Contrade di Taurasi
There are many recent surprises in the region of Campania, which is perhaps the most improved winemaking area in Italy, but one thing has not changed: the wine made from the Aglianico grape grown around the village of Taurasi is still one of the glories of Italian viticulture.
Contrade di Taurasi is owned by Sandro Lonardo, a schoolteacher, and his wife Enza. They make Aglianico IGT, Taurasi, and small amounts of a white wine made from Greco Musc’, an indigenous white variety (grown ungrafted, interestingly). Their vineyards are all exposed directly south, which is ideal, and are at about 1300 feet above sea level, which may explain how a wine picked in the beginning of November in a warm climate can come in at relatively modest alcohol (between 13 and 13.5% in most vintages). All the vineyards are in the official Taurasi zone, but more than half of the fruit is declassified to IGT Aglianico, which improves the Taurasi and gives us an excellent, more forward example of Aglianico to drink while we're waiting for the Taurasi. Click here for a link to the Contrade di Taurasi website.
Declassified Taurasi; the less ageworthy lots are vinified seperately, with a brief maceration of about a week and aging in puncheons (30%) and stainless steel (70%). The Irpinia shows the distinctive flavors of the area - blackberry/raspberry fruit balanced with fresh acidity, a savory character that I associate with volcanic soils, and a rounder, more forward structure than Taurasi itself. Drink now or in 3-5 years with red meats or substantial pasta dishes. (Unfined, coarsely filtered.)
Outstanding red wine from southern Italy's most famous red wine appellation. The Aglianico grape, blended or alone, makes interesting wines all over southern Italy, but in Taurasi the volcanic soils and altitude make a wine of extraordinary power,complexity and freshness. The Lonardo family makes one of the best examples of Taurasi I have drunk, cleanly made but complex, intriguing and fine. (The wine spends about three weeks on the skins, and is aged for 18-24 months in wood, and a year in stainless steel; more recent vintages are aged entirely in large wood puncheons.) Tasting notes: Serious red-black color; aroma of berries, Japanese salt plum, expensive leather, cocoa, woody herbs (bay? lavender?); big, broad-shouldered wine on the palate. Drink now with roasted or braised meat, or age for 10 ++ years for a real treat. (Unfined, unfiltered.)
Taurasi 'Vigne d'Alto'
100% Aglianico from a single site. Soil is entirely volcanic 'cinders.' Vines are more than 40 years old. Indigenous yeasts. Very long maceration, 45 days; aged in 2nd and 3rd year puncheons (500L) for 24 months. 100 cs production
Taurasi 'Le Coste'
100% Aglianico from a single site. Soil is limestone and clay. Vines are between 20 and 40 years old. Indigenous yeasts. Long maceration, 30 days; aged in 2nd and 3rd year puncheons (500L) for 24 months. 100 cs production
As has happened with Nebbiolo, some producers are finding that traditional but clean winemaking (warm fermentations, long aging in large barrels) can work wonders with tannic varieties. These two single vineyard Taurasis are certainly big wines, but the tannins remind one of very good dark chocolate, which is to say savory and not at all bitter.
Sandro Lonardo makes a tiny amount of a white wine called Grecomusc', which is made from a variety called Roviello Bianco, or Grecomusc' by the locals. The variety is indigenous to the town of Taurasi and the villages around Taurasi; as far as we know, Lonardo is the only producer actually marketing the wine. He buys the fruit from various small farmers who have a few rows each, the vines ranging from 70 to over 100 years old, all ungrafted. Total production of wine made from this variety in reaches perhaps 250 cases a year, Lonardo being responsible for almost 200 cases a year.
Rarity does not necessarily confer quality, but in this case they do go together. Lonardo's Grecomusc' is distinctive, excellent white wine, showing striking complexity in aroma and flavor, great length, and excellent fresh acidity; notes include almond, citrus skin and apple, as Sandro says, but also a beeswax note reminiscent of fine Chenin Blanc. This is one of the most interesting white wines we import.
Winemaking details: made from purchased fruit (some has also been planted at Lonardo's estate in Taurasi) from very old own-rooted vineyards in volcanic soils in and around Taurasi; the wine is fermented with the skins for a day or so (if the quality of the fruit permits) to extract flavor, then fermented in stainless steel using indigenous yeasts. The wine is aged in used puncheons for four months, then in stainless steel, and bottled unfined and with only a coarse filtration. Less than 200 cases produced.