Something has been happening to me lately, which I welcome with open arms. For many years I've heard tales of "The Barolo of The South", or otherwise known as Taurasi, made from the Algianico grape in the region of Campania. Yet, time and time again I would try these wines and find disappointment. Not in the quality of the wine, but in the anticipation of tasting "The Barolo of The South", which in reality is quite a boast. How do you live up to such a title? Most Taurasi I would taste were of high quality--earthy, dark and full bodied with structure to spare--but not Barolo.
But then something happened. It was a perfectly stored, won at auction, bottle of 1977 Mastroberardino Taurasi Riserva--and it changed my opinion of the wine forever. In it's youth, tasting any wine that can live for 40+ years is a challenge, especially without a reference point. This wine was that reference point. Suddenly all of that rich, dark fruit (not sweet or ripe mind you) contrasted against gobs of soil, minerality and vibrant acidity--just made sense. Did I mention these wines usually cost about half the price of your average Barolo?
Now fast forward to today and the producer Salvatore Molettieri. In comparison to Mastroberardino (which is an article all to itself), Molettieri is much smaller in production and still a relative newcomer, with it's first vintages released in the mid-ninetees. Yet even without decades of back-vintages to taste, you can gleam the upward trajectory from what's in the bottle. They are imposing in that austere, high acid Italian way that I love.
Yet, there's an elegance to it, which keeps it enjoyable now. The nose is all black stone-earth (if black quartz had a smell, this would be it) with it's fruit as an afterthought. The more I taste the wines of Molettieri, the more I want in my cellar. The 2005 (tasted below) may not have the trajectory of the '04 or '06, but it will mature and for $33, I plan to buy enough for a ten-fifteen year booking in my cellar.
I know it's rare for me to be moved to words by a single bottle, but Salvatore Molettieri deserves a place amongst these pages. And I can guarantee you that there will be many more tasting notes to come down the road. (The 2006 Riserva has recently found a place in my cellar--for the long haul.) But is it the Barolo of the South? My short answer would be... No. Yet that's because, in my opinion, Tuarasi is good enough to stand all on its own--without the cliche.
2005 Salvatore Molettieri Taurasi Cinque Querce - The nose showed radiated dark earth, stone and minerals, with a tart cherry and herbal notes rounding out the fruit. On the palate, soil laden, sour red fruits with rich, focused concentration flowed across the senses. The tannins were chewy, but not overwhelming, leaving an impression of austere elegance. It finished with palate staining dark red fruits and tannin, which slowly faded, yet never seemed to disappear. Day two was even more enjoyable as this wine darkened even more, while also taking on undergrowth and notes of mushroom, which continued to accentuate the experience.. Earthy, so very Italian, and enjoyable to the last drop.