It’s almost impossible to talk about the wine region of Campania without discussing the Aglianico grape. Campania is where Aglianico shines, along with the Basilicata region next door, but depending on the area in which it is produced will determine what you get in the glass. Two of Campania’s appellations, Taurasi DOCG and Aglianico del Taburno DOCG, showcase the great qualities that this grape possesses so let’s take a look at the two in comparison.
The Taurasi DOCG appellation is in the province of Avellino
in Irpinia about 35 miles east of Naples.
The area in which these vineyards are located are in the mountainous
Calore Valley with altitudes of 1,000 to 2,300 feet above sea level. As you can imagine due to the mountains this
area has a cooler climate that moderate the Tyrrhenian Sea influences that
create large diurnal swings. Many of
these vines beat phylloxera that ran rapid through most of Europe so you will
find some ancient vines in this area.
The Taurasi DOCG was established in 1993. It was the first DOC in southern Italy in
1970 and this was driven by the known producer, Antonio Mastroberardino. He saw the potential in Aglianico and other
native grapes of Campania after World War II when the government at the time
was pushing for grapes that would be more productive. Due to his efforts and success with producing
quality Aglianico in 1968 he released his Aglianico that set the stage for this
Aglianico under the Taurasi DOCG must consist of a minimum
of 85% Aglianico, although many producers you will see produce wines made from
100% Aglianico. The wines must age a
minimum of 3 years with one in wood with the riserva wines aging for at least 4
years with 18 months in wood. The wines
of this area are full-bodied, complex, structured wine with a rich, bold
profile. A flavor profile of cherry,
black cherry, violet, spice, leather and tobacco to name a few. They are wines that have high alcohol,
acidity and tannin allowing these grapes to be quite age worthy. To tame these wines to make them more
approachable in their youth some producers will have shorter maceration times
and the usage of barrels for balance.
Aglianico del Taburno DOCG
The Aglianico del Taburno DOCG on the other hand is located
in the Sannio appellation that I spoke about last week within the Benevento
province. This DOCG was established much
later in 2011. This area faces hot days
and cool nights tempered by the mountains.
Aglianico del Taburno has similar soils to Taurasi with volcanic matter
and calcareous clay, but here there is sandstone while Taurasi has limestone in
addition to the previous mentioned.
The Aglianico here is from a biotype known as Aglianico
Amaro which carries a high acidity.
These wines will usually have a lighter profile than Taurasi. They too also must be made from at least 85%
Aglianico with most producers using 100% Aglianico as well. They are aged at least 2 years and riservas
are aged at least 3 years with 1 year in wood and 6 months in the bottle.
I paired this Donnachiara Taurasi with ribs cooked in my Instant Pot as I've had much success in preparing them this way. For me these days it's about the ease, time and quality with many balls in the air. With a touch of homemade BBQ sauce broiled for a few minutes once they came out they held their own paired with this Aglianico. This grape is one that definitely needs to be paired with rich meats and flavorful dishes.
In conclusion, I connected with a couple producers from these areas and they both agree over the difference in quality between these two appellations. Gianluigi Addimanda from Cantine Fratelli Addimanda stated that the biotypes are the same, but over the centuries they’ve differentiated expression and production. Aglianico del Taburno is more productive than those produced in Taurasi. Taurasi was influenced by the Vesuvius eruption in 79 B.C. that increased the quality of these wines allowing it to become the first DOCG out of those appellations primarily based on AGlianico. Claudio de Luca of Case d’Alto states that AGlianico is still Aglianico physiologically with the structure of the grapes and moderate vigor. Overall it’s the soils and technologies that allow for different products.