Cantina del Taburno: the winery of the sleeping lady

Cantina del Taburno, is located at the base of Mount Taburno, an inactive volcano, in the small town of Foglianise, in the province of Benevento. Mount Taburno is part of the “La dormiente del Sannio” (“the sleeping woman of the Sannio”, the Sannio region also includes the area of the province of Benevento, where the Sanniti people lived in the VII-VI century b.C.) mountain range, so called as its profile resembles a sleeping woman. The Cantina was established in 1972 as a cooperative with 15-20 associates. In the early 1980s it was acquired by the Agricultural Consortium of Benevento (established in 1901) and the cellar was enlarged with funds of the European Community.
The grapes that are vinified at Cantina del Taburno come from approximately 400-450 hectares of vineyards, belonging to 330 small viticulturists, standing in the territory of  towns in the area of Mount Taburno: Foglianise, Torrecuso, Vitulano, Campoli del Monte Taburno, Castelpoto, Apollosa, Bonea, Montesarchio, Ponte, Tocco Caudio, Paupisi and Benevento. The viticulturists are part of a Cooperative and their vineyards are supervised by an agricultural technician (employed by the Cooperative), Alfonso de Angelis, and by Filippo Colandrea, the en-premise oenologist of Cantina del Taburno.

The technical staff
Dr Nicola De Girolamo is the director. Dr De Girolamo is also the director of the Agricultural Consortium of Benevento.
Filippo Colandrea is the en-premise oenologist, Rita Pessina is a food technologist and is responsible for laboratory analyses (in a well equipped and modern lab) and for quality issues. Rita and Filippo also follow up marketing and take part in tastings, fairs and business trips.
Professor Luigi Moio, who is a very well known University professor and one of the major wine makers in Campania, has consulted at Cantina del Taburno since 1998. Professor Moio teaches oenology at the University of Naples and is the coordinator of the graduate course for viticulture and oenology in Avellino. Students from Avellino and from Naples carry out experimental projects, write their graduation thesis and train here. For example, studies on grape acid rot and on the process to produce sparkling Falanghina recently took place at the Cantina. The projects and studies change every year.

The zone
This zone is particularly favourable for high quality viticulture due to the soils which are mainly clayey-calcareous, the exposure, due to the altitude between 200 and 600 meters above sea level, due to the mild winters and the warm and dry summers, due to the wide day-night temperature range and due to the even rainfall between October and March.

The grape varieties
The grape varieties grown are mainly indigenous and, as in Irpinia, have an ancient origin.
The main red grape variety is Aglianico, also called Aglianico di Torrecuso. This particular biotype of Aglianico is more similar to the Aglianico grown in the Vulture (in the region of Basilicata) than to the Aglianico grown in the Taurasi DOCG appellation. In fact the cluster is larger and the sugar is slightly less concentrated in the berries.
The main white variety is Falanghina, widely grown in Campania and especially in the province of Benevento. It seems that the biotype of Falanghina grown in the area of Benevento is indigenous of Bonea, a small local town.
Other varieties, which all date back to the ancient Greek and Roman times, grown in the Taburno area are Piedirosso, Sciascinoso (red), Fiano, Greco, Coda di Volpe (three white varieties). Small quantities of other Italian and international varieties are also grown.

The vineyards
When Professor Moio started consulting at Cantina del Taburno in 1998 criteria were sent down for the production of high quality Aglianico wines (Delius and Bue Apis).  Approximately 15 hectares of vineyards in the highest zones, i.e. over 300 meters above sea level, belonging to 7-8 viticulturists, were chosen. The viticulturists had to manage their vineyards as their main activity. The vine training system had to be espalier. A protocol was established: minimum spraying of the vines, very little fertilizers. From mid June, after the flowering phase of the vines, fruit had to be dropped and the vines had to be topped. The vineyards had to have 1.5-2 meters of active canopy, the grape yield was set at 4.5-5 tons/hectare.
In 1998 a project for the production of Aglianico del Taburno “Bue Apis” was started. Bue Apis is an Egyptian granite sculpture of a bull of the II century B.C. which was found near Benevento in the 1600s. The bull is designed on the label. Apis is the sacred bull of Ptah, an ancient Egyptian god, part of the Trinity of Memphis, together with the Goddess Sekhmet and the god Nefertum.
This wine is made from a vineyard in the district of Pantanella (approximately 1 kilometre from the Cantina). The vines are prephylloxera and the grape variety is a particular biotype of Aglianico, Aglianico amaro, the vines are about 200 years old. A branch of one of the vines is 27 meters long! This vineyard testifies that Aglianico has been grown for centuries at the foot of Mount Taburno.  At harvest the vines are marked with the “Bue Apis” label. The wine matures in French oak and in chestnut wood barriques. Red wines in this area were traditionally vinified and matured in chestnut wood casks. The chestnut wood barriques are made in Avellino where the best chestnut wood in Italy is found.  The wine immediately had a great success, winning the “Tre Bicchieri” of the Gambero Rosso Guide in 1999. The production is approximately 3,500 bottles/year. This wine is produced only in the best vintages.
The vine training system in the other vineyards is espalier and “raggiera” (a traditional local training system, “raggiera” means “rays”).
Filippo Colandrea and Alfonso de Angelis supervise all the vineyards (with the support of Professor Moio) offering advice to the viticulturists in order to obtain the highest quality possible. Starting in September grape samples are taken and Rita Pessina carries out all the lab analyses.
The first grapes to be harvested and vinified are the Falanghina grapes for the production of sparkling wine (after the 20th of September), followed by Coda di Volpe, Greco, Fiano, Falanghina for the production of DOP wines, then the reds, Piedirosso and Aglianico (at the end of October). The sequence and the timing naturally depends on the vintage.
In the old days the white and the red wines were vinified in “palmenti”, which were buildings where the grapes were crushed (by the farmers’ feet) and vinified in stone vats (many are still found in southern Italy). Later on, as mentioned previously, the red wines of this area started being vinified and aged in chestnut oak casks.

The cellar
The vinification and ageing cellars were enlarged in the early 1980s.

The vinification cellar: the surface is 10,750 square meters of which 5,000 square meters are covered.
There are four receiving lines for the grapes: two for white grapes and two for red grapes.
The cellar is equipped with grape receiving hoppers, destemmer-crushers, a press for white grapes (Falanghina and Coda di Volpe for the production of the top line of wines) that was designed and made especially for Cantina del Taburno (pressa Branco – watch the video, stainless steel vats with temperature control of 100-600-900 hectolitre capacity, rotary fermenters, glazed concrete vats of 100-600 hectolitre capacity, cooling exchangers, a bottling and labelling line.
The cellar is also equipped with a centre for micro-vinification with 10 vinification vats of the capacity of 1 hectolitre. Here university students from Naples and from Avellino carry out studies on vinification.
It is a truly impressive cellar!

The ageing cellar: the large ageing cellar is equipped with 20 large Slavonian oak casks (capacity 25-50-100 hectolitre) and with approximately 300 French oak (Centre, Tronçais, Allier) barriques. Every year 30-40 new French oak barriques are purchased together with 15-20 chestnut wood barriques for the production of Aglianico del Taburno “Bue Apis”.

The Wines
All phases of production, in the vineyards and in the cellar, are carefully followed up. Filippo Colandrea and Rita Pessina are very talented professionals and extremely dedicated to their work. They closely cooperate with Professor Luigi Moio and the result can be tasted in the glass! All the wines of Cantina del Taburno are extremely pleasant to drink, they maintain the characteristics of the ancient zones where the vineyards stand and the characteristics of the ancient grape varieties they are made from, but at the same time they can be easily appreciated by the modern Italian and international customers.
The total average production is approximately 1 million bottles/year (considering all labels),  mainly Falanghina del Sannio DOP and Sannio Aglianico DOP. Aglianico del Taburno (produced as “Delius” and “Bue Apis”) acquired the DOCG status starting from the 2011 vintage. The other wines are Beneventano IGP (non DOC wines). The whites are made with Fiano, Greco and Coda di Volpe, the reds with Piedirosso. Two sparkling wines are also produced, Folius Falanghina Extra Dry (100% Falanghina) and Albarosa Rosè Extra Dry (100% Aglianico).

More in detail:

Appellation: Sannio Aglianico DOP
Blend: 90% Aglianico, 5% Merlot, 5% Sangiovese
Average production: 250,000 bottles/year

Bue Apis
Appellation: Aglianico del Taburno DOC (2008 is the last vintage released)
Blend: 100% Aglianico
Average production: 3,500 bottles/year

Appellation: Aglianico del Taburno DOC (DOCG starting from the 2011 vintage)
Blend: 100% Aglianico
Average production: 12,000 bottles/year

Taburno Falanghina del Sannio
Appellation: Falanghina del Sannio Taburno DOP
Blend: 100% Falanghina
Average production: 350,000 bottles/year

Cesco dell’Eremo Falanghina
Appellation: Beneventano IGP
Blend: 100% Falanghina
Average production: 15,000 bottles/year

Amineo Coda di Volpe
Appellation: Beneventano IGP
Blend: 100% Coda di Volpe
Average production: 80,000 bottles/year

Beneventano IGP Greco
Appellation: Beneventano IGP
Blend: 100%  Greco
Average production: 64,000 bottles/year

Beneventano IGP Fiano
Appellation: Beneventano IGP
Blend: 100%  Fiano
Average production: 32,000 bottles/year

Aglianico Rosato Albarosa
Appellation: Aglianico del Taburno Rosato DOCG
Blend: 90% Aglianico, 10% Sangiovese and Merlot
Average production: 25,000 bottles/year

Folius Falanghina Extra Dry (sparkling wine)
Classification: VSQ (Vino Spumante di Qualità)
Blend: 100%  Falanghina
Average production: 50,000 bottles/year

Albarosa Rosè Extra Dry (sparkling wine)
Classification: VSQ (Vino Spumante di Qualità)
Blend: 100%  Aglianico
Average production: 6,000 bottles/year