Campania: Forgotten Realms

“As a child, I took solace in reading and immersing myself in fantasy novels. Reading about ancient cities and cultures, giant fortresses, marble statues, and great walls, sometimes formed by mountains or built by man. These books would often be filled with beautifully illustrated maps depicting haunted forests, troll lairs, enchanted lakes, and ancient castles. Over time, this led to a fascination with the reality of ancient cultures, as I delved into the histories of the Greeks and Romans, studying their heroes and mythologies. It wasn’t long before I found my way to stories about volcanos enveloping entire cities and cultures overnight. The histories of these ancient lands became as interesting to me as any fantasy novel, and they are my fondest memories of childhood and adolescent life. So, you can imagine that when the wine bug bit me and Italy became my passion, my exploration of Campania was immediately one of the most thrilling chapters of my journey to understanding Italian wine. Here I was, once again reading about these same ancient cultures, but this time with a new dynamic to thrill me, that being the myriad of grape varieties and viticulture ways of these civilizations. The best part was that the majority of producers in the region were just as excited about exploring, honoring, and in some cases, attempting to recreate the wines and ways of this ancient world. It also didn’t hurt that modern-day Campania already had a lot to offer. It was with this in mind that I decided that my first piece on Campania at Vinous would be less focused on the newest vintages, which may not even be arriving at retail stores for some time, but instead focus on the wines that are in the market right now. You see, that’s another feature of Campania: the vintage releases are different for every producer. So, while one might be releasing their Taurasi from 2016, another is just sending out their 2014, or even older. This provides consumers with the ability to pick wines based on vintage, producer or sub-region. It is unfortunate that many readers haven’t had the opportunity to properly explore those sub-regions. It also doesn’t help that Taurasi, one of Campania’s most popular DOCGs, has seen turbulent ups and downs, even in the cantinas of some of the region’s most highly regarded producers. The “Barolo of The South”, as it’s been marketed, has been plagued by lazy winemaking practices, dirty cellar conditions, and producers that have masked Aglianico's varietal characteristics under a dark sheen of new wood. The good news is that conditions have drastically improved, and wine lovers who have been paying attention have a source of well-priced, world-class wines with remarkable aging potential. To dive a little deeper, and staying focused for now on the reds, it’s also important to note that Aglianico doesn’t begin and end with Taurasi. A savvy lover of wines from Campania will find other expressions to equal its power and prestige with just a little exploration. On the coast near Mount Massico, with its purely volcanic soils, we can find potent yet less tannic expressions of Aglianico, as well as focus on another of Campania’s great varietals, Piedirosso. In Taburno, with its high elevations and a mix of volcanic and calcareous soils and high content of limestone, we witness the same tannic power of Taurasi, but in a bigger and brawnier expression. Then there’s Salerno and Cilento to the south, a hotspot for Aglianico which seems to capture all of its best qualities, yet fruitier and fleshier, which doesn’t mean fruit-forward. Lastly, the wild, steep elevations of the Ischia island, where cable cars are used to move harvested grapes from mountainside vineyards. Here the combination of old vines, volcanic soils and the influence of the Tyrrhenian Sea, create wines with dark, textural depths, yet also tension and poise. In other words, if Taurasi is your only “Barolo of The South”, then you’re missing out. When we add the recently revived varieties of Casavecchia and Pallagrello Nero to the mix - and trust me, you want to be paying attention to these obscure wines - then what you have is a paradise for red wine lovers, just waiting to be discovered.” --Eric Guido, Vinous , Campania: Forgotten Realms, May 2020 To read Eric’s full report and read all about how the recent vintages performed, check out the full article on Vinous now. Below is a selection of notes from the report.

Guastaferro

Riserva Primum Taurasi Aglianico 2011

Delectable Wine
9.4

Bigger, richer, and more immediate than the Taurasi Primum, the 2011 Taurasi Riserva Primum lifts from the glass with an earthy display of ripe black fruit, sweet herbs, and dried roses, as graphite and balsamic tones develop. On the palate, velvety textures coat the senses in sweet-and-sour red and blue fruits, as zesty acids add lift, and citrus-tinged minerals and spices saturate. The finish is long and structured, showing a bit of wood influence, with a refreshing hint of tart citrus which balances this dark beast of a wine. Although I'm finding more power here in the Riserva, I suspect that the straight Taurasi from 2011 may outlive it, but only time will tell. (Eric Guido, Vinous, May 2020)
— 21 days ago

Severn and Fredrik liked this

Monte di Grazia

Rosso Campania IGT Red Blend 2015

Delectable Wine
9.2

The nose on the 2015 Monte di Grazia is incredibly fresh yet also packed with zesty bright red berry fruits, as citrus-inspired floral tones and hints of wild herbs come together, creating a lifted expression. On the palate, soft textures are contrasted by tart red and black fruits, as vibrant acids make the mouth water, giving life to spicy inner floral tones. The finish is long yet buzzing, with energy and freshness, resonating on savory herbs, bright red fruits, and hints of fine tannin. This is already so easy to like, yet it will coast effortlessly for ten years or more in the cellar. (Eric Guido, Vinous, May 2020)
— 21 days ago

Luigi Tecce

Poliphemo Taurasi Aglianico 2013

Delectable Wine
9.2

Crushed plums, cherries, and blueberries are offset by spiced orange and a hint of tangerine, then further complemented by hints of rosemary, tomato leaf, and finally, animal musk; this only begins to describe the layered bouquet on the 2013 Luigi Tecce Taurasi. On the palate, soft textures usher in fleshy red fruits and citrus-kissed herbal tones, as subtle tannins slowly collect on the senses. Its structure shows mostly through the long, dramatic finish, tugging at the cheeks and drying, yet all you need to do is take another sip to refresh the experience. Frankly, I don’t see this vintage aging decades in the cellar. There’s a bit of a rustic edginess here, yet the 2013 is beautiful today and sure to provide many years of pleasure. (Eric Guido, Vinous, May 2020)
— 21 days ago

Severn, Gen and 1 other liked this

Tenuta Russo Bruno

Greco di Tufo 2015

Delectable Wine
9.1

The 2015 Greco di Tufo is minerally intense, showing spicy pear and hints of peach, as notes of savory herbs develop in the glass. On the palate, I’m finding soft textures with impressive weight, giving way to ripe orchard fruit, with hints of hazelnut, subtle spice and minerals. (Eric Guido, Vinous, May 2020)
— 21 days ago

Mastroberardino

Radici Riserva Taurasi Aglianico 2014

Delectable Wine
9.4

The dark and brooding 2014 Taurasi Riserva Radici is geared for the cellar, yet already thrilling to taste. Here I’m finding a mix of crushed tart cherries, blackberry, and plums, offset by savory herbs, orange rind, and a hint of mocha. On the palate, velvety textures coat the senses, slowly giving way to a complex blend of citrus-tinged dark fruits and saline-minerals, as fine tannin saturates the senses. The finish is long and classically structured, clenching the palate, yet leaving a pretty display of spiced orange and inner florals. There are many years of evolution in store for the 2014 Riserva. The patient consumer will benefit from losing a few bottles in their cellar for at least five to ten years. (Eric Guido, Vinous, May 2020)
— 21 days ago

Fredrik Lund

Fredrik Lund Premium Badge

Some vintage of Radici Riserva have too much oak, and are too extracted for my taste. Do you think that is still the case for recent vintages, or have they changed the vinification?