Monday, March 20, 2023

Comparison of Aglianico del Taburno vs. Taurasi

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.

Taurasi DOCG

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 grapes success.  

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. 

The wine

Although I don’t have a wine from the Aglianico del Taburno to share this week, I did enjoy a bottle of Taurasi from Donnachiara.  You can’t go wrong with any wines from this producer as I’ve experienced over the years.  I sampled a 10 year old bottle that proved to me the longevity of this wine with how much life was still in the bottle.  It was a 2013 Donnachiara Taurasi DOCG made from 100% Aglianico. 
2013 Donnachiara Taurasi
This is a grape that grows early and is harvested late as you can see in this bottle with these grapes harvested the first half of November.  The wine was aged 12 months in 225 liters of French barrique with another 12 months in the bottle.  Although the label stated it is “ruby red with purple” colors in the glass mine was more garnet with some slight brick hues on the edge, which could be from it’s age.  A rich nose in the glass of black cherries, blackberries and licorice.  This wine needed  a little time to aerate as it had some gripping tannins up front that smoothed out with a little time.  Dry with a persistent finish.  ABV 13.5%

The pairing

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.

Instant pot ribs paired with Taurasi
ribs paired with Aglianico

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. 

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