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Meet Gragnano, the Secret Wine of Italy’s South

Appetito's wine expert, Gianluca Rottura, introduces our readers to a gem from Campania that pairs perfectly with pizza and pasta.

bottle and glass of Gragnano wine.

Gragnano wine is a lesser-known sparkling red from Campania that is worth getting to know.

When we opened In Vino Veritas on Manhattan's Upper East Side in1997, we were among the first to do many things. From our look, service, and background, we proudly stood out and helped shape the landscape of wine and how it relates to food in New York, which then trickled to the rest of America, and then the world.

Our true distinction throughout has been introducing unheard-of wines, especially Italian, to the public. In fact, we carry wines from Italy that are so obscure, Italians from different regions, and sometimes even those from the same region from where the wines come, have never heard of them.

One of our favorites has to be Gragnano. In the early 2000s, we finally found this local Campanian wine we enjoyed since childhood imported from Italy, and we ordered it immediately. At In Vino Veritas, we are loyal to Cantine Federiciane and find it the best expression of Gragnano wine. We were among the very first anywhere in the World to sell Gragnano outside of the town where it’s made!

People were not only unaware of red sparkling wines but had no idea there are wines that can be less bubbly than Champagne and easier to drink with food. Some clients are used to sweet Lambrusco, with fewer familiar with the dry versions, which we used as a gateway to Gragnano. We nicknamed Gragnano the “Lambrusco of the South.”

Like a fine, dry Lambrusco, Gragnano pairs very well with salumi and cheeses, as well as appetizers and party starters. With a low alcohol of 10.5%, it’s easy to drink leisurely and match with a variety of foods. Though dry, it is fruity and comes with nice bright notes of cherry and chocolate. Served chilled, it’s even an ideal picnic wine. The best match would be, by far, pizza. In fact, it’s even referred to as “the pizza wine.” 

When I first created pizzaandcoffee.com in 2008, I made sure to include Gragnano. A year later, my friends at Kestè helped launch the Neapolitan pizza explosion, and with thousands opening up after, our phones were ringing off the hook for Gragnano. We had customers from pizzerias in other boroughs and cities traveling to us for it. Of course, it also goes well with the local Panuozzo, a sandwich made from pizza dough. Gragnano also pairs with Panuozzo’s flatter cousin, the Saltimbocca that my friends at San Matteo Pizzeria make but call Panuozzo. (Note: This Saltimbocca sandwich is not to be confused with the meat dish of the same name.)

A few other facts to know about Gragnano:

  • It is made mostly from the Piedirosso grape and sometimes with Aglianico.
  • It’s named after an eponymous town.
  • A nearby paese, Lettere, also makes very similar wine, served as a “backup” when Gragnano is sold out.
  • The town of Gragnano is a comune of Naples but is further south and serves as an entry point to the stunning Amalfi Coast.

I saved the most famous food product Gragnano is known for last. The town is surely world-renowned for its Gragnano pasta. It is considered the best spot in the world for producing pasta, with the nearby town of Torre Annunziata a close second. Pasta production in Gragnano was so historically important that the streets were filled with racks of fresh pasta left out to dry, with the town layout providing the perfect distribution of sea breezes and heat. Nowadays, modern technology has brought pasta drying indoors. It also has brought the Gragnano wines from the producers to me and, and now I bring this gem of a wine to you!

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