Southern Italy: please comment my choices on the "wine part" of the trip

Hi guys,

I did some research on Southern Italian wines and compiled those which look like typical for these regions: Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily. I will be glad if you kindly find a minute to comment on my choice.

My goal is to try those really typical for every mentioned region and of course I want to focus on the best ones within my budget. Since I will spend about a week in each region let’s say there’s a budget of US$12-15 for a bottle of “daily” wine and US$20-30 for a bottle of a “souvenir” wine to take back home.

I want to try both - red and white ones, as for the taste style - between 2 equally good wines I will prefer the one which is sweeter (e.g., Moscato, Riesling) vs. dry (e.g., Cabernet, Chardonnay). However, if in some region the best variant within my budget is a dry wine - I’ll be fine with that. OK, so here is my compilation - with particular names [in brackets]:


  • Piedirosso, earth [Campi Flegrei DOC] - they say Piedirosso is “softer” than Aglianico
  • Aglianico, earth - in particular Taurasi [Falerno del Massico]
  • Tintore de Tramonti, earth - they say it’s very rare and worth to try
  • Casavecchia, fruit
  • Scianscinoso, fruit


  • Fiano, fruit [di Avellino]
  • Greco, fruit [di Tufo]
  • Falanghina, fruit [Falerno del Massico Bianco]

PUGLIA (they say wines are not the strongest side of this region, however several are worth to try)

  • Primitivo, fruit [Primitivo di Manduria]
  • Negroamaro, fruit [Salice Salentino - a highly recommended one]
  • Uva/Nero de Troia, earth [Castel del Monte DOC]

Not aware of any good ones, which is a pity given that Puglia is a seafood region of Italy

BASILICATA (also not much of a wine region)

  • Aglianico, earth [del Vulture - a highly recommended one]

Not aware of any good ones, however Basilicata is mainly a meat region, so not a big deal


  • Magliocco, fruit
  • Gaglioppo, fruit [Ciro DOC Rosso]


  • Greco di Bianco, fruit - a highly recommended dessert wine, which can’t be easily bought though


  • Perricone, earth
  • Nero d’Avola, fruit [Planeta La Segreta]
  • Nerello, fruit - they say Nerello Mascalese grapes is especially good [Etna Rosso DOC - a highly recommended one]
  • Frappato, fruit


  • Zibibbo, fruit [Passito di Pantelleria - a very highly recommended one; Moscato di Pantelleria - a highly recommended one]
  • Grillo, fruit [Stemmari Grillo]

Please feel free to comment both grapes and particular wines in brackets - any help is very much appreciated, specifically difference in taste, quality, etc.

Thank you!

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Don’t care for the sweeter wines so can’t help you in that. But having been there many times, I know I love the better fiano’s (and falanghina’s) for whites. I don’t like big heavy reds which are a lot of the red’s, I love Etna Rosso’s and think those are the best reds in Southern Italy. But the dimension there is not sweet vs dry but big vs elegant. I don’t like Aglianico, nor do I like California Cabernet.

I would bother bringing back daily drinkers if that’s your goal.

I think your daily drinker budget is just a touch light, for that range, just go with the house recommendation at dinner. I find the cheapest bottle they gave is a nice step up from the house wine, and whatever it is, go with that.

Thank you for your comment! Well, if you say $10-15 per bottle is not enough, I thought of another strategy (similar to what you recommend): go to the restaurant (or vineyard), try 1 glass of each from my list, choose those I like most and then buy them in bottles. This allows to save some money and choose favourites pretty fast. Nonetheless, it supposes that the give-it-a-try list is ready at hand. My post is an attempt to compose such a list

I agree the house wine is often pretty decent. However, firstly - as many “houses” so many wines (which is not in line with my goal to try region-best ones), secondly - it’s the business at the end of the day and as an owner you sell that, what brings you the max revenue, which is either your own wine, or the one you manage to keep on buying under commercially attractive conditions (which brings a certain bias to my case, right?)

That’s why I Googled quite a lot before placing my post here (my first one, btw), as I understand one can’t go unprepared to the wine forum. [cheers.gif]

I rather prefer elegant ones myself, so coming back to particular wines from your reply: Aglianico is that very big one, that’s why you don’t like it, right? If you had a chance to try Piedirosso - is it more elegant?

Hi Jiri
Sweet / dessert wines not as much of a strong point in the south, but I’d definitely recommend Moscato di Trani from the charming seaside town (Trani). Unlike Asti’s more famous wine, it’s still and with a little more body. Aleatico in sweet red form is definitely worth a try, though it’s not something that appealed much to me.

The Campanian whites listed are what you should see most of, but there are other good interesting grapes there e.g. Biancolella. Meanwhile the fancy bottle probably ought to be Taurasi, which can range from reasonably modest e.g. the benchmark Mastroberdino Radici, up to some approaching $200 a bottle (which I’ve not tried)

Puglian whites - yes there are some, e.g. the eponymous whites of Locorotondo, but there’s not anything that springs to mind to seek out, but do try them anyway. Good to see Castel del Monte / Nero di Troia grape mentioned with the reds, and again another benchmark here is Rivera’s Il Falcone. Primitivo makes for an interesting comparison, with some emulating Zinfandel at 16-18% alc, whilst others keep alc% down at 13-14%. I rather enjoy the lower alcohol ones, but it’s very much a personal taste thing.

Others know Sicily wines better than me, though I’ll recommend a red wine from famous dessert wine (Malvasia di Lipari) producer ‘Hauner’. The red is called Hierà and the grape is apparently called ‘Nocera’, but this is a wine that seems to shout terroir, giving a solid hint of the volcanic aroma of Vulcano where at least some of the vines are located. It’s modestly prices but for me far more interesting than it has any right to be at that price.

Calabria and Basilicata I’ve really not explored much, so can’t add to what you’ve said. However do keep an eye out for the honey (miele) of Fragiacomo in Lamezia Terme. A wonderfully wide range of honeys and they made the best miele balsamico I’ve ever had, called ‘31 erbe’. It has a huge punch to it that feels like it would stop any cold in its tracks.

Three sort of related, but strong recommendations:

  1. Ian d’Agata’s Native wine grapes of Italy. Given the strong interest you clearly have in exploring the grapes and wines, this book may be the best wine book you’ll ever have. It’s very much a passion project, of someone who loves the wines so much that he is happy to study and research grape varieties, wine and the regions you find them in, making it a rare instance of a technically strong book, that is nonetheless very accessible as his enthusiasm springs from the page.

  2. Enoteche (singular Enoteca). I don’t know if you’ve been to Italy before, but on the offchance not, the enoteche of Italy are a wonderful place to explore wines. Ignoring for a moment the ones that are merely shops, they’ll serve a range of wines by the glass, often strong on local wines. This allows some easy exploration, but on top of that many serve lighter dishes of food that we’ve had great joy from over the years, with standards really very high. This does help avoid the over-eating problem that eating out twice a day can cause.

  3. Agriturismi(o). Again, this may be totally familiar to you, but if not there are dual charms. Firstly of often surprisingly good accommodation, based on farms (including wineries), that can often give some welcome calm after a day out and about. Secondly, the ones that serve food, are often one of the great bargains. They typically have a fixed menu of far too much food, so pace yourselves. The produce is typically all local and mostly traditional dishes, but some have surprising flair. On top of that, they are very popular with local Italian families / groups (always a good endorsement) and this can bring a more intimate / embedded in the culture feel. In Puglia these may be called by the more local term for a farm ‘Masseria’, and I’d recommend one such place (more for food than accomodation, though the latter looks to have improved noticeably since we stayed) in the village of Speziale (di Fasano)

Finally, feel free to ask for recommendations on places to stay, things to see here, but I’ll also recommend the cosy travel forum which isn’t large, but more than makes up for it with very strong experience. It’s also very good at seeking out the ‘real’ Italy, rather than the at times artificial mass tourist trail. That thinking matches well with your approach of a week in each of the Southern regions.


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Keep in mind that sweet wines in Italy may not be as sweet as dessert wines elsewhere. There are always easily available dessert wines in the south and some very good ones. Some of the best are From the Sicilian islands - Pantelerria or Aeolian. Most are reasonably priced - but taste a few before you buy to make sure they are aligned with your palate and expectations. And also be aware that some of the primitivo are offered in a sweet version. Anything labeled passito is usually a sweet wine.

Greco di Bianco can be easily found very far south and on the east coast of Calabrian in most stores - you may need to ask for it and the bottle may be a flask. But my favorite drink in Calabria is Bergamotto and I wouldn’t hesitate to bring back a bottle or two. The other drink in Calabria is liquorizia- not Sambuca - but a thick dark brown/black drink that is sweet black licorice. Librandi in Ciro is the standard for many Calabrian wines (their Rosato is very good), but the west coast near Lamezia has a few wineries, like Lento, that are interesting and offered tours pre-Covid. Lento’s Federico II (secondo) is an excellent red as is Gravello from Librandi.

We usually drink whites in Southern Italy due to food pairings - a few favorites you’ve mentioned in your notes - Fiano, Falaghina, Greco di Tufo, Malvasia, but also the Sicilian whites. You won’t go wrong, but they don’t reach the level of sweetness or sugar of a Riesling. You should be able to find whites in your price range at most markets or at the wineries.

Aglianico is a big red and may require some aging. Drink first before buying. Nero di Troia is a fun wine and the better producers make a wine that’s lights out, but likely not in the price range you’ve noted.

Anything south of Napoli is my favorite part of Italy - so enjoy your trip!


Don’t overthink it. Have fun. Drink some wine.

My company represents several wineries in these regions. I try them all the time so I know they’re good.
Caruso & Minini-Marsala (Try their Perricone)
Tenuta di Castellaro–Lipari (try their dessert wine)
Vestini Campagnano–Campania/Vulture
Cantina del Taburno (co op, reasonably priced everyday wines)
Luigi Maffini-Campania/Cilento
Produttori di Manduria
Schola Sarmenti

Some other wineries I’ve visited in Campania which I highly recommend:
Fuedo di San Gregorio
Salvatore Molettieri
San Salvatore
de Conciliis
Marisa Cuomo

Have fun!


Yes, by the glass in restaurants, winery visit and drinking wine by the glass in enoteche are all reasonable options. What’s nice in much of Italy, and is usually true where you’ll be, that restaurant markups on wine are rather small, so tasting a good wine with your meal, opens you up to buying a bottle off them to take home. The Enoteca / Winery prices may be a little cheaper, but not by much - not worth worrying about IMO.

I think commercial decisions are often quite simple in this region, more likely to be influenced by being friends with the winery owners, than thoughts of getting a big markup on one wine over another (as I mentioned above, markups are very modest indeed)

Research is great, it will give you a familiarity on arrival that can help you feel comfortable. e.g. seeing Greco di Tufo and knowing it is a bright refreshing dry white wine will help. I’ll admit to enjoying such prep, which typically extends to specialist food shops, market days, quirky local sights, birrerie, enoteche, restaurants, coffee roasters etc. etc. I’ll use a small fraction of it, but nonetheless it is lovely to decide that we ought to have some lunch, and know what places there are to either dine-in, or buy from to take home. It makes me feel less lost and hence more at home - it also let’s me ‘enjoy’ the holiday before I’ve even arrived [cheers.gif] .

I would say that rather than seeking ‘the best’ of a region, seek what is typical, as this can be much more informative (and for me, often better value). You’ll get good wines in the €15-€20 region, and Puglia especially is a region where there can be stupendous value in this range, but also a few duds.

I’d say that Aglianico and indeed Taurasi can be very elegant indeed, albeit especially in Taurasi with a good firm structure of tannins and acidity. Elegant in the way a person can be austere yet elegant. I’ve not had much exposure to Piedirosso, and IIRC only in blends, so I’m loathe to say anything firm, but my impression is that it’s lighter / lacks the tannicity of Aglianico. Best to get other views though.

p.s. having an interest in the local wines, and showing you’ve taken enough interest to know names of grapes and wines, will go down very well locally. There is often great pride (it’s an Italian thing in general) in what is very local to them, so asking for a Marisa Cuomo or Tramonti wine on the Amalfi coast or a Salice Salentino in Lecce, will go down well.

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Haven’t tried that, but no red wine grown in a hot climate will be elegant in my opinion. Etna Rossi are grown at elevation that is cooler than most of southern Italy. They are the only southern Italian reds I like (with some exceptions for well aged Duca Enrico , 25 years +).

The difference in profit margin is minimal at that price range.

Trying by the glass is a good approach.

To be clear, I didn’t recommend the house wine, although they can be nice. I recommended something in a bottle that is at the low end of the range. The major rule is to get a local bottle, not one from another area.

Also, I defer to Ian in most things Italian😀

How many cases do you intend to bring back? I’ve fine it, but didn’t bother in the low price range, the magic of the inexpensive wines is drinking them in situ. You can bring back the wine, but not the sun and the sea. I only bothered with higher end wines, or just a few bottles for souvenirs, as it isn’t really much of a savings.


@Ian Sutton
Hi Ian, thank you so much for your detailed and really very informative reply - you absolutely precisely understood my approach and desire to dive a bit deeper into Italy itself and its wines in particular. Though I’m a newbie yet in all that big wine world, I prefer to start from right positions, whenever possible. rolleyes And I highly appreciate your help here.

Malvasia delle Lipari white looks like is worth a try as well (e.g. Passito or Liquoroso, which is sweet above average) - good reviews actually…

Well, I find the idea of exploring wine by glasses very attractive and practical too. Hence, vineyards could be good POI along my way, but I won’t rely much on Google’s reviews. Don’t you occasionally know some Italian vineyard rankings? Kinda database…

Helpful info, thank you! By the way, very sweet wines are not my choice for regular drinking, so here Italy is “aligned” with my taste. [highfive.gif] However, good muscats - infrequently - happens with me too.
As for Primitivo, I may be mistaken in my conclusions, but since it can vary in alc.% (like Ian Sutton mentioned) and also be either dry or sweet (your “heads up”) - looks like a “house” wine for me, i.e. hundreds of varieties, while I want to try something more “stable” to return to later, even when I’m not in Italy.

I have now the whole bunch of liquors to try in Calabria, which seems to specialize in them: amaro, bergamotto, cedro, liquirizia. [swoon.gif]

It’s not easy to not overthink, as I will be driving car, so I have to limit quantity in favor of quality. Thank you so much for wineyards, looks like I will need their option of trying wine by glasses.
By the way - what are the principles of wineyards from the assortment perspective? Do they usually sell their own wines (or wines from that particular sub-region, or macro-region, or no logic at all)?
Does the assortment change often? I mean if I find the wine I need on their website what are the chances they’ll run out of it? I’m talking of wineries which focus on degustation of wine, not dining, dancing, etc.

Well, for the regular restaurant price, i.e. the price will be higher than in a wine shop, right? Or am I not aware of some tricky local pricing policies?

That’s a very good trait of character I love in people. Being proud of your local stuff and motivating guests to try it by giving discounts and special “home-like” treatment is what makes small businesses very attractive.

By the way, some vines contain sulphites. Is it really bad and should I better look for non-sulphite alternative within the same price range?

Oh, definitely not “cases”. I planned to bring 1 bottle from each region (5 in total), but I guess even this possibly makes no sense and I’d better concentrate on finding my favourite ones and later will order them online from my country, like 2-3 bottles of each.
It was not a money-saving plan, but a symbolic “souvenir” thing, but it makes no much sense, I agree.

Thank you all guys for your invaluable imput and so much info to think of and invesigate further. You’re all great. [cheers.gif] [bow.gif]

Hi Jiri
My pleasure - it very much is a pleasure sharing an interest in Italy.

  • Malvasia delle Lipari indeed also recommended. Hauner is the established name, but others worth trying
  • In terms of vineyard / winery exploration, I do use Google maps as one tool amongst others. Where that shines for me is finding places that are near each other or even in walking distance of where we are staying (or cycling if there are bicycles available). I’ve had good luck with relatively unknown wineries this way and not worrying about driving is a joy. In addition, I used to like the Duemilavini / Bibenda wine guide, but moved away from that when they went online only. Not only do they list plenty of wineries, but also enoteche / restaurants with good wine lists (it’s the publication of the Italian Sommelier society). Not very good for wine, but wonderfully exhaustive for food is the Golosario (di Paolo Massabrio). In Italian only, but so easy to work stuff out by symbols, pictures etc. That book by Ian d’Agata also lists wineries and whilst I may disagree occasionally, it’s nonetheless it does list lots of producers that will give you a good idea of the grape / regional style.
  • Prices in a wine shop likely to be cheaper than restaurants, ~ 10-15% less than restaurants, though the fancier the restaurant / broader the wine list, that % can rise. Wineries can be cheaper, but not much so in my experience. Occasional acts of crazy generosity have occurred though e.g. Drei Dona in Emilia-Romagna giving us two bottles of (~ 12 years old) 1998 Magnificat merely out of respect for us walking about 1.5-2km up a gentle incline on a lovely sunny, but not overly hot day.
  • Visiting wineries - They’ll stock just their own wines (with the very occasional exception e.g. family friend’s wines). Yes they can sell out but it’s relatively rare. Unlike popular parts of Tuscany, it’s generally essential to pre-arrange a visit (I tend to do this by email a few weeks in advance). This might include a brief talk about the vineyards / grapes /soil / climate whilst looking out over them from a suitable vantage point, then onto the steel / wood etc. vinification vessels and their winemaking approach, then onto a bottling line if they have one, and then to the barrel storage and wines bottled up in storage. After that to the tasting and at the end of that the chance to buy some wine. Charging for this does vary from winery to winery, but a large number don’t charge.
  • Sulphites is a subject in its own right, but in short most wines contain them naturally, whilst some come from the winemaking process. I do think that some people have a degree of allergy to them, but suspect that many an allergy is ascribed to sulphites that could better be ascribed to the allergy of drinking too much wine! If you think it (sulphites allergy, not drinking too much!) is something that affects you, then do seek out ‘natural’ wines, though I’ve no idea where a listing of those might be (others may know).
  • Hospitality. As alluded to in the mention of Drei Dona above, Italian hospitality is generally very good indeed, but occasionally can be so generous it is shocking. There is a great tradition that a visitor is a guest, and ought to be treated like one. It’s very special.
  • Buying wine there / back at home. If visiting a winery, always ask if they have a distributor in you country. Even better than that, check their website in advance and then confirm this is still correct - they’ll love that you’ve taken that interest in them. FWIW I very much empathise with that limit on number of bottles to carry back. On my last trip we left with 1 suitcase and 1 full length rucksack… with another full length rucksack packed inside it. We returned with all 3 full (you have to play the numbers with Ryanair). Not just filled with wine, but all manner of food, my favourite deodorants, plus other things we bought there.
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I wouldn’t just visit wineries blind. I tasted a lot of mediocre Chianti before I just realized finding an enotecca gave me more variety with less hassle. Of course, if you know of a winery that you like, by sll means visit.

When I liked more modern wines, I’d get the Gambero Rosso guide. Might be worth it for this visit.

I used to bring empty shippers with me, bring them back full. But I had a three suitcase allowance.

Thank you Ian, I need to put in order now all the findings (in wide sense) I’ve made with your guys help. [thankyou.gif]

This was exactly the reason why I asked about kind of database, reputable among the wine society, as reviews on e.g. Google are mostly written by regular tourists, who value hospitality and prices - which is fine, but it’s outside of wine theme as such.

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Vincenzo is a great guy. I hope to make a visit some day.

Danielle’s Matera classes are going live:

Consider buying this book, a great

Dear Wine Berserkers,

may I ask you for a comment on the following topic (related to any wines, not specifically Italian ones): is wine made from 100% grapes of a certain type better than a blended wine?
For example, @Brent C l a y t o n recommended winery called Buscemi. I studied their assortment and found out that they have a Tartaraci 2016 wine, which is blended from 70% of Nerello Mascalese grapes and 30% of Grannacia grapes. On Vivino website (I use it here just for comparison with other wines I mention below) it costs $52.

I heard that Nerello Mascalese grapes is the one really worth to try, so found another wine - Alta Mora Etna Rosso 2017, which is 100% Nerello Mascalese and costs the same - $52. Later I found another 100% Nerello Mascalese - Tascante Ghiaia Nera Etna Rosso, which costs $21.

Based purely on price I can’t come to the conclusion that 100% wine is better or the same as a non-blended one, as 100% wine can cost the same or even twice cheaper than the blended one.
Is there any rule of a thumb here to know which is better based on “blended/non-blended” principle? For example, if I want to try Zibibbo grapes (which they recommend a lot) should I better try Passito di Pantelleria (which is 100% Zibibbo) or the wine where Zibibbo is blended with e.g. Pino Griggio grapes will be fine as well?

Thank you for your explanations on this topic. [bow.gif]

You just have to try them yourself to see what you prefer.

Well, on the one hand that’s an obvious strategy, but there still should be an explanation why the same grapes is used differently by different wineries.
If that’s (I’m just assuming) one of the ways to cut costs on expensive grapes by adding cheaper one, I’d rather prefer to drink 1 bottle of pure wine rather than 2 of its “cost-efficient” version.
If that’s the way to create variety of tastes, there should be some logic too, e.g. “avoid 50/50 blends - they open none of both tastes properly”, or “both types should be of the same taste/sweetness/whatever_else”, etc.

Just like I said - some basic rules of a thumb to remember about blended/non-blended types.

Hi Jiri
Absolutely no rule of thumb. Sorry.

Some of the most prestigious wines are blends of different varieties of grape
Some of the most prestigious wines use just a single *variety of grape

The same is true for the cheapest of commercial wines.

Where our ears might prick up, would be where:

  • A blend is produced in a region lauded for single grape variety wines. Often these are cheaper wines, blending to aim for a consistent style, but also using up grapes that they didn’t want to put in the fancy wines. Occasionally there is a maverick producer though, who believes in the blend and is happy to take the authorities on in order to have their wine / blend accepted in the community.
  • A single variety wine in a region lauded for blends. Difficult to pin down these as cheaper / more expensive, and will depend on the individual wine itself. Sometimes it’s an experiment, a rude gesture to the authorities, or simply the owner/winemaker believe in that single grape variety in that region.

I’m not that familiar with Sicilian / Etna blends, but have a vague recollection it’s not a common, but also not uncommon blend. I believe Nerello Mascalese & Nerello Cappuccio are the more common blend.

What would be brilliant in this instance, would be to find a Sicilian enoteca (wine bar) and ask if they have any red wines using native grapes, as you’d like to explore them. For many such places, that would be a moment of pride for you, not just sharing their knowledge on that wine / grape (blend), but also many would be tempted by such interest to open up a contrasting wine for your next glass. Indeed if going as a couple, it can be good fun / interesting to have two different wines side by side to taste.


  • and this ignores different mutations of the same grape. That book I mentioned further up by Ian d’Agata covers this in practical detail if it interests, or alternatively I daresay Jamie Good has a good ‘wine science’ book on the subject.

Hi Ian, thank you - good strategy, I agree. [cheers.gif] Actually, I study enotecas and cantinas these days, and it’s a pleasant process by itself - to read their websites and visitors’ reviews, etc. Takes time of course.

By the way, what about my strategy of choosing wineyards? What I currently do is:

  1. pick up the grapes name and the wine type (mainly by “red/white” principle) from my “must try” list that I’ve started this thread with (i.e. most interesting grapes/wines in each region of Southern Italy)
  2. go to Vivino, choose all wines for this type of grapes and sort them by # of stars, i.e. users’ ranking (5* is the max. in their system)
  3. choose those wines which have not less than 4* within my pricing range ($20-45)
  4. check which other wines (also in 4*+ category) do wineyards of those already chosen wines produce (surprisingly at least 50% have decent Aglianico as a “side” [or maybe vice versa - main] wine). The principle here is not to choose the vineyard with max. # of top-rated wines, but rather to keep in mind that this particular wineyard has several good wines, which could be interesting to compare, since the soil, weather and “hands” were the same
  5. check user reviews of the chosen winery on Google, exclude those with negative reviews or too “commercialized” ones

Do you think the above strategy could be a good one to “identify” good wines and wineyards with more or less high preciseness?
Should the wineyard with only 1 highly-rated wine (e.g. 4.3*) and all the others around only 3.3* ring any bells?
Is there any difference between wineries with 10 and 60 types of wine, does it mean that the first one potentially concentrates more on quality, while the latter is more focused on “commerce”?
Is Vivino wine ranking reliable? Which other websites (or even apps) with more or less fair ranking can you recommend?

Thank you!

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