I'll acknowledge that I've been slackin' on the bloggin'. Sorry! But happily, it's because I've been building my wine education business here in the ATL, and I've been doing events at businesses and in people's homes. It's not all for naught.
And perhaps it was worth the hiatus, because out of one of the tastings comes this review of an amazing wine, about which you may never have heard...Taurasi. Get ready. It's more expensive than the stuff I usually review, but it's worth every penny, dime, nickel, and dollar (and it's only $24, so it's just a little indulgence, really).
Before waxing poetic on this massive, delicious, and low profile wine, I'll be really honest (shocking, I know): I've been off the Italian wine train for quite some time. Why? Not just because I really love Tom Stevenson (who writes Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia and laments the downfall of Italian wine too), but also because Italian wines of any ilk below $15 generally taste really bad to me -- either watery if they are whites, or way too rustic and rough if they're reds. When there is such great French, Spanish, German, Austrian, Argentinean, Chilean, New Zealand (you get the point) wines in that price point, and good Italian is $10 why buy it? That's been my philosophy and it's worked out pretty well.
The thing is, I kind of have a love affair with Italy (I know, so original) outside of the wine thing, so I feel like Tiger Woods right now. I lived there when I was in college for a semester and have been back several times both on wine business and because I just adore it (MC Ice and I plan to retire in Montalcino, home of Brunello). Hence, although I don't think the Italian wineries will hit me with a golf club through my car window, not drinking Italian wines makes me feel disloyal.
So happily, when an Italian tasting was requested I was able to rediscover some gems that I had previously forgotten (I'll review an excellent Gavi soon as well). One was the Vinosia Taurasi, a wine made from the Aglianico (said ah-ylee-ah-neek-o) grape.
When the Greeks settled in the Campania and Basilicata regions, they brought Aglianico. The name derives from the Latin word for Greek -- Hellenica. It was the principal grape of the famous Falernian wine in Roman times, and was enjoyed by lots of dudes in togas. Today, it's still cultivated in both Campania and Basilicata.
Taurasi is a town in Campania, the province that is home to Capri, the Amalfi Coast, and Pompeii. It's mountainous, hot, dry, and has lots of volcanic soils (we all know what went on in Pompeii in 79 AD right?). Not much but Aglianico can grow very successfully in this area. If yields are kept low, the wines produced from Aglianico are full-bodied, age-able, and can rival Barolo and Brunello in power and class, for a lot less $$.
Sadly, the stuff was basically unknown until about two decades ago when one producer, Mastrobernandino, began making higher quality wine from Campania and it got some attention. Now other producers are in on it, including the famous and modern Feudi di San Gregorio from which the winemaker broke off and started Vinosia, the maker of a lovely Taurasi, which I will now review...
The Wine: Vinosia Taurasi
Where It's From: Taurasi, Campania, Italy
The Grapes: 100% Aglianico
Color: Deep, dark ruby with a brownish edge. It stains the glass on the swirl. It was practically opaque and held its color even when I tilted the glass down. I expected big flavor from so much color!
Smell: An endless stream of adjectives comes to mind with this wine. First coffee grounds, licorice, damp earth, dark cocoa powder, and tobacco leaf. The wine was not particularly fruity on the nose -- it was so much more mineral-like, earthy, and chocolately. The fruit came after the earthen scents -- dark cherry, prune, black raspberry, and cranberry weaved together subtly. It was really luscious and made my mouth water.
Taste: Wow. Although this could use a little decanting to allow the wine's tannins to soften up (oxygen helps the wine release its natural scents. I won't bore you with the chemistry lesson, but click here for more details) , the wine was imminently drinkable with a good swirl. It tastes just like it smelled, but with more ripe plum character and an unbelievably rich texture.
This wine is plain SEXY.
Food: You need rich food for this wine. Roasted meats, game, and eggplant dishes would work well. Don't even try to pair this with chicken, salad, white fish, or lighter pasta -- it will completely overpower the delicate flavors.
Drink or Down the Sink?: Drink now, and even buy a bottle or two to try in a year. If you like big wines, this is a wonderful choice that will rival the best Italian reds. It's a steal at $24, and it's restored my belief that Italy, when it tries to produce something with care (instead of en masse to make a euro), is a force to be reckoned with in the wine world.