Print

 

This is a "Casatiello", made with ham, cheese and bread dough, studded with eggs. A typical Easter bread in Campania. It was baked specially to host us journalists - participants of the Campania Stories 2015 - by Rossana Lonardo, wife of Sandro Lonardo, owner and winemaker of Cantine Lonardo, Contrade di Taurasi, in the heart of the DOCG appellation of Taurasi, in the hilly volcanic region of Irpinia in Campania.

On a visit to the Lonardo's house on a wintry day in March, the bread, a hearty bowl of pasta and veal grilled on the chimney coals, were a foil to the superb
 
 
Contrade di Taurasi is a family-owned five-hectare farm that the Lonardo Family cultivates organically on a volcanic soil with a low yield per hectare.  

Professor Alessandro (Sandro) Lonardo, a retired teacher of Latin and Literature, returned to his birth place in the ancestral family estate established in the heart of Taurasi for umpteen generations, and with his wife’s encouragement began planting vines in the rich volcanic agricultural land that had seen history, cultures and powers come and go, thrive and shrivel like seasonal fruit.  The brand “Contrade di Taurasi” was born in 1998.
But being a teacher by trade and the father of two academicians: one daughter is a scientist, the other an archeologist, Sandro was convinced that wine, like people, can be brought to higher levels of quality and performance through work, research and hands-on experimentation.   Sandro knew he could work hard, but he also realized that he had so much time left to grow good vintages.  
So he tapped unto the knowledge and experience of departments of oenology at The Federico II University of Naples and the University of Palermo, to improve on the traditional vine-growing technique and the new agronomical and oenological techniques while maintaining a strict organic philosophy both in the fields and in the cellar. 
The result are gorgeous, elegant handcrafted wines,  with a purplish hue, a nose of cherries and prunes and a silky mouthful of ripe fruit with hints of tobacco, leather, red underwood fruit  and wild herbs, tannings tempered by a lively acidity and a long, long finish.  The grapes are all sourced from the Lonardo estate, and the wines earn highly-prestigious medals and awards, nationally and internationally.
Aglianico is the most important native grape variety in Taurasi and at the core of the Taurasi DOCG appellation and produces hisAglianico, the  Taurasi Riserva, which is only produced on peak harvest years (I had the privilege of tasting the phenomenal Taurasi Riversa 1999) , the table wine Aglianico Irpinia DOCand the incomparable single vineyard  Vigne D’Alto, which I also had the privilege to taste with Sandro and his wife.
But The Grecomusc’ is in its own league and deserves a special word.  

The Lonardos are the only winemakers producing this amazing white wine!  It comes from native ungrafted vines, taller than man, with gnarled branches, thick trunks, and roots that burrow as deep as time into the many layers of lava and clay. 

It tastes like no other wine and every drop of the yellow greenish wine draws from ancient times. An ample nose of passion fruit and citrus gives way to a deep minerality and sulfurous whiffs. In the mouth, it deploys in all in richness with a lively, young acidity and complex tannins.  This wine can stand to any food, from rich boar to delicate pear tart!