2018 Contrade di Taurasi, Irpinia Rosso "Aglianico"
2018 Contrade di Taurasi, Irpinia Rosso "Aglianico"

2018 Contrade di Taurasi, Irpinia Rosso "Aglianico"

Campania, Italy 2018 (750mL)
Regular price$38.00

2018 Contrade di Taurasi, Irpinia Rosso "Aglianico"

All of Sandro Lonardo’s Aglianico vines grow within the DOCG zone of Taurasi, a small hamlet in the hills northwest of Avellino. Surrounded by mountains and within the shadow of the active volcano Vesuvio, this is where Southern Italy’s most complex, noble red wines are born. Sandro could make only Taurasi if he chose, but instead he declassifies a good portion of the fruit and uses it to produce today’s breathtaking value. This most majestic expression of Aglianico grown on limestone and volcanic tuff is made all the more mind blowing by Sandro’s insistence on long aging before release. Yes, the comparison to great Nebbiolo is apt, but in truth this is a distinct, daringly delicious red that stands on its own among Italy’s very best. Check it out!

Though it is only 45 minutes from Napoli, and a beautiful 90 minute drive from Amalfi, if you were to be beamed down into the countryside of the Avellino province you would have no idea how close you were to the sun baked beaches and throngs of tourists that invade the Amalfi coast every year. Avellino is still very much tied to its agrarian past, with chestnut orchards and olive groves as numerous as the small villages they surround. Grape growing and winemaking is an ancient tradition here, likely established in antiquity by Greeks who set up colonies all over Southern Italy. And with Mt. Vesuvius just a few miles to the west, volcanos and the eruptions that come with them, are an integral part of the geology. Indeed, the marriage of volcanic terroir and the Aglianico grape has been forged, and perfected, for centuries and it is why these wines are so distinctly profound.

Sandro Lonardo is keenly aware of the special place that Aglianico has in the hills of Avellino, you could say it is in his blood. His family has been involved in agriculture here for centuries, growing grapes, nuts, olives, and various other fruits side-by-side and eking out a humble living like most of their neighbors. Sandro left the farm life early and became a school teacher, however he returned in the mid 1990s and made the consequential decision to devote the full resources of the farm into growing and producing wine. Today he and his wife, Enza, along with family and friends, organically farm five hectares of vineyards and produce small amounts of some of the finest wines in Taurasi. 

The late 1990s was a boom time for Taurasi. For decades the only winery that produced wine for the export market was the famous Mastroberardino, but thanks to their success and a few upstarts that got some high press scores, Aglianico had a brief flirtation with fame that began to simmer down in the mid 2000s. But Sandro never tried to make high octane, 100 point monsters to compete with international superstar wines, instead he focused on tradition and the glorious terroir beneath his feet. Farming has always been organic, and cellar work is gentle and very low in interventions. Given the elevation and cool nights, harvest can be as late as early November, and Sandro is in no hurry in the cellar either: He ages his wines in large, neutral barrels and in the bottle too, for as long as he deems necessary.

About half of his Taurasi fruit is declassified into the Irpinia Rosso. Of course, this is a tiny estate so that half amounts to about 8,000 bottles, or just a bit over 650 cases total. Today’s powerful, soaring 2018 was aged in large oak puncheons for 12 months, and then spent another four years in Sandro’s cold cellar before it was released to his California importer. Serve this like you would your best Nebbiolo or Sangiovese–at cellar temperature in a large Burgundy or Bordeaux stem after a brief decant. Spiced cherries, red plums, dried roses, anisette, smoked meat, espresso, lavender, and a core of rich, saline minerality all open up on a robust, medium-full body palate with tannins that are perfectly ripe now. Any rich, traditional Italian dish would be a wonderful pairing, but I’ll go with the local version of Lasagna. Now that’s a match made in heaven, and one you’ll want to revisit for many years, so stock up now!

2018 Contrade di Taurasi, Irpinia Rosso "Aglianico"

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