Montemarano is a township deep in the interior of the province of Avellino, well away from the sea, the sunshine and the gaiety of Naples, the first things to come to mind in discussions the Campania region of the Italian south. The township is located in the high hills, which become even higher as one moves further inland towards the mountains which divide Campania and western Italy from Puglia and the eastern part of the country, facing onto the Adriatic Sea. At Montemarano, in fact, altitudes arrive as high as over 2500 feet above sea level, winters are long and cold indeed, and summer temperatures are well below the peaks realized further north in cities such as Florence and Bolzano. Those who think that southern Italy enjoys a balmy, near tropical, climate are in for a disagreeable surprise when they visit these surroundings in January.
Not a place for viticulture, one would think but, instead, Montemarano was once the source for very highly regarded Aglianico grapes, much sought after by the major houses of the province. The variety, thought to be of Greek origin, prefers a climate which is reasonably, but not excessively, warm, a long and continuous growing season which allows the ripening process to go forward as gradually as possible even if that means that picking must be substantially delayed. Even to beyond All Saints Day at the beginning of November if the vintage has been a particularly cool one.
All this has been concretely demonstrated since the late 1990’s by the superb wines created by Salvatore Molettieri ever since he began to bottle the largest part of his production rather than consigning his grapes to larger négociant houses. The outstanding quality of the production was rapidly recognized and the Molettieri name has become a reference point in all discussions of Aglianico and the Taurasi appellation. Potent, deep, and intense, the wines indicate why Aglianico has joined Nebbiolo and Sangiovese as one of Italy’s truly great red grape varieties.
The line includes an Irpinia Aglianico Cinque Querce which rivals many a Taurasi, a Taurasi Vigna Cinque Querce which seems a Taurasi Vigna Cinque Querce Riserva, and a Riserva which is simply one of Italy’s great wines. And this, all accompished in a short space of time, is a major achievement.