Grapevine: How do you choose?
If you have never seen the producer on a bottle of wine, how do you know whether to buy it or not?
Often the grape variety and the country or region will play an important role in making the decision. Generalisations are after all very useful in the world of wine – a grape from a familiar region can usually be found quite easily and makes for a safe bet in a sea of unfamiliar terms and names. Some regions can be unfairly cast aside or labelled – take our Riverland, which is historically the home of high volume cheap wine, but with the introduction of several new well suited grape varieties and some focused growers is becoming a source of very good quality interesting wines. In Italy, the southern regions suffer a similar stigma – hot climates that pump out high volumes of sunny cheap plonk. But that too can be a misleading assumption.
The southern Italian regions such as Campania, underneath the sea of simple everyday drinking wines, are home to some of Italy’s unique white and red wines that are worthy of putting up against your prized bottles from Piedmont, Tuscany or further afield. Bordeaux, followed by Burgundy, followed by Barolo have all seen their prices jump in to the stratosphere making the wines inaccessible to many, which leads to the search for the next region to offer similar qualities in the glass without the price tag.
Aglianico in Campanina and specifically Taurasi presents a wine well worth your time if you’re yet to have discovered it.
The mix of high elevation with soils of sandy loam, limestone and volcanic matter that comes from the nearby Vesuvius Volcano provides a complex base for wines that typically have an “elegant austerity” – the structural elements of high acidity and high tannins cannot be shaken but when handled well are by no means harsh to taste, merely firm. The flavour spectrum certainly shows some of the southern Italian sunshine with generous, ripe black and red fruits being common along with a brooding array of supporting characters – dark chocolate, licorice, spice and smoke. As they age the fruit becomes lush as the acid and tannins integrate into the wine and layers of dried flowers, spice, tobacco and leather start to emerge.
Mastroberadino has been producing wine since the 1700s in Campania and was pivotal in the creation of the most famous designations in the region. Following the world wars in the early 1900s, many growers struggled to stay afloat, beginning to rip up vineyards and plant more “international varieties” such as Cabernet and Merlot presumably to increase yields and reach a wider audience.
Mastroberadino stuck the course, though, believing in the unique marriage of the area with Aglianico (Taurasi), Fiano (Avellino) and Greco (Tufo). It proved to be a long slog, though, Taurasi was only elevated to DOCG status (the highest and most stringent quality standard in Italy) in 1992, Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo followed in 2003.
Their Taurasi ‘Radici’ ($70) is considered an iconic Italian wine now with the 1968 regarded as one of the top 10 Italian wines ever produced. It’s not hard to imagine that they have some of the finest sites for Aglianico having been so pivotal in the works to finding sites across the region to replant Aglianico for themselves and other producers.
Smoke, spice, red and black fruits on the nose lead to a Medium-full bodied wine with assertive yet fine tannins, ripe cherry, raspberry, grilled meats, subtle oak influence and more of the smokey/mineral flavours. The flavours show great density and intensity carrying through on a long finish.