On my last trip to Campania, I had a wonderful lunch at Cantina Giardino’s headquarters in Ariano Irpino with Antonio and Daniela. Food was great as usual and wines just keep on getting better. Elegance and harmony in the Sophia 2012, purity of fruit and definition in the Le Fole 2011, power and sumptuousness in the Nude 2006, wildness and complexity in the Clown 2010, and toughness and nerve in the Drogone 2008.
It was just another confirm that Cantina Giardino has become the most exciting Campanian producer out there giving hope to a region that has some serious wine-making potentials. Their wines are slowly reaching a high status in the natural wine world at the levels of Bea and Radikon. They are happily represented in some of the top restaurants and wine-bars in SF and LA that run a cool wine-program.
Antonio doesn’t mess around: very old vines, great vineyard sites, no chemicals in the vineyards and at the winery, no manipulation, no sulphur, a manual torchio or footpressing, large barrels of chestnut mainly (some acacia and cherry as well), clay amphoras, long macerations, long elevage, no sulphur, and no filtration. He started making macerated whites 10 years ago when wine critics were not easy on him and orange wines were not trendy. He stuck to his principles and continued with his solitary work. I think that he has achieved his goal. “Vini naturali e di terriorio”….natural wines of terroir. Cantina Giardino’s wines are a work of art capturing the wild spirit of Irpinia with their smokey rustic elegance, agile acidity, and purity of fruit. They represent the future of Campanian wine-making. To top it off…..Antonio and Daniela are super sweet people and have a big heart.
These are some of my tasting notes. These wines will be available in SF in a couple of weeks.
FIANO SOPHIA 2012: “Una bomba” (A Bomb) this is how I described it. Even my mom, that doesn’t really drink, was very impressed by this Sophia 2012. The nose and the palate are full of fruit and smokey nuances. The palate is agile and elegant with a very long finish.
Grapes come from the Comune of Candida. It is foot pressed and macerated in Amphora for 6 months. 6 more months in large barrels and some bottle aging. No sulphur and no filtration. This is a quintessential Fiano.
AGLIANICO LE FOLE 2011: More fruit and easier to drink than the more angular 2010. Grapes are sourced in Montemarano where the soils are a combo of clay and limestone. Of the Irpinian crus, Antonio considers it a cooler one. 30 days of maceration. 1 year in large chestnut barrels. No sulphur and no filtration. 2 years in the bottle. I love the simplicity and the purity of the Le Fole. It’s around 12.5% alcohol and always very drinkable. I think 2011 will be a success in SF because it has a bigger fruit component that makes it very enjoyable even without food.
AGLIANICO NUDE 2006: This is a nectar. Brian from a16 is a big fan. It’s an extract of Aglianico. Grapes come from Paternopoli which is an area that is a bit warmer and there is more sand in the soil. The maceration is 60 days. The elevage in barrels is about 4 years. First in exhausted Tounneaux and Barriques, and then in 20 HL barrels. The wine is unfiltered and no sulphur is used. This is a wine that needs a piece of meat. Rich, powerful, and dense. It’s everything you want an Aglianico to be. This is basically a declassified Taurasi.
AGLIANICO CLOWN 2010: The grapes come from Montemarano. It’s foot pressed and it macerates in Anphora for 1 year. 1 more year of elevage is in large barrel. I am a huge fan of the clown. It’s the most wild red that Antonio makes. The anphora keeps thing extremely fresh and agile and I always find some cheese and mushroom notes in this wine that I don’t recall in the other cuvees. Great acid and lots of pure dark and red fruit.
AGLIANICO DROGONE 2008: One of the greatest wines from Cantina Giardino with a beautiful label of a Dragon sitting on a barrel and sipping wine. I can’t even get in SF for 3 weeks that is usually already gone. 2007 was in my opinion (Shelley agrees) the most magical version. In 2008 the large barrels were new and they give this Drogone a more modern approach. Grapes come from Castelfranci which is a zone that doesn’t have the power of Paternopoli and it’s not as cool as Montemarano. “It’s somethings in between” Antonio explains. 60 days of Maceration. 4 years in 20 HL barrels made of chestnut. No filtration and no sulphur. A big wine (not as powerful as the Nude) with great acid. Textbook Aglianico: Smokey, gamey, rich of red and dark fruit, leathery, and full of ripe tannins. Pure.