What’s Your Sign? Taurasi, Baby. DOCG That Is.

I’m guessing the first thing I should do is apologize for this horribly cheesy title! But, you clicked on it, and I’m glad you did.

The Taurasi DOCG, encompasses the Province of Avellino, within the Campania region in Italy, about 30 miles northeast of Naples. Campania is home to not just Mt. Vesuvius but several volcanoes known as the Campanian Volcanic Arc resulting in area rich in ancient volcanic soils. The Aglianico (ah-yee-ahn-eco) grape is the grape of this region, with 95% of vineyards planted to the variety.

Photo courtesy Google, pinpointing the Salvatore Moletteiri Winery.

It is said that Aglianico truly reflects the soils in which in grows, producing wines that express a sense of place, and the Taurasi region is often referred to as the Barolo of the south. Despite this reputation, neither Taurasi nor Aglianico are incredibly well known here in the U.S.

The first time I tried an Aglianico – I loved it – but I had to ask the person pouring the wine, who happened to be the producer, how to pronounce it about 100 times. The wines were from a neighboring region, Aglianico del Vulture, and I am going to go on record as having enjoyed those wines just a tad bit more. Even now I remember a minerality that I thought was just scrumptious. I wrote about those first wines I experienced and you can read that article here.

Taurasi’s area is about 100,000 acres, however DOCG wines come from a small section in the northeast area called Irpinia. Ancient volcanic soils dominate the region, but now include a number of other soil types as well. Aglianico loves to grow at elevation and most vineyards are at least 1,300 feet above sea level.

Speaking of Aglianico, Taurasi wines must be made with at least 85%. Although most wines are single varietal, the remaining 15% can be made up of several varieties, most commonly Piedirosso, Sangiovese or Barbera.

There are also aging requirements for Taurasi DOCG – a minimum three years prior to release, with one of those in barrel. Riserva wines require four years, with 18 months in barrel. Taurasi wines are big, bold wines that can be aged for a decade or longer.

Dark fruit, plum, tobacco, smoke, big tannins, with great acidity, these are the general characteristics of a Taurasi wine. Some might say strong, stable, sensuous with a love of beauty. These are the characteristics I found for the horoscope sign of Taurus, so maybe my title for this article is not so bad?

Let’s take a look at a specific bottle of Taurasi:

Salvatore Molettieri|2012 Taurasi Cinque Querce|$39.00|15% ABV

Recently I’ve discovered an online wine retailer called Wine Spies. They offer one wine a day via email, you can buy one bottle or 12. Even if you purchase just one bottle, they let you build a case in your own virtual locker. Once you have a case, it ships for free. That’s where I found this wine, a 2012 Taurasi DOCG from the Salvatore Molettieri family.

The Molettieri family has farmed grapes for more than 4 generations, but it wasn’t until 1983 that they began producing wines from their own fruit. This wine is 100% Aglianico from Montemareno, where they grow at around 1500 feet above sea level on 25 year old vines. Although situated on a volcanic hillside, the soil in the Cinque Querce vineyard is predominantly calcareous clay.

The grapes are hand harvested in mid-November, are macerated between 2-3 weeks in stainless stainless steel tanks where they also undergo fermentation. Aging in various sized oak barrels for 48 months follows. Once bottled, the wines will wait an additional 6 months prior to release. There are only 850 cases of this wine produced each year.

I’m not sure if it was the Barolo reference but I thought I had aromas of roses and tar right of the gate. As the wine decanted I definitely smelled licorice – not herbal anise licorice, but black licorice and stewed strawberries.

On the palate the wine is, as expected, huge. I got juicy black cherry, and tobacco spice – this wine is complex and the flavors kept evolving over the course of the bottle. I was hoping for more mineral notes, but I can’t say that I detected them. The intense tannins are neither grippy nor smooth. This is a wine that demands your attention and would be great with braised short ribs, a ribeye steak, or a meat lovers pizza.

I did think that I could feel a little heat from the alcohol on this wine, but I am very susceptible to the influence and just like with the tar and roses, this might have been preconceived. It was not so present as to make the wine unenjoyable, but I thought I detected it slightly. I said to my husband I thought our Bourbon loving friends would really enjoy this wine.

All in all a very enjoyable wine and a nice little virtual trip to the Taurasi DOCG. It is not very often I get the opportunity to purchase a 10 year old wine for $39.00, what a score!

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