Volcanic Soils Wine Tasting Uncorked

“Regardless of where in Italy it comes from, good Italian red wine speaks directly to the soul, and the gut, of place and people and food and love. And that’s just the beginning; great wines embrace the head as well.” ~ Eric Asimov

Many of us already know or have already experienced to some degree or the other that Italy is home to thousands of varietals, so many in fact, that it’s easy to lose count. It’s with that thought in mind that I bring to you today a tasting excursion, I experienced not long ago. The wines represented here will not only take you not just outside the box, but far beyond. To the point you may just need a GPS device to find your way back home.

Yes, further than the reaches of the well known areas of Tuscany, boasting of its Sangiovese and Piedmont in the north flaunting its Nebbiolo, I’m going to take you on a mini-tasting adventure where volcanic soils dominate the palate profile. This tasting adventure, took my taste-buds on ride through two very interesting producers vineyards in southern Italy. Ciro Biondi from Mount Etna in Sicily and the other is Cecilia Naldoni from the Vulture appellation in the region known as Basilicata.

Although so-called scientists say there is no verifiable measure to identify what we vino-sapiens refer to as terroir. But you can definitely [easily] smell and taste the tell-tale signs of volcanic soils influence on the wine in your glass and I think most people can. This is a generalization, but in my experience, most of white-wines from these regions have notes of struck-flint and in the red wines, you often times think you're standing over a campfire roasting marshmallows.

So with no further ado, you have my tasting notes below on the wines I experienced from the tasting. Did I like every wine, well yes and no. Each wine was unique, nuanced and some may have fared far better with the presence of the right pairing-partner.

2009 Lacryma Christi Del Vesuvio: A blend of two white wine grapes, featuring 80% Coda di Volpe and 20% Falanghina. A very light hay color in the glass, much like a light colored Sauvignon Blanc. The vines are grown in a grey volcanic soil which closely resembles, 'grapenuts' cereal. The nose was very flinty, abundant wet-stone and a lemon peel aroma in the background. After the first slurp, still more lemon peel and wet-stone, a distant rich citrus and spice on the finish, it left me thinking this wine would pair nicely with schnitzel. 87 points.

2011 La Sibilla, Falanghina, Campi Flegrei: Again the glass, a light hay colored core. The nose giving off citrus rinds, honey and wet-stone. After the initial splash down, honey dew melon rinds, wet sand and a drop of honey drizzled over citrus rinds. A very light bodied wine, begging for a food pairing of some kind. Perhaps a some wild caught herring in a lemon-butter, cracked-pepper sauce, hanging out with a bit of spinach rotini. This is an "organic" wine. 85 points.

Contrade di Taurasi 2010 Grecomusc' Bianco: Now this was a very interesting wine, only 300 cases of it in all the world, a wine produced from the nearly extinct grape called Roviello. This was my very first time giving this wine a swirl and I didn't really know what to expect. The color was a bit darker, than the two above, like wet-hay. Described as a drink now and drink often wine not suited for aging purposes. The nose was a bit elusive, a bit like smelling envelope that had just arrived in the mail, where it was obvious the carrier had just finished off a gala-apple before hand. A few slurps in, lots of apple peels, lemon flower, more honey-dew rinds, of course wet stone and adequately plumbed with acidity. 87 points.

Villa Dora, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso: The Gelsonero a delightful blend of 80% Piedirosso and just 20% Aglianico. A wine made in an 'organic' farming style, but not certified. In the glass, a dark and enticing dark ruby color. The nose is crazy inviting, a hot strawberry compote or cherry filling which had drop on a hot stove, interesting florals and match stick. A few slurps later, a rich but not overwhelming flavors flow like a fountain, cherry, plum, raspberry and dark plum-skins. Just hints of pepper and clove drop by for a few moments, soft tannins join the party as well. This wine would definitely make a tasty accompaniment to meat-based pasta dishes, as on it's not too-fab on its own. 89 points.

Contrade di Taurasi Aglianico 2005: This is a 'declassified' Aglianico from Taurasi. 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. It sports most of the distinctive flavors of the area, the blackberry and dark plum fruit balanced with fresh acidity, but missing the campfire aromas I normally associate with these wines. It did a savory character of dark fruits but a bit more distant then I like. Though it had a style I associate with volcanic soils, it was more far lean in overall flavor than most Taurasi wines. 87 points.

Aglianico del Vulture 'Damaschito' 2007: This wine is a brilliant representation of Aglianico and is certified organic. In the glass you can see from the bright nearly dark plum-skinned core, this was had additional skin contact. The nose was rich and inviting, herbal, campfire, ripe blackberries and plum. This is a beautifully "textured" wine that had me at the first sip. Nothing but well integrated tannins, framed over a medium body delivers mouth coating flavors of black cherry and cracked black pepper and the finish seems to go on and on. As you can tell from my excitement, this wine was my favorite of the day. 91 points.

But as I've said before, when asked about this tasting these wines, I found them all to be a bit esoteric, but don't take my word for it, check them out for yourself. These wines were featured as part of a tasting by Oliver McCrum Wines an importer of fine Italian wines. Until next time folks sip long and prosper cheers!


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