Contrade di Taurasi Irpinia, Aglianico, Taurasi, Campania, Italy 2016
GRAPE: 100% AGLIANICO [al-YAN-ee-koh]
Aglianico is a hidden treasure that ticks all the boxes for a grape with potential for great, nay, epic wines. It is one of the most special red grapes in all of Italy and is still tragically under known globally when compared to its peers: Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. Big names to compare to, clearly, but that is precisely the company Aglianico keeps with regards to Italian wine royalty. The fact is that due to this lack of household recognition, the prices for world class Taurasi (Taurasi = Southern Italy’s Barolo) is still remarkably low. Building a cellar? Buy up now. They age remarkably well and will likely be the wines you drink down the road with friends that shows you know your stuff!
GROWER: The Lonardos are are the finest example of what is so great about wines from this area. It is such a small winery (only 8000 bottles of this wine and that is the most, by far, out of his line.) Sandro Lonardo is a farmer and his wife Enza is a local school teacher. Despite their humble professions the wines that we receive and present here are, without question, world class. His single vineyard Taurasi bottlings are the ones to seek out, as they are truly age worthy beauties that would knock the socks off any serious wine collector who might still be unfamiliar with the potential of Aglianico. Sandro is also the only producer which makes a wine out of rare local grape called Roviello Bianco, aka Grecomusc (unrelated to Greco) and it is equally, and humbly, phenomenal.
GLASS: Seek thee a bowl of cherries and throw them directly into the mighty volcano to appease it’s restless soul. Gosh I love Aglianico. Tarry smoke, ground pepper, gritty earth, old leather and just an enormous burst of cherries. What’s not to love? This is such a classic example that sticks the landing with equal parts. Some are more muscular and brawny, but this one doesn’t sacrifice nuance in place of strength. The word ‘Bold’ red is often misused in my opinion, in that it is too often pointed towards wine that are hit with lots of oak. This straight up Aglianico is the perfect example of the natural quality of perfectly grown fruit and unique terroir; and is perhaps more deserving of the moniker in my opinion.
SIDE NOTES: Such a confusing label. The winery is called Contrade di Taurasi, yet the label only displays the family name Lonardo. From the village of Taurasi, has Taurasi in the brand name, but ‘declassified’ fruit makes it an Irpinia Aglianico. Not Taurasi.
ORIGINS : CAMPANIA
The eyes of the wine world have always been drawn to the South of Italy – but this beautiful region is truly the source of the draw. East of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius there are three DOCG level wine appellations: Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo and Taurasi. It is their proximity to the iconic volcanic landmark that is the key to their success, by way of their unique soils. In fact, soil is the common factor for the recent rise and success of other southern Italian wines as well (see: Etna). In turn, this factor has also been a catalyst for attention given to so many small and regionally unique Italian grape varieties throughout all of Italy. It defines how we view this wealth of diversity today. You know the old adage: “a rising lava lifts all varietals…” or something like that.
If there were ever a place that I would call ground zero for my Italian Wine education and love, it is Campania. I owe this portion of my wine education to my dear friend and colleague, Shelley Lindgren who has been instrumental in championing these wines to the US market. And what a wonderful and gracious champion she is.