Neapolitan Treasures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delicious, elusive, compelling, frustrating, the wines of Campania have long been among my favorites.  This ancient region has been producing marvelous wine since before the foundation of Rome, and there are wines from this region that rank among the best produced in all of Italy.  They are less well-known abroad, perhaps, since they are produced from indigenous varieties.  Some of these, such as Fiano and Greco among the whites, and Aglianico among the reds are becoming more well-known.  Savvy wine lovers, however, will want to explore the full range, as they offer thrilling tastes and flavors, and often provide extraordinary value for money.

This being said, such a quest is often complicated by limited availability.  Having tasted several hundred wines from Campania last week, I was frustrated by the limited availability of the top wines.  Although this is undeniably true (and perhaps understandable), there were a number of interesting wines that are available – at least online, if not at your local store.  I rated a number of the wines last week as either very good (***) or outstanding (****).  Here are a few notes on those one might find:

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1982 Bordeaux

The main event at the annual tasting organized by a dear friend in Atlanta was a blind horizontal tasting of the 1982 Bordeaux vintage in three flights.  I offer these notes in the order in which they were tasted.  I was also fortunate to be present in 2012 for a tasting of the same vintage drawn from the same collection, tasted in the same apartment, with most of the same tasters.  For some reason, I did not rate them then, although I did after this most recent tasting.  The line-up was not exactly the same in 2012, but I include those notes by way of comparison.

Haut-Médoc 1982, Château La Lagune

Mature and starting to fade, this shows eucalyptus, cedar and cigar leaf on the nose along with a bit of cinnamon spice.  The tannins are soft and the finish is somewhat tart.  Time to drink.  **  In Atlanta with friends, March 2017

Saint-Julien 1982, Château Léoville-Poyferré

Thoroughly enjoyable and still fairly youthful, this shows black plum aromas accented with a hints of ground coffee, truffle and a hint of brett that will delight some and dismay others.  The texture is round and soft on the palate, and the finish lingers pleasantly at the end.  ****  In Atlanta with friends, March 2017

Saint-Julien 1982, Château Gruaud-Larose

Tasted blind, this was the wine of the first flight for me.  At this point it is open and drinking well but not overly so, and it is far from being in decline.  To my taste, this wine is a perfect example of a great claret from a great vintage, drinking at its peak.  It shows ripe notes of currant, peppery spice and cigar box, with a silky texture and enough body and structure to support the wine but no astringency or hardness at all.  Marvelous.  *****  In Atlanta with friends, March 2017

From 2012: The ’82 Gruaud-Larose shows a bright cherry fruit fruit up front with a cedary edge and a hint of tobacco or cigar leaf.  On the palate the wine is still tannic and fairly dense.  Lacking perhaps a bit of the generosity of the other ‘82s, this is still classic claret, drinking beautifully that will hold for years.   With friends in Atlanta, March 2012

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2002 Bordeaux

The overall standard for the 2002 Bordeaux at the annual tasting organized by a dear friend in Atlanta was higher than I had expected, even going into the tasting with a fond personal recollection of doing the en primeurs campaign just prior to passing the MW tasting exam.  The wines were certainly fresh and still decidedly youthful, but they were surprisingly hefty, and few showed the unripe “bell pepper” aromas caused by some pyrazine compounds that I had feared.  In general it seemed that there was definitely at least a few more years before most of them opened, and several decades of pleasant drinking after that.

Pauillac 2002, Château Pichon-Lalande

Eminently pleasant, but a bit light, with bright, forward red berry fruit and a floral edge.  The texture is silky and fresh, but the wine lacks a bit of substance.  *** In Atlanta with friends, March 2017.

Pomerol 2002, Château l’Evangile

Impressive wine, with a rich, dark plum fruit character and plenty of impact.  There is density and concentration on the palate but not a lot of tannin, with a supple mouthfeel and a lingering finish.  This should last another 10 – 20 years in a proper cellar.  Tasted blind, it was my favorite and the favorite of the group in this flight.  ***** In Atlanta with friends, March 2017.

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1995 Bordeaux


1995 is a very fine vintage after a string of poor ones. The spring was mild and fair, the summer was hot and dry, thickening the skins and blocking the maturity in some areas. Enough rain fell in September, however, to allow the vines to finish their work, and the overall result was impressive. The wines are tannic and rich, with plenty of substance and concentration. These continue to show well 22 years after the vintage. The top wines are still not ready, but one has the sense that when they are that they will be magnificent.

Pauillac 1995, Château Pichon-Lalande
Open and accessible, this shows a rich curranty fruit with an edge of pepper and spice. On the palate it is firmly tannic and well-structured, with nice density and a powerful if somewhat truncated finish. Drinking now, this can certainly hold. **** In Atlanta with friends, March 2017.

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