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Campania VIII - The Aglianico Appellations: Taurasi DOCG.

Updated: Feb 19, 2018

I left you for a few days to digest some of the information on the white wines from Campania. We have learned quite a few. I hope that you have tried some of them and if you enjoyed it, you will be able to order them in a restaurant with a great wine list or buy them in a wine store.


You have expanded your wine vocabulary and your choices.


It is time to finally move to the red wines, and in particular to the Aglanico wines.


Remember how to pronounce it properly; listen to the pronunciation. It is a tricky word for the english speaking people,


It is time to refresh your memory on the grape, so go back to the blog: "The Red grapes from Campania". It suffices to say that "Aglianico is the king of Campania, it is also known as the Barolo of the South". ( We will talk at length about the Barolo, "the wine for the kings, the king of the wines" from Piemonte).


In the major DOCGs in Campania you can find varietal wines from Aglianico.


However Aglianico can also be found as blending partner in other appellations.


There is a conflicting trend in the wines industry, I have spoken with people who believe that the blending it is the way to produce wine. It is like creating synergy with the grapes, when the result is better than the sum of the elements.

You can merge the best characteristics of all the grapes in the blending formula ( set by the enologist). Think Bordeaux , they have been blending grapes ( Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc++) for centuries. However some of the strict "Disciplinari" of the DOCGs require the use of 85-100% of the grape in the region in question.


So if the modern enologist and wine producer would like to experiment wine blending away from the eyes of the strict Disciplinare ,he/she can't any longer use the "fascetta" and the DOCG name on the label of their wines. They will have to downgrade them to a lower appellation and therefore, unless their wine reach the "cult" status, won't be able to demand a fair price.


Welcome to the world of Wine Politics.


So nowadays the "IGT/P" category or "Table Wine" may hide treasures. The only way to find out is to search and talk to people in the industry. Sassicaia and the famous SuperTuscans are the "cult" example of what I just said. But I will leave that to when I will introduce Tuscany in a few months. Keep on reading.


Ok ! Lets go back to Aglianico, Introducing some of the iconic Appellations which produce the best wines.


Few days ago, Filippo (a great friend of mine) told me : "Please do not write that the best Aglianico is from Campania... because it not true; it is from Basilicata".. Sorry Filippo , although I agree that Basilicata has a great Aglianico ( I will talk about Basilicata in a few weeks) I do also believe that TAURASI is one of my favorite espression of the Aglianico varietal.


Taurasi DOCG


Taurasi is one of the most prestigious appellation in southern Italy. The wines of Taurasi are often compared with Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino, two of the most known and long lived Italian wines.


Taurasi is just one of 17 villages that form the appellation. The area almost overlap the Fiano appellation and also includes Lapio and Montefalcione. Taurasi was part of the "Wine Railroad" for the first few decades of the 20th century, producing bulk wines for the North for their wine industry. The second world war brought the area on its knees, the industry was destroyed.


But it was the passion of its iconic wine producer Antonio Mastroberardino , who almost alone in Campania continued through bad times to make and bottle wines. He was absolutely convinced that Aglianico could produce great age-worthy wines.


Mastroberardino released his Taurasi Riserva in 1968, a year that became a landmark in the history of this appellation. The wine was legendary and helped to give stature to the wines of Taurasi and Irpinia. In 1970 Taurasi received DOC status and in 1993 DOCG status. The first appellation to hold this prestigious status in Southern Italy.


Antonio Mastroberardino's knowledge of Campania wines was so profound that he helped to write the Disciplinare of the appellations of Taurasi, Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino and he was instrumental in the rebirth of the historic appellation Lacryma Christi.


The Aglianico grape thrives on vineyards at higher altitudes, around 400 to 500 meters above sea level. According to DOCG regulations, Taurasi wines must be aged a minimum of 3 years prior to release with at least 1 of those years being in wood. For wines labeled Riserva, the wines must be aged for at least 4 years.[1] The wines are made primarily from Aglianico though up to 15% of Barbera, Piedirosso and Sangiovese maybe be blended in.[2].


Like all the great wines, not all the Aglianico are made equal; they are truly expression of their TERROIR ( Remember). So you can find Taurasi Aglianico more approachable and less acidic to very structured , high acidic wines with full body.


The wines in the villages of Pietradefusi and Venticano are planted at lower elevation, therefore the harvest happens in the middle of October . The wines tend to be more approachable in youth and possess less acidity.


In Taurasi , NorthEast corner of the appellation, the grapes are planted at higher altitude and the climate is cooler; therefore the wines show higher acidity and are more elegant.


In the southern part of the appellation in the towns of Montemarano, Paternopoli and CastelFranci the vineyards are at higher elevation ( 2300 feet) the climate is continental with diurnal temperature swings. Harvest takes place in November. The wines are very structured with high level of tannins, acidity , extract and alcohol. These are the wines that will require a good bottle aging to show their full potential.


Taurasi Riserva DOCG “Vigna Quintodecimo”


Lets start from the most expensive and one od the most iconic Aglianico of Taurasi.

The Taurasi Vigna Quintodecimo, from the name of the lot (cru) where the grapes are planted , the planting happened in 2001 on the North West of the estate.The clay and calcareous soil are perfect for the creation of red wines with extraordinary elegance , with manual harvest and aging in barriques for 18-24 months. An exceptional Taurasi which reaches the best time within the fitst twenty years but keeps its great characteristics and beautiful bouquet for more years after that.

The color is dark ruby red . On the nose it shows a perfect balance of fruits, spices and floral notes in a single wine of elegance. The palate is intense, seductive , rich and exceptionally balanced by freshness. The tennis are velvety and elegant with a long finish.


Food Pairing.

The wine can be paired with rich dish with meat and long aged cheeses. The cost is between 250-$300 depending on the vintage.


Mastroberardino - Radici


Radici, produced for the first time in 1986, is the result of a long and careful research concerning exposure, soil profiles, soil texture and chemical characteristics of the vineyards’ terroir. Its strong, dense structure and the aromatic concentration are the most evident characters of this prestigious interpreter of Irpinian viticulture.

COLOR Deep ruby red.

BOUQUET Full, complex, fine, with notes of tobacco, spices, cherry, berries and balsamic aromas.TASTE It is enveloping, elegant and persistent with distinct notes of plum, bitter cherry, strawberry jam, black pepper and liquorice.

FOOD PAIRINGS Appetizers

  • Hard cheese, truffles, porcini mushrooms.

First courses

  • Ragout and dishes with long cooked sauces.

Second courses

  • Roasted red meats and spiced dishes

AGING POTENTIAL 50 years and more.

COST - $200-300 depending on vintage



An example of the best expression of Aglianico, this Taurasi is the main symbol of Irpinia culture and viticulture. Harvest after harvest, never disappointing expectations, Radici Taurasi preserves the full-bodied structure and elegant personality that has made it famous all over the world.

Vinification with long maceration on the skins at controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks. Refines for 24 months in French oak barriques and Slavonian casks and at least 24 months in the bottle before release.

COLOR Deep ruby red.

BOUQUET Full, complex and intense, with notes of cherry, violet, wild berries and a distinctive spicy aroma.TASTE Fascinating and elegant in the mouth. With flavors of plum, black cherry, strawberry and intense spices.

FOOD PAIRINGS Appetizers

  • Mature cheeses, truffles, porcini mushrooms.

First courses

  • Ragout and dishes with long cooked sauces

Second courses

  • Roasted red meats and spiced dishes

AGING POTENTIAL 50 years and more.

Cost - $60-$80 - More affordable wine as you move away from the Reserve only made in exceptional years.



Naturalis Historia is a cru made with grapes from an old vineyard in our estate in Mirabella Eclano. Great structure and longevity, it is the perfect testimony of Irpinia, a territory described by Virgil as a “land jealous of its many mysteries“.

Vinification with long maceration on the skins at controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks. Refines for 24 months in French oak barriques.

COLOR Deep ruby red.

BOUQUET Complex, full, intense and persistent, it offers aromas of violets, black currant, blackberry, and strawberry, black cherry, vanilla and chocolate.

TASTE Warm, enveloping, with great structure and softness, with aromas of plum, bitter cherry, raspberry, strawberry jam and spices.

COST: $50-65 depending to the vintage




A visit to Luigi Tecce can get you emotional. Luigi himself is a ball of them, and his Aglianico from Taurasi elicits them. His grandfather’s masseria (farmhouse) and vineyards are located in the Taurasi subzone known as Sud-Alta Valle (South-High Valley). It’s one of Taurasi’s high-altitude growing areas, having a soil that’s layered with sand, limestone and Vesuvius’ pumice; it’s also the dwelling of Luigi’s 80+ year old vine-trees. There’s no enologist and no agronomist, Luigi works in relative solitude. Maybe that’s why there’s such an affinity between him and the wines: exuberant and guarded, archaic and immediate, literary and literal; there’s something theatrical in their pleasure. The wines come from the tradition and grandeur of Mastroberardino’s Taurasi bottlings, but I feel Luigi’s one of a very limited group of Taurasi producers that are eclipsing the old master. ** Portovino

As with great Nebbiolo, vintage differences play a large role in how the final wines taste. Luigi’s wines ferment with native yeasts, and nothing, I mean nothing, is added to or subtracted from the wine. His craftiness, if you want to extend the Odysseus metaphor, comes from vineyard selection and mixing of the final barrels, and from the time-consuming and careful tending during harvest, where he makes three passes. The first picking is in early October, the grapes are not completely ripe, so they add extra acidity and freshness. The majority of the grapes are then picked in late October. In the early days of November, he picks the final bunches, which have grown throughout not only the summer days and nights, but also the fading autumn sun. ** Portovino


On the nose, Poliphemo releases heady chain of fruity, spicy and mineral notes. In the mouth charms for elegance and power, as only a truly excellent wine can do. After tasting the new vintages, we had the confirmation of what we think a long time: Luigi Tecce is one of the most visionary and competent producers of Italian wine.


The wine has a n average score of 93/100 and cost an average of $60. It is an outstanding niche wine from the Taurasi Region : Paternopoli.



Terredora - Taurasi - Campore


We have met Terredora during our Whites .. Of course the iconic winery produces great Aglianico Taurasi.


Deep ruby colour with garnet reflections; wide and complex bouquet with hints of black cherry, fruits of the forest, plums, spicy scents of violet, tobacco and mineral note. Full bodied, silky, elegant on the palate with de ned tannins and pleasant long nish. It will continue to age and develop for more than 10 years.

Food Pairings:

roast and grilled meats, game, wild boar, ragout, spicy dishes, truf es and aged cheeses as seasoned provolone, parmigiano or gorgonzola.

This is a perfect value wine at an average cost of $30-35


Donnachiara - "Taurasi di Umberto"


Here we enter in the world of great value Taurasi, something to try at a very reasonable price, if you can find it in US. It has a average score of 90/100; therefore to be considered an excellent wine.

Bouquet: Full, intence bouquet of blackberry, plum,cherry,with intence cacao and coffee notes Palate: Warm,dry,soft,with an elegant structure and great persistence that confirms and amplifies the olfactory sensations Serving temperature  60/64° F Food affinities:  Pasta with full body sauces, steak, game (wild, deer, boar, etc.) and long aging cheese Refining in bottle: 24 months 

Average price $35


Donnachiara also produces a Reserve which is more expensive but nevertheless something to try from this outstanding winery.


Nativ


In my search for a wine producer who truly inspire the soul while drinking its wine I came across to this incredible producer: Nativ.

"The Company Nativ is located in the heart of Paternopoli in the province of Avellino, on the Irpinia hills. The colonization on the territory came by the Sabini. During the III Samnite war, in the Century III a.C. the settlement Sabino was destroyed by Roman legions that here they settled. The territory became the refuge of hermits called "Pater", who shoes these soils to sojourn there. The hill upon which it was seated the Pater was called "Paternum". The territory underwent, subsequently, continuous barbarian raids rediscovery serenity only with the arrival of the Longobards The Minicipality is located in the territory of Paternopoli Agrotaurasino, including in the area of Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin for the production of Taurasi Docg, the fertility of the soils of volcanic nature, creates an ideal terroir for cultivating vines. The Nativ names was born to represent, trough the production of local wines, the origin of Italian viticulture. The grapes grown in these vineyards and centuries old vineyards in today represent a symbol of Italian culture, and the wine made from these grapes, reflects, better than any other product, the "Made in Italy"._ ***

*** From Nativ.it web site.

It produces most of iconic Campania wines, however the reds are the one that really caught my attention.



99

Beside the beautiful label which depicts a horse drawn by a lcoal famous artist, the wine is an Aglianico DOC, with grapes grown near the TAURASI territory. I have personally tried this wine which showed a dark ruby color with purple highlights with almost inky intensity, on the nose it was an exceptional balance of fruits ( black cherry, blackberry and some notes of blackcurrant) with secondary penetrating aromas of tobacco, licorice and leather. The palates was a perfect harmonious balance of acidity, tannins in a perfect big body with a long persistent finish which last an eternity.

I personally recommend this wine if you can be lucky enough to find it in any wine store in US.

Cost : $30-35$

Wine Spectator - 91

Black cherry coulis and boysenberry fruit is laced with graphite,, mocha,, dried mint and mineral accents in this rich and sappy,, medium to full bodied red.. Dense tannins lend structure,, yet they're well - knit and refined throughout.. Drink now through 2026.. 2,916 cases made..



97

This one is a TAURASI DOCG wine which presents similar characteristics of the one just described above. The palate shows tannins which need to be tamed with some bottle aging , but overall an outstanding wine.

Cost $30-$35



Feudi di San Gregorio


We have met Feudi di San Gregorio during our journey among the white wines. As I mentioned, the winery is one of the most advanced in the Campania region.



In a vineyard that is symbolic of Feudi di San Gregorio; Piano di Montevergine, where the vines are joined by Hazelnut and Olive trees, originates this excellent wine.

Ageing

18-24 months in French barriques and 50 hl barrel of medium toast.

Minimum 24 months in bottle.

Organoleptic test

Lovely ruby red color. On the nose, sensations of fruit: blackberry, plum and sour black cherry; a balsamic note, spices. The taste is soft, captivating, mineral and balanced with elegant tannins and a persistent finish.

Gastronomic combinations

Perfect with game, strong aged cheeses, roast and grilled lamb.

Average cost -$30-$35 depending on the vintage.


Feudi also produces a Reserve from this same vineyard.



Great, you made it to the end. Of course the list above is only a subset of Aglianico Taurasi DOCG wines. You can search for others and of course look for your favorite one. Few of other important wineries are listed below (with the town where they are located)



It is critical that you make Aglianico Taurasi DOCG one of your wines, when you are tired of the usual Cabernet Sauvignon from California. One more thing : just for an example --- by saying : "I am looking for an Aglianico TAURASI DOCG, it is the same as saying, " I am looking for a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa".


Napa is an AVA which in the US wine jargon is almost the same thing as a DOCG/DOC... but US is not as strict as Europe...


In the next few days I will introduce Aglianico from other Campania Appellations , with their nuances and their lower costs.


As for now :



Ciao













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