Donnachiara Taurasi Riserva 2012 – wonderful! (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
It’s always a pleasure to taste Campanian wines, as I believe this is one of the three or four best wine regions in Italy, and it may just be the most underrated. Maybe it has something to do with this being the south of Italy, which is less heralded for its wines than the north, or maybe it’s the fact that the local producers don’t market their products as well as their colleagues from other Italian regions, but whatever the fact, Campania should be better known for its wines.
It is happening, slowly, to be certain, as more people are noticing these wines, especially the glorious whites – which I believe are the country’s finest – as well as the reds. Here are notes on several new releases I’ve tasted over the past six months.
DONNACHIARA (Montefalcione) – This medium-sized firm, founded in 2005, has been improving every year, and today, they are clearly one of the region’s star producers. They have been best known for their whites, but their reds have been on the upswing over the past few vintages, with the latest release of the Taurasi riserva being a first-rate wine.
2016 Falanghina “Resilienza” – This is a new Falanghina for the winery, and it’s a very particular style of Falanghina, delicate and quite feminine in its approach (this should come as no surprise, as the company is managed by Ilaria Petitto and her mother Chiara.). Lovely aromas of chamomile tea and lime. Medium-full with good acidity. Not a powerful Falanghina, more of a refined one, and very stylish. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years. Very good to excellent
2016 Greco di Tufo – This has been one of my favorite wines from Donnachiara for many years. There are many reasons for that – harmony, varietal character, charm and typicity are all characteristics of this wine. The 2016 has enticing lemon zest and lilac aromas, beautiful balance, very good acidity and an elegant finish with impressive persistence. This is a delightful Greco di Tufo! Enjoy now and over the next 3-5 years. Excellent
2012 Taurasi “di Umberto” – From grapes harvested in the first week of November (!), this is a well-made Taurasi. Deep ruby red with a purple edge; attractive aromas of ripe black cherry, peppermint and bitter chocolate. Medium-full with excellent concentration, this has a rich mid-palate, with ripe forward fruit. Youthful, balanced tannins, notable small oak notes, but not overdone. Good acidity and impressive persistence. Very good complexity and varietal character. Best to let settle down for a few years – best in 12-15 years. Excellent
2012 Taurasi Riserva – 100% Aglianico (as with the previous wine); deep ruby red/light purple. Expressive aromas of black plum, black cherry and dark chocolate. Medium-full with very good concentration. Rich mid-palate, beautifully balanced tannins, impressive persistence and excellent complexity. Polished with silky tannins, this has superb varietal character. This wine and the previous were aged in barriques, and while I am normally not a fan of this type of aging for Taurasi, it works here, as there is ample depth of fruit to handle the notes from the small oak barrels. This is so appealing now for its fruit character, but clearly this is an infant, and needs many more years. Best in 12-15 years. This is the finest Taurasi from Donnachiara I have tasted to date! Outstanding
FRATELLI URCIUOLO (Forino) – Located about an hour southeast of Napoli, this winery was founded in 1985 by brothers Alessandro and Ciro Urciuolo. This was the first time I have tasted this producer’s wines, and at least this time around, I much preferred the whites.
2015 Fiano di Avellino – Light yellow; aromas of Anjou pear, apple peel and a note of dried honey. Medium-full with very good concentration. Good acidity, impressive varietal purity, and notable persistence, with a light note of minerality in the finish. Good freshness, well balanced. Enjoy now and over the next 3-5 years. Excellent
2016 Falanghina – Straw-light yellow; aromas of golden apples, lilacs and lime. Medium-bodied, this is clean and nicely balanced with good acidity and persistence. Nice varietal character, this is straightforward and meant be to enjoyed over the next 2-3 years. Very good
2014 Aglianico (Irpinia DOC) – Deep. bright ruby red; black cherry, mocha, hint of tar in the aromas. Medium-full with good depth of fruit, good acidity, youthful, balanced tannins. Persistence is only moderate, as the finish is a bit short. Straightforward, give a bit of time to shed some of the youthful bitterness. Best in 3-5 years. Very good
2011 Taurasi – Bright, deep ruby red; aromas of stewed tomatoes, bitter chocolate and dried cherry. Medium-full, this has a rich mid-palate, ripe fruit and heavy, bitter tannins, with balanced acidity. Some of the character of this wine comes from the 2011 vintage, with its very warm growing season, but this is ripe and a bit heavy. This may improve with time, but it is awkward and lacks elegance and finesse. Best in 7-10 years. Fair
2014 Luigi Tecce Campi Taurasini “Satyricon”
LUIGI TECCE ( Paternopoli) – Luigi Tecce is one of the great artisan producers of Campania, making only two wines, a Taurasi and a Campi Taurasini (this latter wine, 100% Aglianico from a similar territory as the first, is aged for a shorter period of time and released sooner). The grapes are sourced from Tecce’s estate in Paternopoli, a small hamlet in the Taurasi zone; these are pergola, and most vines are close to one hundred years old. The wines are not filtered and Tecce matures them in large casks; they are deeply concentrated and age beautifully. Luigi Tecce is one of the great winemakers in all of Italy!
2014 Campi Taurasini “Satyricon” – Bright, deep purple; heady, exotic aromas of bitter chocolate, black plum and orchid. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Rich, layered mid-palate, notable persistence and complexity. Ideal harmony and outstanding varietal purity. From a challenging vintage, the wine shows the benefit of old vines, as well as minimalist winemaking. This is a powerhouse version of Campi Taurasini, better than many examples of Taurasi. Approchable now, this will be at its best in another 5-7 years, and may drink well beyond that. This is among the finest Italian wines I have tasted this year. Superb
2013 Taurasi “Poliphemo” – Bright, deep ruby red; aromas of mince meat, herbal tea and clove, with a touch of china bark. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Rich, young tannins, very good persistence, good acidity and a refined, elegant finish. This is a big wine, one that is quite tight, and needs several years to settle down. It is a bit rough right now, but given Tecce’s track record with this wine, as well as the qualities of the 2013 vintage, this should be something special in another 10-12 years. Excellent