Superb Taurasi, the Jewel of Campania
Terredora di Paolo
Terredora Dipaolo is located in Campania in the province of Avellino near Montefusco. The winery and vineyards for years had been owned by the Mastroberardino family but in 1978 were split into two properties by the brothers Walter and Antonio, who separately continue to make highly respected wines. Terre Dora is owned by Walter Mastroberardino and his children Paolo, Lucio, and Daniela, who dedicated it to their mother Dora Mastroberardino. They own 200 hectares of vines on the sunny, windy hills of Irpinia not far from the Bay of Naples and Pompeii, some vineyards planted on the high sides of dormant volcanoes as high as 650 meters above sea level. The landscape is a rolling succession of mountains, hills, and upland plains, divided by rivers and covered with lush vegetation, influenced by the altitude and its cool-temperature microclimate with cold and snowy winters and hot summer days with cool nights.
The family devotes more than 50 percent of its production to the noble white wines of the region, Fiano, Greco, and Falanghina. Originally planted by the Greeks as early as the Seventh Century B.C.E., these whites were favored by the Romans, who chose Campania for their summer villas and then carried the wines back to Rome. Aglianico and Piedirosso are the equally ancient and noble reds of the area. Produced less than 40 miles from the other Aglianico stronghold of Aglianico del Vultura, the volcanic soils of the Taurasi region demonstrate the potential that the Aglianico grape has to make wines on par with the Nebbiolo grape of Piemonte and the Sangiovese grape of Toscana. In fact, Taurasi is called the “Barolo of the South.” Daniela Mastroberardino recently visited San Francisco and introduced her wines at Angelino’s Restaurant in Sausalito, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. She pointed out that aroma is the important indicator of quality for white wines and that theirs are capable of aging for many years. For each wine that was poured at the lunch, Daniela told a story, laughingly pointing out that because Campania grape growing has existed for millennia, everything connected with grapes and wine has a relevant story that goes far back in time, often multiple stories that contradict one another.
Towards the end of the 1970s, Giovanni Batista Cantele and his wife Teresa Manara decided to transfer 30 years of experience in the wine world of northern Italy to the region of Puglia, and the Salento zone in particular, where they saw tremendous potential. The area is home to some of the most fascinating expressions of Greek varietals, which have grown there for 28 centuries. The Salento peninsula is the southernmost point of Puglia and extends for over one hundred kilometers between the Adriatic and Ionian seas. Its natural border to the north is formed by the Murge hills, which reach four hundred meters above sea level before descending gradually to meet the broad Salento plain.
During the 1980s, sons Augusto and Domenico took over from their parents. From the beginning, the objective was to develop the potential of the local, historic varieties of Primitivo and Negroamaro and to add the international varieties of Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Amativo, a blend of Primitivo and Negroamaro is the winery’s flagship wine and has won wine guide Gambero Rosso’s highest Tre Bicchierri award twice in the last seven years. The family has planted 30 hectares of vineyard and constructed a new winery complex in Guagnano that holds 800 French oak barrels where the wines mature. Gianni, Paolo, Umberto, and Luisa, the first generation of the Cantele family to be born in Salento, now participate in the business and are driven by the same love and respect for the land, which first hosted and finally adopted their fathers.
Italian Wines of the Month
Cantele – 2009 Salice Salentino Reserva
The name of the wine, Salice Salentino, is that of a small community located to the north of Lecce in an area of vineyards and olive groves with scattered farmhouses and ancient watchtowers. A blend of 85% Negroamaro and 15% Malvasia Nera, this Riserva is full bodied with a deep ruby color and a complex bouquet. The flavor of ripe fruit is accented by notes of vanilla from six months of aging in French and American oak barrels. Serve at room temperature with grilled vegetables and red meats.
Cantele – 2011 Chardonnay
This wine is 100% Chardonnay from estate vineyards at Guaguano and Montemesola near Brindisi. Chardonnay arrived in Puglia 30 years ago to improve its sparkling wine production. Local growers foresaw its potential and began to experiment with making still wines. Twenty years ago, the Cantele family planted its first Chardonnay vines, and now the variety makes one of their most important varieties. Aged in stainless steel tanks, the wine has a pale yellow color, an intense bouquet of lily, magnolia, and ripe fruit that transfer to a balanced palate. Serve chilled as an aperitif and with seafood in general, vegetable dishes, and soft cheeses.
Cantele – 2010 Amativo
This delicious wine is 40% Negroamaro and 60% Primitivo, which is the same grape variety as Zinfandel. The name Amativo was coined by Giovanni Cantele with the idea that if the wine was to be a blend of the most historic grapes of Puglia, the name should also be a blend. The result was ama from Negroamaro and tivo from Primitivo. Aged for 10 months in French oak barrels, the wine has intense ruby color with mature red fruit and spice aromas, followed by a hint of vanilla. On the palate, the Amativo is rich and warm with finely textured tannins that contribute to a lively finish.
Terredora Dipaolo – 2006 Taurasi, Fatica Contadina
A blend of Aglianico, harvested from two Terredora Dipaolo vineyards, one in Lapio and the other in Montemiletto, this Taurasi was aged for 18 months in older French oak barrels so that oak barrel flavors do not influence the taste of this delicious wine. With intense color and a pronounced and complex nose, the wine exudes scents of black cherry, violet, tobacco, and mineral notes. The aromatic intensity incorporates itself into elegant sensations on the palate, perfectly balanced with smooth tannins and refreshing acid. This beautiful Taurasi can be paired with all roasted meats, grilled lamb chops, game, and dishes with mushrooms, truffles, and mature cheeses. Writing for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Antonio Galloni gave the 2005 Taurasi, Fatica Contadina 93 points.
Terredora Dipaolo – 2011 Falanghina
This delicious white wine was aged on its lees in stainless steel tanks and sees no oak. The Mastroberardino family ages its white wines only in stainless steel so that delicate flavors avoid taking on any of those associated with oak barrels. Falanghina offers intense aromas of fruit with hints of apple, pineapple, quince, and pear. With fresh and clean flavors in the mouth, the wine has excellent acidity, good structure, and a floral finish. Serve chilled as an aperitif or with shell fish, seafood risotto, and simply prepared poultry.
Terredora Dipaolo – 2005 Taurasi Pago dei Fusi
The vineyard is named for the town of Fusi, where the vineyard is located, and for Pago, which refers to the small Roman garrison housed in the area during the rule of Rome. Of the three Taurasi wines that we’ve featured this month from Terredora, this is the most international in style, which is to say that it shows smooth and ripe fruit flavors. Aged for 14 months in French oak barrels, the wine has deep color and a blooming aroma of ripe cherries, sweet spices, plum, tobacco, pepper and tar. Supple and silky on the palate, a concentrated texture mellows into richness and ripeness. With sweet tannins and a long finish, this single vineyard Taurasi will age for years. Serve at cool room temperature. Writing for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Antonio Galloni gave this wine 94 points and the 2005 vintage 95+.
Terredora Dipaolo – 2004 Taurasi Campore
Made only in the best vintages, the Aglianico grapes are harvested from Terredora vineyards in Lapio, Campore. The wine matures for 24 months in French oak barrels. With deep color, the pronounced and complex bouquet shows hints of wild black cherry fruit, plums, spicy scents of violet, tobacco, black pepper, earthy mineral notes, and chocolate. Full bodied, silky, and elegant on the palate, the Taurasi Campore is richly balanced with tannin and a long finish. It will continue to develop for more than ten years. Writing for Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Antonio Galloni gave the 2003 Taurasi Campore 92 points.
Italian Regions of the Month
The capital of Campania, Naples was founded by the Greeks, enlarged by the Romans, and subsequently invaded by the Normans, Hohenstaufen, French, and Spanish among others. Established by the Greeks in the 11th Century BC, Naples was the earliest of a cluster of far flung settlements throughout southern Italy. Many important figures of the age, including Pythagoras, Archimedes, and Aeschylus lived in these settlements, and today some of the best ruins of the ancient Greek world can be found there. Along with mathematics, architecture, and drama, the ancient art of winemaking also flourished in the hills and valleys of the region as the cult of Dionysus spread. Aglianico and Greco, vines that the Greeks introduced, are still highly prized. The Greek historian Herodotus called this part of Italy Oenotria, the land of wine.
In the 16th Century, Sante Lancerio, the bottler of Pope Paul III, raved about the wines of the Kingdom of Naples, and their reputation continued into the 19th Century. But subsequently, viticulture went into decline for decades as growers left the land, and the majority of remaining producers ignored DOC regulations and instead chose to plant prolific vines rather than those that would produce premium grapes. In the last 25 years, producers have once again recognized the potential of southern Italy in general and have modernized their viticulture and winemaking techniques. Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo are among Italy’s most distinguished white wines, while Taurasi from Aglianico has been called the “Barolo of the South” because of its aging ability. Taurasi, Greco di Tufo, and Fiano di Avellino are the three DOCG wines to date. Mastroberardino is a distinguished winery in the region as is Feudi di San Gregorio, Villa Matilde, Mustilli, and Casa d’Ambra.
Pulia, the heel and spur of the Italian boot, is rich in art and architecture, which reflect the many cultures that have dominated the region over the centuries. The Greeks, Romans, Saracens, Normans, Swabians, and Spaniards among others have all left their imprints there. The octagonal fortress in Castel del Monte was built by Emperor Frederick II in 1240. The towns of Otranto and Gallipoli evoke the Greeks. And much of Lecce is Baroque in style, having flourished in the 17th century. Alberobello is the capital of the “trulli,” which are whitewashed, circular buildings with conical roof tiles, and whose origins no one is certain of.
Known as Europe’s wine cellar, Pulia produces more grapes than any other region and normally surpasses Germany and all but six other nations. But it has sacrificed quality for quantity. Many of its wines are without distinction and are consumed locally or used for blending in the wines of other regions. But recently producers have been making good to excellent reds, whites, and rose` from a range of grape varieties.
In the north, the terrain is hilly and the climate temperate. White varieties which dominate are Verdeca, Bianco d’Alessano, Malvasia, Tribbiano, and Bombino Bianco and in the Itria valley, Locorotondo and Martina Franca. Red wines are the native Uva di Troia and Bombino Nero, as well as Montepulciano and Sangiovese. The lading DOC zone of northern Pulia is Castel del Monte, which makes a fine rose and a full-bodied red. In much of the north, the emphasis is on red wines.
The traditional wines of Salento in the south are the powerful reds Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera, and Primitivo, related to California’s Zinfandel. Salice Salentino is the most prominent DOC zone in Salento and is noted for its rich red and for its rose, some of which ranks with Italy’s finest.