Cooking lesson with Mamma and wine tasting in the city of Avellino (Region Irpinia)
Avellino, city, Campania region, southern Italy, on the Sabato River surrounded by the Apennines, east of Naples. Its name is derived from Abellinum, a stronghold of the Hirpini (an ancient Italic people) and later a Roman colony, the site of which lies just to the east of the modern city. Conquered by the Lombards in the 8th century and destroyed by the Holy Roman emperor Otto I the Great, Avellino passed in turn to the princely families of Balzo, Filangieri, and Caracciolo. In the rising of 1820, the first attempt was made to obtain a constitution from the king of Naples. The city became part of the Italian kingdom in 1860. Avellino is largely modern, for it has suffered from numerous earthquakes in its history, the most recent in 1980.
The main feature of this place is the clay component, that makes local wines so distinctive.
Some of the most exciting and intriguing wines coming out of Italy have one thing in common: the volcanic origins of their soils and, temperature ranges between day and night make these wines outstanding.
The volcanic soils impart undeniable mineral sensations that include flint, crushed rock and saline, lending depth and complexity to the resulting wines.
Additionally, many of these grape-growing areas have extremely old vines, some more than 100 years old in parts of Campania. Nearly all of the “volcanic” denominations rely on native varietals that have had centuries to adapt to their growing conditions.
The vineyard altitude, grape varieties and cellar practices all play crucial roles in the final product, but volcanic soils lend structure, longevity and an extra layer of dimension to the final wines.
There are three great DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. This is the highest classification Italian wines can be awarded. It means that there are (controllata) controlled production methods and (garantita) guaranteed wine quality with each bottle),wines from the province of Avellino:’Fiano’, ‘Taurasi’ and ‘Greco di Tufo’. The last of the three might be the most familiar but both the Fiano and the Taurasi are superb.
‘Greco di Tufo‘ is the most ancient of the grape varieties and was originally imported to Italy by the Greeks from Thessalia and by the Pelasgi.
The grapes were first grown on the slopes of Vesuvius where today the wine is sold under the name ‘Lacryma Christi’.
‘Fiano di Avellino’ has covered the hills of Irpinia since the Samnites were masters and rulers. Unlike, the ancient inhabitants, this wine is subtle, dry and suited to light pasta and fish. It is said that Fiano excels here, thanks to high rainfall, dramatic day and night temperature swings and the soil: volcanic soils and clay deposits,
‘Taurasi’ is a full bodied red and ideal for seasoned cheeses and meats. It has been a great wine since the days of classical Greece and is still in demand. It must be aged and is made from the Aglianco grape.
Irpinian cuisine is characterized by the fertility of the land and its people’s devotion.
The relationship between man and the land has allowed the Province of Avellino to make products high in quality. The distance from the sea, whose flavors are the trademark of the regional cuisine, is balanced by the quality of the meat, especially of sheep and pork. Some examples are capocollo, soppressata, pancetta and the fiocco di prosciutto.
Cheese production is also remarkable, thanks to the milk obtained from the Laticauda and Bagnolese sheep breeds: Pecorino Carmasciano (still prepared traditionally), Pecorino Bagnolese (with its slightly piccante aftertaste), Ricotta Laticauda (fresh and light but with a strong milky flavor) are only a few examples of the specialties found in the Avellino area.
To be fully enjoyed, cold-cuts and cheeses need nothing more than a slice of the Irpinian bread, still made in traditional fashion, to confer to the breads of Calitri, Iurmano and Montecalvo their unique shape, smell and taste.
Peperone Quagliettano, cipolla ramata and Montoro’s artichoke, and Volturara Irpina beans are some of the best examples of the characteristic products of this land, flavors that delight the taste buds when eating bean soup with friselle, a ciambottella, or the Santa Lucia cicci.
As far as desserts are concerned, the area is famous for its torrone, made with the local hazelnuts or chestnuts. The crumbly spantorrone is wrapped in sponge cake dipped in rum and Strega liqueur.
The excellent Extra-Virgin Olive Oil is the main ingredient in just about any local dish, and three excellent wines can be found in abundance: the Taurasi, with an intense smell but smooth flavor; Greco di Tufo, fruity with a slight almond aftertaste; and the Fiano di Avellino, protected and guaranteed by the DOCG label.