By Rob Pickard
Every week for the past few years on B Times, we have religiously created a wine of the week, compiling a few choice words on a wine we’ve been enjoying, or highlighting exciting producers from around the world. Although we have covered all corners of the world of wine, we have rarely included much wine sporting a chunky price to the wine of the week mix. This week, things are changing, and in some style. This week’s choice is something of a cult classic across the pond in the USA and is one of the stars of Italy’s undervalued Campania region.
Hailing from one of Italy’s oldest wine regions, Montevetrano is a world class winery based on the slopes of the Picentini mountains, in a rugged area that was once exploited by the ancient Greeks for its winemaking powers; hence the dominance of the Aglianico grape, which was brought to Italy by the Greeks.
This region is often somewhat overlooked in relation to quality winemaking and is probably better known for the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius than for fine wines. However, on the slopes above the super yachts of the Amalfi Coast, high altitude vineyards create fantastic growing conditions where Aglianico flourishes alongside white varieties such as Fiano and Falanghina.
With a resurgence in top producers setting up shop in the area over the last few decades, the wines of Campania are slowly becoming more familiar to UK drinkers, but sadly are much less well known than the likes of those from Tuscany and Piedmont.
A region steeped in winemaking history, much of the production here is still from ancient varietals, grown amongst ancient vineyards, creating wonderfully distinctive, brooding and full-bodied reds. Similar wine styles to those found in neighbouring Basilicata, Campania’s heady blend of ancient grape varieties and southern Italian terroir, creates some of the world’s most fascinating long lived wines.
What makes Montevetrano stand out from Campania’s traditional winemaking crowd, is its acceptance of international varieties, and the dominance they now have within their highly praised wines. Similar to Tuscany, international varieties have been allowed into Campania’s non-DOCG wines and are playing a huge role in turning Montevetrano into a cult figure similar to Tuscany’s Sassicaia. As a result of the modern blending philosophy, Montevetrano is classified as Collio di Salerno IGT, with a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Aglianico… leading Robert Parker to name it the ‘Sassicaia of the south‘.
Creating a blend such as this is not an easy process, but in an area and climate that lends itself so well to these bold, powerful red varietals, with a huge coastal influence and vineyards protected by the Picentini Mountain peaks, the team at Montevetrano have the raw ingredients for world class wines. Bringing these all together is one of Italy’s finest minds, consultant winemaker Riccardo Cotarella, the country’s very own Michel Rolland. Together with owner/winemaker Silvia Imparato, he has created one of the greats of modern Italy.
A wine not short of praise from the world’s critics, the Montevetrano 2006 is a powerful, intense wine, packed full of rugged red fruits, with a wonderfully perfumed palate, great structure and balance. Antonio Galloni of the Wine Advocate gave the 2006 94 points, going on to say, “I have always admired the 2006 Montevetrano for its powerful, intense personality. Today the 2006 is austere and unyielding but it seems pretty clear this gorgeous wine simply needs time in bottle, as hints of beautiful inner perfume occasionally make an appearance in the glass. Imparato calls 2006 a very challenging vintage. Still, it would appear this is a magical Montevetrano. All that is required is patience.”
A Campanian classic to add to the cellar!