Since ancient times the Campania region of Italy has been known for the excellent quality of their wines. The wines were considered the "Wines of the Emperors" and were praised by the greatest classical writers of the times: Cicero, Pliny, Martial and Tibullus.
If we fast-forward to current times Campania is still producing world class wines worthy of an emperor, however they remain largely unknown to the average American wine drinker.
While a number of high quality white wines are produced here, Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Flangina to name a few, today I want to focus on the red wines produced from the Aglianico grape. Aglianico vines have been cultivated in this part of Italy since before Rome was founded. Imported by the ancient Greeks, the high quality Aglianico vine has found its best expression in the soil of the Irpinia hills east of Naples.
The most prestigious of the wines produced with Agliancio is Taurasi. Taurasi is recognized as one of Italy's greatest wines but its popularity is a relatively recent phenomenon. Until the 1990s there was only one winery, Mastroberadino, producing wine for export. By the mid-2000s there were close to 300 producers in the zone.
A few years ago we went to VinItaly in search of a good producer of Taurasi. With the help of Italian importer Nadia Galati, we were able to start offering you the wines of Tenuta Cavalier Pepe.
For several generations the Pepe family has been very active producing wines sold throughout Italy. Today winemaker Milena Pepe is quickly becoming a superstar in the region. Her Taurasi Riserva 2008 just scored 91 points in the Wine Spectator, and her Greco di Tufo 2012 received a score of 90.
I know mid-summer in Florida might not be the best time to enjoy a powerful red wine like Taurasi, but if you're looking for something to pair with that juicy steak on the grill, look no further than Tenuta Pepe Opera Mia Taurasi.
Paul Quaglini, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine supervisor
Follow me on Twitter @abcwinepaulq