I have finally come round to one of the really great discoveries of the wonderful Radici del Sud 2012 Festival.
I know I sound like (and probably am) an old fart when I say that I have long yearned for the greatness of proper Taurasi wine. I am of course particularly referring to the Mastroberardino wines of old, from before the earthquake and the family splitting up. Back from when Mastroberardino simply had the first choice of the best grapes in any year from the entire area, and predictably and unfailingly made great wine, well-brought-up in great old oak casks and true to the ultimate nature of the great aglianico variety.
Much has happened since those glorious olden days, and I am not just referring to the earthquake and the family splitting up. Modern winemaking has arrived, and has celebrated huge critical (and commercial) success from producers such as Feudi di San Gregorio and Antonio Caggiano. Many other producers have arrived, and there is undoubtedly much fault-free, impressive wine being made. But, being an old and sentimental curmudgeon, these wines have tended to impress me in an intellectual way, and I have lacked the sheer emotional identification and impact I used to have. Chalk it down to my senses deteriorating, which is an undoubted biological fact, but I actually think it has much to do with technology having the better of typicity.
One great fact of the recent surge in the number of producers is the fact that we now have the possibility of getting much closer to the individual terroir, if the producers will let us. For me, this inevitably means that we will eventually have a much greater selection than we have ever had from the Taurasi area, and that there is bound to be a development back towards the “real” Taurasi. In that sense, we have probably seen an in-between stage where the technology has had the upper hand, but has also permitted small plot owners to go the full distance towards making their own wines rather than selling grapes or wine to the large houses. I consider Campania in general to be exiting from this stage and into a very exciting future with lots of producers turning in droves towards the maximum expression of their varieties and terroir. The Taurasi area is no exception, and this development is nowhere more clearly expressed, for me, than with Guastaferro.
This producer was new to me. The young, intense, smouldering and clearly ambitious proprietor Raffaele Guastaferro produces a small range of wines in the Taurasi area, all from a small acreage of own vineyard holdings, but had made the courageous choice to show only his Taurasi Riserva “Primum” in two vintages, 2003 and 2006. This wine hails from a reportedly 150-years-old vineyard in the actual comune of Taurasi, and only some 3,000 bottles are made annually. I found myself back in some long-lost aglianico paradise:
Taurasi Riserva Primum 2003
Highly complex, wildly intense nose with a core of cherry essence, then leather, tar, tobacco, prune and wet rock minerality. Full power in the mouth, intense, enormous but soft tannins, and round, soft fruit sweetness. Very long, tangy prune sauce, cherries, tobacco, iron, minerals, flowers. Wow.
Taurasi Riserva Primum 2006
Highly complex nose with blood/rust, intense cherry essence, leather, tobacco, dry spices. Very intense in the mouth, vibrant acidity, good firm tannins. Very long, cherry essence, iron, tobacco, garrigue, then a fresh and flowery perfume. 2006 is a great vintage for Taurasi, and this still fresh, young example seems destined for a long life with great tertiary development.
Raffaele actually uses barriques for this wine, and there is no doubt that the winemaking is deliberately somewhat oxidative, but the sheer power of the raw materials drown all that out and provides wine of great complexity and power. Raffaele is destined for greatness, and I can’t wait for all the fine wine that will emanate from this address with time and further experience.