Sunday, August 19, 2012

Two Nights in Taurasi, Part 2 - Taurasi 1999

Sunday evening, the twelfth of August, I found myself back in Taurasi. This time to try 8 Taurasi's dated 1999. A wine tasting conducted by journalist  Luciano Pignataro.  I have attended various Taurasi tastings over the past couple of  years (herehere and here) this was one that made me pause a bit to reflect on my little love story with Taurasi. So while I waited for the rest of the Taurasi tasters  to arrive, I prepared myself mentally for this tasting.  Friends told me that 1999 was  a great year.  But why?  How does one judge a great year?  I thought back to what I read in a booklet written by my friends from Miriade & Partners ; who during their numerous years of presenting Taurasi to the public and press examine a harvest year on 4 parameters.  For them there are two separate committees, the first,  a group of growers, winemakers and agronomists working in   Irpinia and the second panel formed by national and international journalists who participated in Taurasi Vendemmia.  Factors such as climatic trend,  the health of the grapes, agronomic/analytical aspects,  the average quality  of wines tasted as well as their potential for evolving.  Vintage year 1999 was rated eccelente, excellent.  Up there with classic vintage years such as  '97, '93, '90, '88, '87, '85, '77, '68  '61, '58, '34, and '28.   A cool summer with significant temperature fluctuations in September and October. Wines with good structure, true to their terroir of origin, tannis and very fresh ... classic Taurasi, severe, acidic, perfect  for aging.(Paolo De Cristofaro, journalist, Gambero Rosso)

 And although thirteen years is not  that long   for a big red in the wine world, it is a pretty significant number for a territory that has experienced a boom in the number of wineries over the past 10 years.

Eight wineries were chosen for our tasting...
The first wine was Feudi di San Gregorio's  Selva dei Luoti... A wine that whose color and brilliancy gave us a sneak preview of what we would notice in the wines that would be poured that evening...Bright, vibrant, ruby red.

 Next was a wine from a winery that I am very familiar with, Mastroberardino.  the wine presented was their Radici 1999 from their vineyards in Montemarano (Av).

The tasting continued..Fatica Contandina, Terradora from vineyards in Lapio as well as Montemiletto, a territory totally different from the previous glass of wine, and not a reserve, so less time in wood.

Di Meo's Taurasi Riserva was the next glass poured.

Followed by Macchia dei Gotti from Antonio Caggiano, aka Mr. Taurasi.

Next, Contrade di Taurasi...

GMG's offering...

And I Capitani's Bosco Faiano...

Tasting completed. Degustazione over. And over a plate of fusilli avellinesi with an amazing ragu sauce, I thought about the wines tasted.  Taurasi can be a tough cookie to crack at first. And without a little background, it is easy to fall into the trap of lumping them into one big melting pot.   For a wine to be a Taurasi DOCG, the vineyards must inside the 17 counties recognized by the disciplinary.  85 % of the wine must be Aglianico, while the rest can be Piedirosso, Sciascinoso, Sangiovese, or Mantonico.  It must age for 3 years, 12 months of that must be in wood unless a Riserva is what your after, which requires that the wine spends at least 18 months in wood. Then obviously, each wine maker decides whether or not to use barriques or larger barrels, French or Slovenian oak, add a few more months in wood, a few more months in the bottle.  And as I learned during Taurasi Vendemmia 2008, territory is key.
So for me, the purpose was not to judge these wines against each other.  It was to see if they lived up to assumptions made 13 years ago.  That the harvest year 1999 was eccelente.  That that harvest year which produced wines with spectacular tannins and interesting acidity was perfect for invecchiamento...great for aging.  These wines proved that.  Some with aromas of spices a little more evident than others, but all with that fantastic mature fruit which is to be expected.  And when tasted?  That acidity still evident, terrific tannins which showed me, as well as others in the room that evening,  that these Taurasis have stood the test of time.

And have a long road ahead.

I just hope I don't have to wait 13 years for another opportunity to find out...

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