The Best Italian Wines of 2013 – Two Reds from Campania

March 13, 2013 at 8:36 am 4 comments

giovanniascione

Giovanni Ascione, Nanni Copè (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Lists for the best wines of the year are usually compiled in December or early the following year. However, I tasted two red wines from Campania during my visit there last week that will definitely be among the finest of the year when I complete the list in another 8-9 months. In fact, these wines are not only among the best of the year to date, they’re among the single best Italian wines I’ve tried in the last two or three years.

The first is the 2010 Nanni Copè, the only wine made by Giovanni Ascione at his estate in the province of Caserta in northern Campania. Ascione crafts this wine primarily from the indigenous variety Palagrello Rosso; he uses up to 10% Aglianico in the blend as well. The wine is labeled for Ascione’s vineyard named “Vigna Sopra il Bosco” (“vineyard above the forest”) that was planted in 1987 (there is also a small amount of Casavecchia from a 120 year-old vineyard located nearby named “Vigna Scarrupata”). For Ascione, his Sopra il Bosco site is an obsession, as he has divided it into several sections, based on factors such as pruning, foliage management and harvesting approaches.

The wine has been produced from only three vintages to date; 2008, 2009 and 2010. I tasted all three wines with about a dozen other journalists in Campania last week; each offering is first-rate, with gorgeous fruit aromas (raspberry, black cherry) impressive concentration and ideal structure. While the first two releases are singular wines, it is the 2010 that really captured my attention as well as my heart. Deep garnet/crimson with aromas of black raspberry, black plum and a hint of licorice, it is medium-full with excellent concentration. There is outstanding persistence, lively acidity and beautifully polished tannins; the finish is very, very long. This is a wine of perfect balance, one that is seductive. I use a good number of words to describe my favorite wines and believe me, seductive is about as praiseworthy as I get for a red wine, as this gets into sheer pleasure, while at the same time, finesse. While this is simply sensational now, I expect this to be even better in a few years, with peak enjoyment in about 10-12 years.

By the way, when I told Ascione that the wine in my opinion was “molto seductivo,”  he said, “that’s enough, no need to translate any further.” It was clear that he had succeeded in his goal of making this a memorable wine and he was happy to hear the praise.

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The second brilliant red wine from Campania that I tasted during my stay was the 2008 Contrade di Taurasi Riserva Taurasi “Coste.” Also known as Cantine Lonardo for the family that owns the vineyards and cellar just outside the town of Taurasi, this is one of the area’s most outstanding producers, making their Taurasi in an ultra-traditional style, maturing the wines in large casks.

I’ve enjoyed their regular bottling of Taurasi for years and have had the good fortune to also taste their riserva Taurasi once or twice. For 2008 however, the Lonardos have decided to produce two separate cru bottlings of Taurasi: “Vigne d’Alto” and “Coste.” Both are superb!

The former offers lovely cassis, black raspberry and lavender aromas; medium-full, with a rich mid-palate, the wine has very good acidity and marvelous complexity. I predict this will drink well for 20 years plus.

All of the elegance and richness of the “Vigne d’Alto” are present as well in the “Coste” bottling, but this is an even better wine. The aromas include black cherry, black raspberry, marmalade, plum and a nice floral touch with a hint of violets. There is excellent concentration, while the mid-palate is layered. The tannins are polished, there is finely tuned acidity, outstanding persistence and impeccable balance. The harmony of all the components is really quite something and there is enough stuffing for this wine to be drinking well several years beyond its 20th birthday. It is also a great expression of terroir and a wine of superb varietal purity. In case you’re wondering, this is not an aggressive wine that needs time to settle down, rather it is supple and absolutely delicious! Of course, it will improve for many years, but it is a remarkable bottle of wine that can be enjoyed now. Congratulations to the Lonardo family for their excellent farming and brilliant winemaking.

I have to tell you that these riserve represent many things, above all the strength of the 2008 vintage, one that is not as forward as 2007, but offers far greater depth of fruit with ideal structure for aging. This could be just the thing needed to drive much more attention to this superb red wine from Campania, one that is sadly neglected, compared to its more famous counterparts from the north, such as Amarone and Barolo.

But perhaps – no more?

Final note: Many of the riserva Taurasi from 2008 are not released yet, but will be available in the market within a few months. Keep your eyes open for these wines.

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My Book is Published! Taurasi – Three Marvelous Verticals (Part One – Feudi di San Gregorio)

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. luciano pignataro  |  March 13, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Bravo Tom, due grandissimi rossi

    Reply
  • 3. Michele Boscia  |  March 13, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Thanks Tom, I agree that the 2008 reserve wines from Contrade di Taurasi and particularly the Vigne d’Alto are brilliant! Looking forward to reading your book too… hope all is going well!

    Cheers,

    Michele

    General Manager Oliver McCrum Wines T 510.654.9159 michele@omwines.com http://www.omwines.com http://www.facebook.com/OliverMcCrumWines

    OUR GOALS: TO IMPORT THE BEST EXPRESSIONS OF ITALYS ENORMOUS RANGE OF NATIVE GRAPE VARIETIES. TO FIND VINTNERS WHOSE WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHIES TEND TOWARD TRADITION AND MINIMAL INTERVENTION. TO DISCOVER WINES THAT ARE TRUE TO THE GRAPE, THE PEOPLE, AND THE PLACE.

    Reply
    • 4. tom hyland  |  March 13, 2013 at 12:35 pm

      Michele:

      Except for a cold I can’t get rid of, things are going well. The book is selling nicely and I enjoyed a wonderful trip to Campania, lousy weather regardless. Thanks!

      Reply

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