Taurasi: A Campania Red Wine Worth Acquiring

In the region of Campania (see related article on Lacryma Christi) there is red wine that is worth knowing about and which merits acquisition. This wine, named Taurasi, is made from the Aglianico grape, the same grape discussed in the article on Aglianico del Vulture from Basilicata.  Indeed, the Aglianico grape is utilized over much of southern Italy.  For reasons which will be explained below, the Aglainicos from Campania are some of the best made anywhere.

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Taurasi is made in the elevated hill area of Avellino in eastern Campania along the Calore River.  Taurasi is also the name of a community in the center of this production area.  The most prominent building in the area is the Longobard Castle, a remnant of the Normans.  The topography is one reason that Aglianico wines are so successful here.  The vineyards are all at elevations of 2100 feet or higher.  The soils are mixes of calcareous marls and volcanic deposits.  The limestone is often credited with providing the tannic bite so profound in Taurasi wines while the volcanic soil provide a smoky factor. 


Taurasi, however, is not an ancient wine.  While Aglianico has been grown in Campania for centuries, it was traditionally called Irpinia.  In fact, Irpinia Aglianico is a DOC wine still being made today.  It was the venerable Campania wine producing Mastroberardino family (discussed in the article on Lacryma Christi) who first brought Taurasi wines to the world’s attention.  In fact, it was a particular vintage, the 1968 Mastorberardino Taurasi which put this wine on the world wine map.  The wine is a legend among wine aficionados.  Well stored bottles currently sell for $400 a bottle and are allegedly still drinking beautifully (I have never had the pleasure).  One recent tasting note that I read alleged these bottles still have a youthful quality to them. 

I am not aware if anyone knows the exact origin of wines named Taurasi.  Taurasi became a DOC in 1970 and was promoted to DOCG status in 1991.  Today, under the DOCG rules, Taurasi must be at least 85% Aglianico.  The additional 15% can be supplemented with local red grapes, often including the Piedirosso grape.  Most of the wines, however, tend to be 100% Aglianico.  Besides the wines being 85% Aglianico, they must be aged three years before release with a minimum of one year in wood.  To be labeled as a Riserva the wines must be aged for a minimum of four years with at least eighteen months in wood.  It is always a dry red wine.