Compared to Piedmont and Tuscany, Campania, the region of Italy around Naples, is one of the lesser-known Italian wine regions. Although only 3.5 percent of wine produced here falls into the DOC category, the volcanic hillside vineyards yield some remarkable wines of genuine quality, made from distinctive local varietals. Some of Italy’s most distinguished whites come from here, and Taurasi, from the Aglianico grape, is one of the country’s great reds. For this dinner, I’ve chosen two whites, from the Falanghina and Fiano grapes, and four reds---two Taurasis, a youthful 5-year-old and one with a decade of age, a Piedirosso (a grape that is uniquely Campanian), and as an interesting ringer, a very unusual Aglianico from Paso Robles, on the Central Coast of California.
2012 Cantina del Taburno Falanghina Sannio $14
Jancis Robinson 16/20 -- Leafy and full on. Hint of honey and lots of chew. Masses of acidity and structure. Proof of just how characterful this grape is.
2012 Clelia Romano, Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino $27
Stephen Tanzer 91 -- Gold-tinged straw-green. Mint, gin and tequila notes complicate aromas of lime, yellow apple and wet stone on the ripe nose. Then dense and smooth on the palate, with ripe pear and nectarine flavors carrying through to a seamless, balanced finish that features lingering lime, apple and mineral nuances. This strikes me as a much softer-styled fiano than usual for Clelia Romano; while it offers early accessibility, I'm not so sure it will age as well as some of her other recent Fianos. I also suggest decanting this wine an hour ahead. Although I'm a little less thrilled with this wine than usual, I should note that this bottling is arguably one of Italy's top white wines.
2009 I Pentri Castelvenere Piedirosso Kerres $30
Wine Advocate 91 -- I Pentri’s 2009 Piedirosso Kerres is one of the most intriguing wines being made in Campania. It also happens to be a great value and an equally compelling introduction to the wines of this rediscovered indigenous grape. Blackberries, black pepper, asphalt, tar, smoke and licorice burst from this racy, layered offering. Layers of perfumed fruit flow through to the generous, totally inviting finish. The Kerres captures the purest essence of Piedirosso, and it does so at an exceptionally reasonable price. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2017.
2004 Salvatore Molettieri Taurasi Vigna Cinque Querce $45
Wine Advocate 94 -- The 2004 Taurasi Cinque Querce, an impenetrable dark ruby, is simply awesome. Despite its massive, imposing style, it is remarkably delineated and nuanced. A multitude of exotic smoke, ash, violet, mint spices, licorice and dark fruit develop in the glass as this stunning Taurasi struts its stuff in a stunning display of character. This is top-flight Aglianico at its very finest. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2029.
2009 Donnachiara Taurasi $31
Wine Spectator 91 -- Brawny yet refined, with full, silky tannins lining a core of polished wild berry and dark cherry fruit, offering nuances of wild herb, tobacco and mineral. Drink now through 2020.
2009 Giornata Aglianico Luna Matta Vineyard, Paso Robles, CA $30
Limited production (48 cases), not reviewed. Here is the tech sheet for the 2011 vintage: http://www.giornatawines.com/assets/client/File/LUNA%20MATTA%20AG%202011.pdf