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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Taste of Italy: Campania (1)

Mount Vesuvius.
CAMPANIA - The Campania region of South Western Italy, has historically been plagued not only by the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, the last recorded massive eruption which had destroyed the city of Pompeii occured in 79 AD, but it is still rocked even today by frequent earthquakes. Thus the Campania region has both lived in fear of Vesuvius for centuries, as well as having benefitted greatly when it comes to agriculture. Years and years of eruptions have left the sandstone soils rich with deposits of volcanic ash, a combination that seems to suit grapevines extremely well. Rainfall in the region is ample on the hills of Irpina, and coupled with cooler temperatures than surrounding areas, Campania provides an exceptional region for grape cultivation.

The fertile and lush vineyards of Irpinia.
Campania is renowned for the South's most impressive grape varieties, namely Aglianico for robust red wines; and Fiano Di Avellino and Greco Di Tufo for crispy and citrusy white wines. These grape varieties are referred to in Campania as the archeological varieties.

The Aglianico of Irpinia.
Aglianico is an important Italian red grape variety, that together with Piedmont's Nebbiolo and Tuscany's Sangiovese, is one of the robust and noble grapes of Italy. In the same way as Nebbiolo is famous for Barolo and Barbaresco, and Sangiovese (in various clones) is famous for Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino, Aglianico's DOCG wine is known as Taurasi, which like the former four wines has to be produced under very exacting and strict rules and methods.

One of the most renowned winemakers in Campania, and whose wines we are reviewing in this feature is:
FEUDI DI SAN GREGORIO of Sorbo Serpico, in Campania's Irpinia region.
This company was started in 1986, six years after a massive earthquake had destroyed other winemaking estates in 1980. This winemaker in the 25 years of its existence, has achieved a very enviable reputation for producing a range of excellent wines, some of which are among those most highly acclaimed in Italy.

FEUDI DI SAN GREGORIO's production of Aglianico red wine is mainly concentrated around four exceptional wines branded as follows:

The Premium Aglianico Selections from Feudi di San Gregorio.
Apart from these four Aglianico wines, this estate produce and extraordinary, icon wine from MERLOT grapes that are grown and harvested in the heart of Irpina. This unique and prestigous interpretaion of this international variety produced by Feudi di San Gregorio, in brandeD under the name of PATRIMO.

For this first feature about Campania, as well as of this winemaker we are just reviewing here, the five red wines listed above. A selection of the top white wines will be reviewed in part 2.

Patrimo 2006 Merlot IGT
1. PATRIMO Campania Rosso IGT 2006.

The two best Merlots in the world come either from France or from Italy. This Italian Merlot, grown on the hills of Irpina, coupled with volcanic soil, weather, rain and sun, is tremendous and this wine fits this description admirably.

PATRIMO is produced from 100% Merlot, grown and harvested in the best estates of Irpina.
After destemming and crushing, maceration and alcoholic fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks, followed by a period of malolactic fermentation in wood.

The wine is then matured for 24 months in French oak barriques of medium toast.
The wine is then bottled unfiltered and spends a minimum of 10 months aging in the bottle under controlled conditions in the winemaker's cellars prior to release. The 2006 vintage is the latest release of this wine and is still very young, although supple enough to be enjoyed now, this vintage requires more aging in the bottle to evolve and develop further.
Almost black ruby red in colour. Perfumed with liquorice, coffe beans, dark chocolate, vanilla from the oak barriques and ripe plum. On the palate it is full-bodied, the taste is reminiscent of of dark chocolate and blackberry. Tannins are sweet and mellow, with good balance. Long finish with an aftertaste and sensations of plum, cherry and spices A robust Merlot that pairs well roast, grilled and stewed red meats.

Alcohol content: 14.5%
Price range: Eur78


Feudi di San Gregorio Serpico 2005
2.  SERPICO Dei Feudi Di San Gregorio 2005 Irpinia Aglianico DOC.

Produced from 100% AGLIANICO grapes, harvested exclusively from patriarch, extremely old vines.
Fermentation and maceration takes place in stainless steel tanks for about three weeks, after which the wine is matured for 18 months in medium-toasted French oak barriques.
The wine is then bottled unfiltered and is aged in the bottle for a further 8 months prior to release.

Serpico, is a full-bodied wine, and has a deep, intense ruby red colour. Bouquet is long and complex cherry, spices and rich dark chocolate. On the palate it has a distinctive taste of blackberries, spicy minerality and toasted oak. Finish is persistent with good density, firm and admirable balance between its tannins, structure acidity and alcohol.

Alcohol content: 13%
Price range: Eur46.


Piano di Monte Vergine Taurasi Riserva 2002.

2002 was niot a year that led itself to great vintages in Italy, due to boisterous and adverse weather conditions in Italy through that year. For this reason the winemaker did not produce the prestigious SERPICO for 2002, but instead carefully selected grapes from the very best vineyards and the oldest patriarch vines earmarked for the SERPICO,  which were handpickedto produce this 2002 TAURASI RISERVA. This vintage resulted in a slightly lighter wine than a typical full vintage year, although still quite a powerfull wine. This can be described as a truly excellent effort for 2002.

Produced from 100% AGLIANICO grapes. Fermentation and maceration occurs in stainless steel tanks for a period of three weeks, after which the wine was matured for 18 months in French oak barriques of medium-toast. The wine is bottled unfiltered, and aged in the bottle for a further 24 months.
Taurasi Riserva, must be aged for four years before release, but notwithstanding this, full development and evolvement of this wine is expected to be complete in ten years time from the vintage year.

The wine is dark and dense ruby red in colour, full-bodied, unfiltered and powerful. On the nose the wine eminates sensations of ripe blackcurrant, blasckberry, cherry and pepper with hints of balsamico. Very strong on the nose when the bottled is opened, and requires breathing for at least one hour or decanting to be fully appreciated.
In the mouth, this wine has a mineral and fruity feel, balanced and elegant. Firm tannins slightly dry, robust lingering finish and aftertaste of liquorice.

Alcohol content: 13%
Price range: Eur37.


Taurasi DOC Dei Feudi Di San Gregorio 2006
4. TAURASI DOC 2005 AND 2006 -Dei Feudi Di San Gregorio.

These are two excellent examples of this Taurasi from two good vintage years.

Produced from 100% Aglianico grapes grown and harvested from the hills of Taurasi, Pietradefusi and Sant Angelo all-Esca.

Fermentation and maceration takes place in stailess steel tanks for aboit three weeks.
Matured in French oak barriques for 18 months, after which tyhe wine spends another 9 months aging, unfiltered, in the bottle prior to release in the estate's cellars.

Dense, ruby red in colour with aromas of cherries, cinamon, vanilla and blacl pepper integrated with the oak from the barriques. Good balancing acidity with a rasberry, hazlenut and almonds palate and a lingering finish reminiscent of  ripe red cherries. Medium tro full-bodied, a very good Taurasi.

Alcohol content: 13.5%
Price range: Eur 24.


Rubrato Aglianico 2008.
6. RUBRATO -Irpinia Alglianico 2008 DOC.

This wine is produced to express the pleasure of Aglianico wine in its youth, produced in the modern style.
Hand harvested in late October, the grapes are de-stalked and crushed into stainless steel tanks for fermentation at a controlled temperature of 26Deg.C for one week after which it spends two weeks in maceration. Maturation takes place for 8 to 10  months in stainless steel tanks. After bottling the wine is further aged for another 6 months in the bottle.

Ruby red with aromas of black fruit, liquorice typical of Aglianico and blackberry. Medium bodied on the palate, full of ripe fruit, well balanced structure consisting of well rounded tannins and spicy balsamic nuances.Nice soft finish.
Can be drank young and is ready now, but it can still evolve and develop for some five more years.

Alcohol content: 13.5%
Price range: Eur12.


These wines are still young and can all develop and evolve and soften further in the bottle for a number of years. Long aging is possible for the Patrimo and Serpico. The Taurasi's can age well beyond 10 years to 15 years from the vintage date. Rubrato 2008 up to 2014.
For best results if drank now, as these are all robust wines,they are to be opend between 1 to 3 hours before drinking. Decanting is also advisable so that the wines are aerated adeqautely to maximize exposure to the surrounding air so that their aromas will open up, the flavour profile will soften and mellow and for the overall characteristics to improve and be enjoyed fully.

Very rare beef fillet steak.
Lamb cutlet
FOOD PAIRING: Roast red meats; prime steaks; poultry; game; grilled and roast lamb; aged and strong cheese.

Part two of this feature about Campania will cover the white wine selections from Feudi Di San Gregorio, namely Campanaro 2009; Fiano Di Avellino 2009 and Greco di Tufo 2009.

Feudi Di San Gregorio Cellars - Campania.

Nectar sediment from the Taurasi Riserva.

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