Wines by Grape
Fiano is a high-quality, white-wine grape variety used widely in southern Italy, particularly in Campania. Used mainly as a varietal wine, Fiano is nutty and textured with floral and honeyed notes, spice and tropical fruit flavors like pineapple. Its main incarnation is as Fiano di Avellino DOCG wine.
The variety has been grown in southern Italy for hundreds of years, and many researchers have suggested that this is one of Pliny the Elder’s viti apiane (although this is now widely contested). The first mention of Fiano comes in the 13th Century, and just prior to the phylloxera crisis of the late 19th Century, the grape was widely planted in Campania. Following phylloxera’s devastating effects, the grape was almost forgotten until the 1970s and 1980s, when it was rediscovered first by local producers and then by consumers. Now, wines made from Fiano are very much in vogue, and are found on wine lists around the world.
Fiano thrives in the volcanic soils of the Apennine Mountains. Terroir is particularly important to Fiano, and can have a big impact on the finished wines, which range in style from taut and minerally to nutty and rich. Fiano can develop a sweetness that makes it extremely attractive to bees, as referenced by its traditional name, Vitis apiana (“the vine beloved of bees”).
Many winemakers use various winemaking techniques to play up Fiano’s natural qualities. The most important of these is lees contact, a process where the wine is left to mature with the by-products of fermentation: dead yeast cells, seeds and skin fragments, as well as other particles. This contact can add texture and weight to the finished wines, as well as added flavor.
While Fiano is best known for its dry wines, it is also made into dessert wines, usually through the traditional Italian method of air-drying. Sweet Fiano wines are luscious and textured, developing dried fruit flavors like fig and prune.
In Sicily, Fiano is gaining attention as a varietal wine, and in Puglia it is permitted in the Martina Franca DOC. A handful of Fiano vines are also planted in South Australia and the United States. The best examples can improve with 2-3 years of bottle age.