Taurasi. This is the name of a small village located northeast of Avellino in the region of Campania in southwestern Italy. This village, an ancient Greek and later Roman settlement lends its name to the wine and the D.O.C.G. Taurasi, the wine is based on the Aglianico grape. It is said that as the Greeks colonized this land they brought with them the grape called ellenico which over time has come to be known as Aglianco. While Aglianico is cultivated throughout southern Italy, noteworthy wines Aglianico del Vulture from Basilicata and Benevento in Campania, Taurasi is the unquestioned finest expression of the grape.
As an appellation Taurasi received D.O.C.G status in 1991. Laws stipulate that the wine must be at least 85% Aglianico with other blending grapes permitted to constitute the final 15%. Aging requirements for release state a minimum of three years, one of which must occur in wood. Riserva bottlings up the aging requirement to four years with eighteen months minimum in wood. Generally Taurasi will offer firm tannin when young thus the minimum aging requirements offer a mellowing influence to assure a more balanced wine at release.
Comparisons to Barolo not uncommon…Taurasi is sometimes called the “Barolo of the South.” The wines share characteristic assertive tannin and big acidity and both will reward patience in the cellar. Aglianico as Nebbiolo is a late-ripening varietal, it is not uncommon for Aglianico to be harvested amidst falling snow. Aglianico, interestingly enough prospers in the volcanic soil present throughout southern Italy, typically the wines offer a smokiness and minerality due to this soil content. Elevation plays a part as well. Some vineyards are as high as six hundred meters above sea level subsequently the cooler climate helps the wines retain acidity and structure.
Throughout the month we will be showcasing Taurasi as part of our tasting menu and quartino programs. Each week a Taurasi from a different producer will be featured.
We begin this series with a benchmark bottling from Antonio Caggiano. “Maccia dei Goti” 2003 is an intense brooding wine with marked tannic presence and complex flavors of dark berries, humidor, cedar and anise. The wine is fermented in steel to preserve the freshness of the fruit aromas and then aged in oak for a period of eighteen months to elevate the wine and integrate the tannins. Finally the wine is held in bottles for an additional 18 months to allow the wine to harmonize before release. The resulting wine is a powerful statement to the potential of Aglianico and its expression of its point of origin, Taurasi. This is a relatively young D.O.C.G. we can only look forward to improvements in technique and exploit as winemakers like Caggiano forge ahead in defining the identity of this wine. We look forward to sharing these wines with you in the coming weeks.