Aglianico is the majestic red grape variety of southern Italy, and Taurasi is the king of them all. In Taurasi,Aglianico finds its home at high altitude and deeply volcanic soils that so accentuate Aglianico's demonic temperament. BY law the wines here must be aged in wood for one year and at least 3 years in total before release. Taurasi, makes cavernous wines with spice, smoke, leather and the most wonderfully crunchy red and black fruit. These are wines brimming with tension and grip, energetic and thrilling, definitely demanding and at times absolutely thrilling. Like a roller-coaster ride, with Freddie Krueger, in the dark! On song these are fascinating wines that cut through the richest of meals with their twin vices of acid and tannin. The only other grape variety I've encountered that comes close to Aglianico is the Petite Sirah of California. Its home is Campania, inland a little from the Amalfi Coast and 400-600m above sea level. Here the vines are planted in the spine of volcanoes that run down the Italian coast, and these add to and enhance Aglianico's character. A little like Durif it is perceived to be ferociously tannic, mean spirited and in need of many years ageing to break its nasty temperament. But times have changed and better viticulture and a gentler hand in the winery are making wines that are aromatic and seductive without denying the tempestuous personality of the grape variety. I've always loved the scene in Lord of the Rings with Gandalf facing down the Balrog in Moria. In my mind Aglianico is the Balrog. The fiery child born from a volcanic crevice closer to the centre than the edge of the earth, all dark wings and leathery tail, a whipping, crackling ferocious wine. But somehow here there is a beautiful essential core, a thread of bright acid and the freshest of ripe fruits. It's a great wine for sipping and probably needs food. This is about as charming as Aglianico comes - if you want to get into serious battle action then you need to tackle Taurasi, the King of them all.
Benito Ferrara is a small 12.5ha estate in the hills near Tufo,a small village in the hills of Campania in south-central Italy - the name derives from the fluffy volcanic rock that is present throughout the region. The finest wines made from Greco in all of Italy are found here. Campania's most celebrated wines come from this district in the province of Avellino. Steep mountains rise from the area to the east of Naples and continue toward the border with Puglia. It is thickly forested with chestnut trees, wild mushrooms and an almost-Alpine appeal with snow-capped mountains. Benito Ferrara is run by fourth generation viticulturalists Gabriella Ferrara and her husband Sergio. Gabriella's great-grandfather planted vines on his property but they only bottled their first wines in 1991.