Cantine Russo Taurasi
Cantine Russo Taurasi is a family estate in the middle of the prestigious Taurasi appellation in Avellino which produces rich and fully flavored Aglianicos, Fianos, and Falanghinas. What I love about the Russo Taurasi wines is that they let the grapes each year tell them what "styles" of wines to produce. This results in very fresh tasting wines with remarkable flavor profiles and a huge number of food pairing ideas.
Since 1800 the Russo family has owned a small piece of land in the Taurasi area called "la Carazita". In 1999 Ermanno Russo decided to make his dream to come true and started to re-plant the vineyards in the place where he was born and then expanded the estate and built the winery.
Aglianico is the best native red grape of Irpinia and here it finds it's natural "terroir" due to the volcanic clay and limestone soil and the perfect vineyard positioning being covered by sun from dawn until sunset. Russo Taurasi introduced its first wines in 2006 and it is managed by Marcella Russo, her sister Cristina, and her husband Claudio.
The family's respect for the qualities of the native grapes also extends to their flexibility each year in wine making. Initial vinification is to bring out the full flavors of each year's grapes but after that there will be a broad range of aging processes. The Russo Taurasi wines evolve slowly and patiently...whether in stainless steel or a combination of barriques, barrels, and tonneaus, and which is based on the wine and the vintage. Aging in wood is not to "add flavors" but only to gracefully complete each wine.
Up the hill to the Cantine
View to the Cantine from across the vineyards
Oak Tonneaus for aging
Cristina, Ermanno, and Marcella
Fiano di Avellino DOCG "Donnaceleste" 2016
This is a very richly flavored and refreshing Fiano di Avellino with a lot of food pairings. Initial aromas of walnuts, hazelnuts, linden, acacia, and honeysuckle transition into flavors of meyer lemon, pineapple, kiwi, lychee, apricot, grapefruit, and a hint of pear. Perfectly balanced across the palate with a medium to full mouth feel, this is a very enjoyable wine with a memorable finish.
Extensive food pairings would include crab cakes, fresh crab, grilled tuna, swordfish, calamari, shrimp, fried anchovies, lobster bisque, clam chowder, seafood salads, veal and chicken piccata, veal and pork cutlets, pasta with oil and garlic, green salads, spicy Middle Eastern food, Thai food, and also as a delightful aperitif or as an accompaniment to desserts such as fresh fruit or crème brulee.
The wine is produced from grapes sourced from the best sites of the DOCG to ensure a high quality level of the fruit. Grapes are harvested in October and clusters are carefully sorted and selected. The wine making process uses stainless steel tanks with controlled temperatures to maximize freshness and flavors.
Falanghina Campania IGT "Grandilla" 2016
This crisp and refreshing Falanghina opens with aromas of white flowers, lychee, apricot, and honeydew melon. Initial flavors of pineapple, honeydew, lemon, and grapefruit are accentuated with refreshing minerality that seems to give the wine more "weight" than its perfectly balanced medium mouth feel.
Food pairings would include sole, scallops, crab, sea bass, swordfish, arctic char, trout, pasta with oil and garlic, linguine with clam sauce, pasta alfredo, roast poultry, pork tenderloin, chicken stir frys, Thai curries, Indian coconut curries, Asian noodles with sesame oil, sautéed mushrooms, grilled eggplant, and both sheep's milk and cow's milk cheeses.
Grapes are sourced from higher mineral content areas of the Sannio hills. Winemaking starts with carefully selected clusters that are vinified in stainless steel tanks. Fermentation temperatures are carefully controlled to maximize freshness and grape aromas.
Aglianico Irpinia Campi Taurasini DOC "Macri" 2013
Aglianico is one of my favorite varietals as it can produce a broad range of aromas and flavors. In this example from the "Taurasian fields (campi)" surrounding Taurasi there are initial aromas of coffee, blackberries, cherries, and vanilla along with hints of roses, tobacco, and licorice. Flavors of blackberry, cedar, plums, and tart cherries are accented by hints of roasted peppers, paprika, and dark cocoa. The medium mouthfeel has good structure and a long finish with a hint of tannins.
The interesting flavors and aromas result in very versatile food pairings such as New York Steak, Filet Mignon, Duck, Wild Boar, grilled Lamb, Veal, Pork Tenderloin, Salmon, Pot Roast, smoked meats, sausages, Lasagna, rich meat sauces, Asian meat and vegetable dishes such as beef with broccoli, Mexican food such as enchiladas or anything with Mole sauce, eggplant parmesan, and hard cheeses.
The grapes are harvested in October from the younger vines on the "La Carazita" estate. Maceration in stainless steel tanks promotes overall freshness. After the initial fermentation, the wine is transferred to wooden barrels for additional aging and balance before bottling. There is then additional bottle aging before release to further increase its aromas and flavors. Aging potential is six to eight years.
Aglianico "Carazita" Campania IGT 2015
What is really fun about my "job" are the very interesting discoveries and surprises in various wine regions. The "Carazita" is classified as a Campania IGT wine although the grapes are from the Russo's estate vineyards that are entirely within the Taurasi DOCG area. Similar to the IGT classified premium "Super Tuscans" from the Bolgheri area where the winemakers prefer more freedom in the winemaking process than the very prescribed DOCG requirements, this is an interesting "project" for the Russos where they also preferred such freedom.
The result is a really profound wine that delights all the senses. An interesting mix of initial aromas includes soy, old rose, dark plums, mild cocoa, and really ripe watermelon progresses into flavors of cherries, blackberries, and spices along with hints of strawberries and vanilla. The aromas and flavors are seductive by themselves but the true "gotcha" moment is when enjoying the silky smooth but incredibly rich mouthfeel with perfect balance. The finish is even more memorable with rich flavors across the back palate which saturates your entire mouth with flavors.
Although I would be happy to just sip on this all day long, there are also interesting and varied food pairings which include New York Steak, Roast Beef, Short Ribs, Beef Stew, Veal, Wild Boar, Pork Chops, Pork Shoulder, rich pasta sauces, pasta with oil and garlic, grilled vegetables, and a wide variety of cheeses including gorgonzola, fontina, and manchego.
The flavors and aromas are brought out by quick maceration at a controlled temperature which also results in maximum color extraction. Initial fermentation is followed by three months in barriques which is then followed by further aging in stainless steel before bottling. Although drinking beautifully quite young, the structure of the wine should enable at least 15 years of aging potential where I would predict that the qualities of this wine will continue to provide delightful surprises.
Aglianico Taurasi DOCG "Spalatrone" 2010
Although this wine fulfills all the requirements to be a Taurasi DOCG Aglianico, it is, in its own way, another example of the Russo's creativity. As described earlier in the introduction to this page, the overall philosophy is to let their wines evolve slowly and patiently. The result with the 2010 "Spalatrone" is a perfectly balanced wine with significant aging potential.
Initial aromas of soy, dark plums, ripe cherries, peaches, and mild tobacco along with hints of leather and old rose progress into flavors of cedar, dark cherries, plums, and ripe blackberries along with hints of blueberries. As opposed to the "gotcha" moment of the Carazita which provides so many sensual delights, the Spalatrone provides a deep sense of elegance and refinement. The wine is perfectly balanced between food friendly acidity and complementary tannins and also then provides a very memorable rich saturated finish.
Food pairings would include Filet Mignon, New York Steak, Rib Eye, Roast Beef, Short Ribs, Pork Chops, Salmon, Smoked Turkey, BBQ Chicken, Duck, spicy pasta sauces, vegetable stir frys, a variety of cheeses including blue, gruyere, and gouda, and chocolate desserts.
The wine is produced from very carefully selected clusters from the best sites in the estate's "La Carazita" vineyard and harvest is usually at the end of October. Long maceration in stainless steel tanks preserves the freshness of the wine. After initial fermentation, the wine is aged partly in barriques and partly in French oak barrels for a period of between 36 to 48 months. Aging potential is at least 15 years and possibly between 20 and 25 years.