the first press fraction used in the DOCG Fiano. The wines are then fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless tanks. The Fiano is aged on its fine lees for an extended period between 11-12 months (plus several months more in bottle before release), with the Irpinia Fiano and reds slightly shorter, 7-8 months. Use of SO2 is minimal; the wines are not filtered or fined.
Picariello’s Fiano Di Avellino is a wonderful, textured, phenolic white wine that is bursting with an underlying minerality imparted by the volcanic soils of the region. The wine drinks well on release, but can also age beautifully, 10-15 years easily. In fact, in good vintages, Ciro holds back some bottles to release at a later date.
The rest of the Picariello range includes his entry-level Fiano d’Irpinia, made from vines that are less well exposed as well as the second pressing of the DOCG. It could easily compete with many of the top Fiano’s on the market. Next is his ‘Campania Rosso’ made from mostly Aglianico with some Sciacinosso and Piedirosso. It is a lovely herb and tar-scented, mineral, middle weight red, made in a very drinkable style. Lastly, he purchases some Greco from which he makes about 3,000 bottles of floral and citrusy Greco. We are proud to be representing Picariello for our markets and encourage you to try these unique, age-worthy, and reference-point wines.