Vinosia Taurasi 2002
Those who look for quality over the whole of Italy, and not just the north, think highly of the
Aglianico grape; this Taurasi, from Campania, and the Aglianico del Vulture, from Basilicata,
give us the two flagship wines. Aglianico loves volcanic soil and altitudes of 1200 feet and
up; it ripens late in the year despite the southern climate, and so rewards patience and the
discipline to keep yields low. As with any wine that sees a spike in interest or resurgence in
popularity, as Taurasi has, quality can vary, especially considering the fact that the appellation
is defined broadly enough to encompass a number of low altitude sites. This $29 Vinosia
example, however, sits on the quality side of the Aglianico yield curve.
Taurasi was elevated from DOC to DOCG status in 1993. The regulations require the wine to be aged at least three years, with at least one year in wood. This wine is a deep violet, almost black, nearly opaque, with a pronounced nose (at 14% alcohol). The first aromatic note after some heat from the alcohol is dark fruit, blueberry and blackberry, violet, and a good dose of dark roasted chocolate, with smoke in the background.
The wine is dry, with mid-level acidity and fine-grained tannins (despite the grape's reputation for pushy acidity and aggressive tannins); nicely done. Blueberry, blackberry, black raspberry, black cherry, dark chocolate and baking spice combine rather smoothly on the palate, but behind these familiar notes lurk a brooding mix of flavors, floral, spice, and herbal, that are too complex to analogize; suffice it to say the wine shows full body and deep extraction. The wine has a long, silky finish that leaves a sensation of ripe, concentrated fruit partnered with tannins and acidity that have each nicely evolved.
All wines have their own character, but Taurasi stands out as something of a loner. It's tough to compare this wine to any other, either the regional wines of the south or the big Nebbiolo and Sangiovese wines of Italy's center and north. If there is a similarity, it lies in the wine's full-bodied bigness, but even here, this well-burnished wine shows a subtle and gentle side. This, by the way, is my second bottle of this wine; I was suffering from vertigo when I opened the first bottle and so had to watch as my guests did the drinking for me. They told me the wine was “excellent,” an adjective not quite wine-like enough for me, hence the reprise. The second time around, the wine passed my quality test: a basket of adjectives combined with an offsetting state of speechlessness.
Aglianico from the south adds a tangible dimension to the wealth of great Italian grapes.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman