Last week I was invited to attend a masterclass on the wines of Irpinia at Il Gattopardo restaurant in NYC by the Irpinia Consorzio Tutela Vini. Teresa Bruno Di Petilia, President, and Ilaria Petitto, the Vice President of the Conzorzio, were there. They said the goal of these events is to familiarize the wine drinking public with Irpinia and make their excellent wines better known.
The speaker was Susannah Gold of Vigneto Communications who did an excellent job of sharing her knowledge of the wines of Irpinia through her talk and slide presentation. I wrote about the 6 white wines in a previous blog and this time I will deal with the 6 red wines.
There are 3 biotypes of Aglianico: Taurasi, Vulture and Taburno. Susannah pointed out the Aglianico has an uncle-nephew relationship to Syrah.
Aglianico is an ancient grape variety. In Italy, Aglianico was first planted near modern day Pozzuoli and from there it spread to other parts of Campania. Pliny the Elder (d.79AD) wrote about it in his Natural History. The Aglianico grape prefers volcanic soil and grows at altitudes of 300 to 500 meters. Aglianico is also used as a blending grape in Campania. It is at its best in Irpinia.
Irpinia Aglianico was granted DOC in 2005. It must contain 85% Aglianico and 15% other red grapes.
Irpinia Campi Taurasini is a sub region of the Irpinia DOC of central Campania. The classification applies to wines made from the Aglianico grape on the Campi Taurasi, the Taurasian Fields. This territory is the same as Taurasi DOCG. Campi Taurasini means “little Taurasi fields.” While Taurasi Riserva DOGG is aged for 3 years in oak barrels and can age for many years, the Taurasini spends just one year in oak before bottling. It is a wine that is made to be drunk young but still has aging potential. Irpinia Aglianico and Campi Taurasini in particular are less-full bodied, less structured and less expensive than Taurasi.
There are many who believe that the three great grape varieties in Italy are Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Aglianico. Wines made from the Aglianico grape are full-bodied with good fruit, tannins, and hints of blackberries, leather and smoke.
Irpinia Aglianico Wines
Nativ, Irpinia Aglianico “Rue Dell’Inchiostro” Campania Aglianico DOC, 2020 made from 100% Aglianico grown at 450 to 550 meters. There are 15 hectares of wine, the soil is mostly volcanic with clay and limestone, rich in minerals. There is a trellis training system with spurred cordon in the new vineyards. Harvest is in the beginning of November. There is a pre-soaking at a controlled temperature. Fermentation soaking with continuous pumping over and punching downpour for about 10 days. Fermentation starts with the addition of selected yeasts, malolactic fermentation takes place. Refining in steel silos. The wine ages in bottle before release. The wine has hints of red berries, cherry and a touch of spice. The winery is located in Paternopoli.
Macchie Santa Maria, Irpinia Aglianico DOC, 2018 made from 15 year old vines at 400 to 450 meters. The training system is cordon. The soil is of a medium mixing tending toward stony clay. Exposure is southeast. Fermentation is 8 to 12 days in stainless steel tanks. Aging is for 12 months in French oak barriques. The wine has hints of black cherry, plum, spice and a hint of tobacco. The company is based in the town of Montemiletto
Ponterotto, Irpinia Aglianico DOC 2018 made from 100% Aglianico at 350 to 400 meters. The soil is clay and limestone and harvest is the first 10 days of November. Classic vinification in tanks, long maceration with the skins at a controlled temperature. The wine has hints of blackberries, spice with a touch of tobacco and a balsamic note.
Aglianico reaches its highest expression in the form of Taurasi, one of Italy’s great red wines, which can age for many years.
The Taurasi DOCG was formed in 1993 and was southern Italy’s first DOCG. Taurasi is a medieval city located within the larger Iripinia DOC and within the province of Avellino, Taurasi’s name comes from taurus, the mythical bull that was the symbol for the ancient Samnite (pre-Roman) occupants.
Taurasi DOCG and Taurasi Riserva DOCG by law must be 85% Aglianico but most producers make it with 100% Aglianico. Taurasi must age for 3 years before release and have a minimum of 12% alcohol. At least one of the 3 years must be in oak barrels. The Riserva must be aged for at least 4 years of which 18 months must be in oak barrels. 12.5% is the minimum alcohol.
There are 17 communes where Taurasi is produced and they cover different soils, vineyard altitudes and microclimates.
Ilaria Petitto CEO of Donnachiara Winery and Vice President of the Consorzio di Tutela dei Vini dell’Irpinia spoke about the winery and the wines. The winery is located in Montefalcione in the Irpinia area near Avellino. The modern winery was completed in 2005 but the vineyards have been in the family for over 150 years. Ilaria’s mother, Chiara Petitto, is a big supporter of her work in the winery, which is named after her mother’s grandmother whom everyone called “Donna” Chiara as a sign of respect.
Donnachiara, Taurasi DOCG 2019 Made from 100% Aglianico. The soil is clay and volcanic. Training system is guyot. There are 4,000 plants per hectare and harvest takes place the first week of September. The wine is aged for 12 months in 225-liter French barriques and remains in the bottle for another 24 months before release. The wine has hints of blackberry, plum, cherry and a touch of cacao. The use of barrique is subtle and does not mask the character of the wine. This is a big complex wine with berry aromas and flavors, hints of cherry, plum, and a touch of cacao and coffee.
Feudi Di San Gregorio Taurasi DOCG 2017 made from 100% Aglianico in uncontaminated volcanic soil. The vines are 20 to 25 years old. Vineyards are at 1,000 to 1,600 ft with a southern and western exposure. Soil is ash and fallen pumice and in the subsoil deep layers of silty sand. Harvest is manual. Fermentation and maceration is in stainless steel tanks, at a controlled temperature for about 3 weeks. The wine is aged for about 18 months in medium toasted French barriques and 9 months in the bottle before release. The wine has hints of cherry, cinnamon, nutmeg, anise and more than a note of vanilla. The winery is in Sorbo Serpico.
Fratelli Addimanda Vignaioli in Taurasi “Starse” Taurasi DOCG 2014 made from 100% Aglianico. The vineyards are at 350 to 400 meters and the exposure is east-west. The soil is clay calcareous and the training system is cordon speronato. There are 4,500 plants per hectare. Manual harvest with a selection, is from the end of October to the beginning of September. There is another selection of grapes in the cellar. Fermentation with a long maceration of the skins for about 25 days. After malolactic fermentation the wine matures in barriques and tonneaux of new French oak for 14 to 18 months depending on the vintage. The wine has hints of red fruit, dried flowers, tobacco, liquorice, pepper and a note of vanilla.
After the tasting there was an excellent buffet prepared by Chef Vito Il Gattopardo.
Next Time Gruppo Italiano Table Talks/ Chapter 16 Irpinia We are Waiting for You