The story of Ciro Picariello embodies 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! In that moment, it became our 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 back in 1997, but their first vintage under their own label was not until 2004. Their 12 hectares of vineyards are located at relatively high elevation in the province of Campania, 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 slightly shorter, 7-8 months. Use of SO2 is minimal; the wines are not filtered nor fined. The flagship white is the Ciro 906 bottling of Fiano made from a single parcel (#906 on the official Avellino map) at 650 meters in elevation. This parcel has their oldest vines, the first planted by Ciro back in 1990. This wine is not produced every year, only in colder vintages with more acidity. It stayes 12 months on the lees in steel followed by 18 months in the bottle before release.
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 their younger vines aging two to seven years old. It could easily compete with many of the top Fiano’s on the market. Their only red is an Irpinia Aglianico named Zi Filicella after Ciro's wife's mother from whom they inherited the land on which the cellar is built. THe Aglianico is sourced from 100+ year old vines trained in the traditional "Raggiera Avellinese" style which is a type of tall pergola system with widely spaced vines. The Aglianico ferments in steel with spontaneous fermentation and ten day maceration then ages in steel for 24 months. Big news at the winery is that they might purchase a cask in order to produce a Taurasi from these vines from the 2019 vintage. 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.