Perillo, Taurasi Riserva DOCG
Perillo, Taurasi Riserva DOCG

Perillo, Taurasi Riserva DOCG

Campania, Italy 2012 (750mL)
Regular price$70.00

Perillo, Taurasi Riserva DOCG

Taurasi is one of Southern Italy’s most iconic and long-lived red wines, and there’s no better time to drink one than right now: The effect of this wine on a cold day is akin to that of a can of spinach on Popeye—it’s a fortifying, full-body experience. But this wine from the excellent small estate of Michele Perillo is more than just big and bold. Italian wine lovers lovingly refer to Taurasi as the “Barolo of the South,” with Campania’s native Aglianico grape taking the scepter, so to speak, from Piedmont’s Nebbiolo. Perillo’s Taurasi Riserva from 2012 leaves no doubt that Aglianico is one of Italy’s most “noble” red varieties, right up there with both Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, but, comparatively speaking, Aglianico wines are not as revered as those others. But make no mistake: This is a first-class Italian “collectible” that easily stacks up to the Barolos, Brunellos, Bordeaux—you name it—in a well-curated cellar. Decant this brooding beauty and buckle up: You’re in for a heck of a ride!

As we only offer a handful of these wines in any given year, let’s reset: The Taurasi appellation is in central Campania, an hour or so east of Naples, where the landscape rises toward the Apennine mountains that form the spine of the Italian peninsula. It is one of several Aglianico-centric growing zones in this part of the world, which is, of course, known for its network of ancient volcanoes (including Mount Vesuvius). Although Taurasi’s soils are not purely volcanic, a readily identifiable smokiness—a tobacco-like savor—is a common Aglianico “marker.” The variety has lots of tannin and lots of smoldering earthiness to complement its saturated black fruit. Like Barolo, a wine like Taurasi can be challenging to drink when young.

But let’s be clear: Aglianico is not all brawn and no brains. Yes, it’s tannic in its youth (like Nebbiolo), but there’s also incredible aromatic complexity (like Nebbiolo) that sets it apart from most other “big” reds. Unlike both Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, Aglianico boasts greater concentration of fruit and color, without skimping on acidity. In short, it’s a grape that has a lot of everything, and while it is indeed muscular, it’s also nimble, and nuanced.

Michele Perillo and family farm about 6 hectares of vineyards in Castelfranci, in the southeast corner of the Taurasi appellation, where vineyard altitudes reach up to 500 meters (the highest elevations in the zone). For the longest time, Taurasi was defined by one producer—Mastroberardino, whose 1968 Taurasi is one of Italy’s most legendary wines—and only recently have smaller growers like Perillo grown their profile (he released his first bottled wines in 1999, after years of selling grapes to others). 

Meanwhile, one of the reasons Taurasi was nicknamed “The Barolo of the South” is that the two wines have similar minimum aging requirements as defined by DOC(G) law. In years past they were almost identical, but revisions over the years have differentiated them somewhat: Taurasi, by law, must be aged a minimum of three years before release, with a minimum of one year in wood (compared to 38 months/18 months for Barolo these days). The Perillos greatly exceed these minimums as a matter of course: This 2012 Riserva was aged for two years in 28-hectoliter barrels, then three years in stainless steel tanks, then another five (!) years in bottle before it was released. That’s an incredible commitment on the part of the producer—and even at the decade (plus) mark, this wine is just getting started!

In the glass, it’s a deeply concentrated garnet with black/blue/magenta highlights and very little bricking. The assertive, complex aromatics jump out of the glass and almost snap your head back—not with excess alcohol heat, mind you, but with a dark-toned potpourri that includes ripe blackberry, mulberry, pomegranate, tar, cocoa, dried herbs, smoked meat, and a pronounced cigar box/tobacco leaf savor. Full-bodied and yet shockingly fresh on the palate (the acidity no doubt owes at least in part to the higher altitudes and cooler temperatures of the vineyards) it’s a red that demonstrates how a longer growing season adds layer upon layer of complexity. Aglianico is often harvested as late as November down here (and in nearby Monte Vulture, in Basilicata, another stronghold for the grape), and it shows in the profound depth of the wines. And yet, as powerful as this wine is, it’s not a monolith—the acidity gives it great energy and drinkability, and the alcohol is rather moderate given the overall palate weight. 

When it comes to food for this wine, do not be shy: a good, hard sear on a well-marbled ribeye steak would be in order, as would some braised short ribs. The attached recipe is a go-to for us, and this wine is nothing short of an Italian icon. It’s a place, and a producer, that needs to be on your radar. Don’t miss it! 

Perillo, Taurasi Riserva DOCG

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