On a wine journey, one good thing can lead to another. During our visit to the Contrade di Taurasi, we were quizzed on where we had been eating and then given a number of recommendations. The top one was for La Pergola in Gesualdo, a 30-minute drive away which we took up for lunch as we had no further appointments that day. The food here is sophisticated and well-judged, not just hearty. Chatting to the waiter and, of course, having told him who had given us the recommendation, we soon fell to talking wine. He, in turn, gave us a list of recommendations of wineries and offered to make contact with the di Prisco winery, whose ‘Coda di Volpe’ (fox’s tail, but here a grape variety) we had already ordered. At the end of the meal, the waiter turned into ‘Antonio’.
After some confusion over whose car we were going to travel in, we drove down the lanes and arrived at Pasqualino di Prisco’s winery. Antonio described the owner as a vignaiolo, a worker of vineyards. Indeed when he arrived his hands were suitably dirty from working in the fields. He has a reticent manner but with real warmth beneath the surface. Given the chance to be photographed with his friend, he burst into life (restaurateur on the left, wine producer on right).
The newly-published 2010 wine guides were stacked up on the desk, which doubled as a tasting table, in the corner of working cantina, no ceremony here. Gambero Rosso had awarded the coveted ‘Three Glasses’ for the 2005 Taurasi but only two for his excellent whites, while I vini d’Italia preferred the whites. It must feel an arbitrary business and in a difficult market, every gong counts.
Di Prisco makes wines of real character. The Coda di Volpe has a slightly vegetal and mineral nose and then gets quite herby in the glass. The star white, Greco di Tufo ‘Pietra rosa’, 2007, is a beautiful deep straw yellow with some green tinges. It leads with minerals and pears on the nose. Its lively acidity makes you want to come back to the glass. Even more impressive (and rightly a ‘Three Glasses’ winner) is Taurasi DOCG 2005, a triumph in a demanding year. Despite its four years on release, it’s very young and leads with a complex nose of blackberry fruit, balsamic notes and leather, showing the use of mainly old barriques in the ageing. It will be amazing in 10, 20 and more years. The labels are pretty smart too, recalling ancient Irpinia (part of the modern province of Avellino) and its classical heritage. We drove Antonio back to his restaurant and celebrated the chain of introductions which gave us such a memorable day. Oh, and I nearly forgot, Professor Moschetti had earlier in the day set up another visit for us the next day at the Villa Diamante, for its famous whites …
Footnote: found on the cantina wall. Not perhaps theologically profound but … the man of the vineyards prefers the mild earthly ecstasy of wine to the unspecified joys of heaven.
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