The road to Salvatore Molletieri’s winery in Montemerano from Avellino is long and tortuous, even after an excellent lunch. After our visit to Mastroberardino, we enquired of a restaurant. While Atripalda’s ‘Valle Verde’ looks like any another industrial unit in this rather unattractive area the food was excellent – cannellini bean and porcini mushroom soup (beginning to disintegrate from hours on the stove) and an excellent T-bone steak.
But the journey through the hills is worth the trouble – the vineyards are set in a beautiful landscape and Molletieri is utterly committed to his enormous barrels of dark Taurasi. His son showed us around the vineyards, old and new, and demonstrated the firm’s commitment to growth and new planting. There are some lovely old ‘alberello’ style vines left, but basically quality and practicality demand moving over to the formal lines of Guyot, here as nearly everywhere. But for visual appeal, you can’t really beat a ‘tree’ laden with fully mature grapes.
The father speaks softly in the rapid-fire Italian of someone who has spent his life building up the business. He has just invested a colossal sum in three enormous new oak containers, custom-made, French staves interlaced with the more traditional Slavonian oak. If they are looked after they, like the wine, will last for decades. This is a business which thinks of the long term.
And in the oak containers are the coming vintages. Molettieri makes two Aglianico wines each year, normale (which is anything but a normal wine) and a riserva. From the barrels we tasted:
- 2008 riserva, beautiful dark fruit nose, still sharply acidic and tannic but it’s in its infancy ;
- the 2007 normale, not the same richness, acidic needing time, two years down, two to go before release;
- 2006 normale, picked as late as 23 November, well balanced despite nearly 15% alcohol, a great year;
- 2005 riserva, an uneven year, lovely rich nose but needs more time than 2006. The 2005 normale has been bottled and is having its year of rest in the bottle awaiting labelling.
Each wine represents something like a decade’s work in the vineyard and the cellar as the business continues to grow, from preparing the land through to selling the wine. But they are really worth the wait – and will be developing for years to come. Molletieri’s warmth and his generosity in getting us back to Taurasi on the country roads was literally the extra mile.
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