MCF Rare Wine Ltd.
Luigi Tecce: Taurasi, Period

Apologies in advance for the rather lengthy write-up, but I feel really strongly about this one.

If you asked me to recommend one currently under-valued wine to purchase now and forget about for the long term (like the 30-40 year long term) that I think will both become a truly amazing wine and appreciate measurably in stature and value, Luigi Tecce's Taurasi would certainly be on the very short list.

By now, most of you are probably familiar with my rather quixotic effort to get people to buy and cellar more wines from Southern Italy, especially from Campania and specifically from the Aglianico grape's spiritual home of Taurasi.

The Taurasi zone, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, dating back to the Ancient Greeks, and the Aglianico grape has one of longest histories of any wine varietal on earth.

Proper Aglianico, even at the very modest end, really requires at least a bit of cellar time to soften its aggressive, tannic structure.  When given time to slowly loosen its grip, though, the result is one of the truly singular experiences in wine (ask anyone who's had the pleasure of a bottle of Mastroberardino from the '60s or '70s).

One of the challenges you face when producing or selling this wine is that the examples in the market that have received a lot of attention in the press have all attempted to take this noble varietal and make it more user-friendly, either by extracting/oaking the soul out of it or by blending it with softer international varietals (or both).

While these wines are perfectly nice, they a) don't clearly express the unique characteristics of the grape and the terroir and b) don't age anywhere near as well as they should.

I'm not criticizing these wines, certainly this happens everywhere in the wine world, but once you try a traditional Taurasi that's in its proper drinking window, you'll understand why I'm so attached to them and why I'm so excited about today's offer.

Mastroberardino's wines are still fantastic, but they have become a bit friendlier in the last decade.  So the question people often ask is, 'Who should we seek out for proper, old-fashioned Taurasi?'

For me, there are a few producers such as Lonardo, Perillo and Molettieri who still make terrific, old-fashioned Taurasi.  But the one producer that any serious Taurasi fan would point to as the star, the one who's leading the pack, is Luigi Tecce.

If you've heard of Tecce, you know how hard his wines are to find.  If you haven't heard of him, it's mostly because his wines are very hard to find.

But he was recently picked up by my pals at PortoVino so I'm really excited because not only are they a bit less expensive than they were with their previous importer, but I also get some actual quantity now.

That said, there still isn't much.

These two wines are aggressively old-school in style -- long, open fermentation, long aging in large, neutral oak, extended aging in bottle, etc.  If you were to open one today, I'd recommend drinking the bottle slowly, over the course of a week.  Just to give you a glimpse at what kind of aging they're capable of.

Really, though, you should bury these wines at the bottom of a huge stack in your cellar and forget about them for at least a decade, preferably two or three.

The classic, rustic, volcanic nature of the wines is all there, and some time long down the road, the elegant, subtle, soft fruit will emerge and with it, the Nebbiolo-like levels of life-affirming complexity.  

I really can't stress this enough, you have to take my word for it, because by the time these wines are at their peak, they'll be as legendary as anything in the pantheon that you can possibly think of.

Right now, Taurasi still lives on the fringes, but 20yrs ago would you ever think aggressively old-school wines from the Northern Rhone would ever have the following they do now?  My call is that we're in the same ballpark with these.  

Luigi Tecce is carrying on the one of the oldest traditions on earth and he's doing an amazing job of it.

To me, that makes him one of the most important winemakers in the world.


Irpinia Campi Taurasini 'Satyricon' 2013
This is the baby-brother of the Taurasi, made from a plot of 20-year-old vines in Castelfranci.  Fermentation takes place in stainless steel and it's aged in 50 HL botti for 12 months, another 10 months in stainless steel and six month in bottle.  This is the the 'fresher, friendlier' wine of the two, but really I'd let this go for at least 5 years.  This is a fantastic value, especially considering its ability to age.

Taurasi 'Poliphemo' 2011
This is the one.  From two parcels in Paternopoli of 85-year-old vines, the fermentation takes place over 40 days in open-top chestnut, with an élevage of 12 month in tonneau, 12 months in 50 HL botti, 12 months in stainless and then 15 months in bottle.  This is about as old-school as it gets.  Luigi took over and started making the wines this way in 1997, so there's no real reference for how these wines will show deep into the future, but I, and just about anyone else who loves serious Southern Italian wine, cannot wait to find out.

Matt Franco

MCF Rare Wine, Ltd
237 West 13th Street
New York 10011