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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Campania Uncorked: A Taste of Taurasi

“The Roman belief that wine was a daily necessity made the drink "democratic" and ubiquitous: wine was available to slaves, peasants and aristocrats alike.”

It has been noted that among mankind's accomplishments, "wine is perhaps one of its oldest inventions, possibly dating back over 3000 years" [according to my WSET book]. It's thought that its cultivation was brought to fruition by the Roman Empire, who spread the love of the vine to other major-player nations we know today, like Spain and France. It is most likely though, the French who can [and possibly should] be credited with having refined and perfected the art of the process of turning grape juice into wine.  

But going to Campania [which I did two years ago] is like going back to source of where it all began. Some folks may want to argue, some of the finer points of historical record that may be pointing in different directions, if so please feel free to comment below. I'm no historian or an expert on this region of Italy; but that said the point of this post is not about an exercise about historical perspective. Instead it's meant to shine a bright light on a region that may not get as much coverage [flying under the radar] as I think these wines deserve and that the quality demands.

When you hear Taurasi, just think of one word, and that word is Aglianico. Big dark, brooding grapes, with a great tannin structure meant for aging, as they often spend 3 years in one barrel [before being released] and if labeled a "riserva' it must be four years with 18 months of wood. Thankfully to stay within the DOCG guidelines, they age the wines for you and when they are finally released many of the wines are dressed to impress right away.But I'd decant for a few hours for best results, as these wines are very "big" and take time to unfold.  

Just as a side note for the ABC folks, they have two white wines produced in the Campania region that you would really dig, one is Fiano d' Avellino and the other is Greco di Tufo both great wines with fantastic depth and complexity. The style of wine which invites drinking early and often. Once you uncork either of these wines, you'll great flavors, like a splashes of honey, bees-wax, citrus, floral notes and a interesting herbal quality, great wines to help you kick the Chardonnay habit.

When I heard about these wines in my WSET courses, I must have been sleeping that day or perhaps it was the fact that we sadly only spent about five seconds discussing this amazing region. While it looks like the latter is true, as I reach for the text, cracking open the book once more, the entire region of Campania was discussed in two paragraphs [ouch]. 

I don't think Campania is feeling the love, especially for a wine touted as the "Barolo of the South". Not much effort for such a stellar [and oddly unknown] region. A region that in my opinion offers even the garden variety vino-sapien some very intriguing wines, well worth seeking out and were not just talking about Aglianico either. These are not the type of wines you'll find just sitting on at your local TJ's or even most wine shops; so you may have to do a bit of hunting, but believe me it's worth the effort.


Hopefully this post has piqued your interest in knowing more about this unique region and Campania's Taurasi DOCG. If so then please click on the links provided here and drink it all in. Someone one at wine-searcher has gone to great effort to give a wonderful tutelage about this exciting region. So that said, I'm going to dive in head-first into the reviews of four wines from this region, which I encountered at the Romeo Hotel in Naples.

I had a chance to sample these wines while staying at the beautiful Romeo Hotel. A great place to recharge the travel-batteries, it sits just across the street from the harbor, with grand views of the still active Vesuvius off in the distance. It also makes a great jumping off place for other tourist and travel destinations like Pompeii [a must see]. 

Just moments after check-in, our group was invited to an Aglianico Taurasi tasting, where we encountered four different wines of widely divergent vintages. There was a 1999 Radici Taurasi Aglianico, which I thought was just about over the hill, but still had nice fruit and very mellow tannins. If they had possibly decanted this wine a bit, before hand it may have shown better. But still it would have made an excellent wine to have with dinner and would have paired with just anything you throw at it, except a spicy dish.

The 2001 Feudi di San Gregorio Taurasi Riserva Piano di Montevergine: A wine which left me breathless, wow a real stunner. My score for this wine mirrors Parker's spot on analysis; with a solid 94 points. Of course attempting to procure a bottle [by any means] before returning home, left me empty handed [sigh]. Even when I did get home to search for it online, I was sad to see nearly no shops with it in stock and one's that did were very proud that they still had a few left in their inventory [if you feel me].

Nearly no one in the group had a good experience with the Taurasi Riserva Piano di Montevergine Feudi di San Gregorio 2004, it was a bit too tannic, chalky, with too much campfire nuances, overriding the fruit. Finally, there was the 2006 [black label] Radici Taurasi, which was quite good, loads of blackberry, dark cherry fruit, leather and smoke, but pulled up a bit short on the finish.


Overall, it was a great introduction into the Taurasi Aglianico, all wonderfully powerful wines from one of Italy’s premier grapes, along side Sangiovese Grosso, Nebbiolo and Sagrantino. I really hope you will pull together a few of these wines for yourself and give them a swirl, I think you will be as impressed as I was, until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

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