1982 Taurasi: monosyllabic tasting note “wow” (and notes on the origin of the name)

From the department of “it’s not always easy to be an Italian wine professional, is it?”…

Above: I’ve tasted 1982 Taurasi by Mastroberardino before, but this bottle was special.

Alfonso will tell you: Dallas is a tough BYOB town. It’s not like Austin, where an abundance of trailer-park dining destinations and barbecue joints make it an ideal city for the BYOB-lover.

But on any given night you’ll find nearly half of the Dallas wine scene at Urbano Cafe, a relatively anonymous eatery in an otherwise gritty part of this otherwise ostentatious city, sandwiched between Jimmy’s Food Store (a great Italian wine and food destination, btw) and Spiceman F[arm to] M[arket] 1410, an amazing source for farm-to-table produce and heirloom and otherwise unusual cultivars.

I found myself there not too long ago with the cats from Grailey’s, a private wine club for high-rolling Dallasites. (Don’t look at their blog because you might end up with an acute case of Pinot envy.)

The price of admission to Grailey’s is a little steep for me but whenever I’m in town, the generously natured lads there invite me over for a taste of something old and Italian. You see, this private wine club was founded on the site of ol’ Mr. Grailey Lee Jaynes’s abandoned cellar. And while they might be selling Bordeaux-this or California-cult-that on any given day, there are lots of “onesies” and “twosies” of old Italian bottlings lying around from the old man’s collection. In most cases, those wines have been sitting there since Grailey purchased them.

Such was the case of the amazingly vibrant bottle of 1982 Taurasi by Mastroberardino. I’d tasted this wine on a few occasions in NYC but this bottling was by far the best expression of the appellation and vintage I’ve ever had. The fruit was bright and the acidity brilliant. When vinified in a tradtional style (as this wine was), Aglianico achieves a nobility rivaled by few other grapes varieties (Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir, I’d hazard to say). A bygone wine preserved in an anomaly in the space-time continuum.

Above: Michael Byington is one of the Dallas wine scene regulars who was there that night. Nearly every table in the restaurant was passing glasses to the next in a glorious and collegial exchange of vinosity.

I attribute the excellent condition of the wine to the fact that it had not been removed from old man Grailey’s cellar until the day we drank it.

The 1983 Hermitage La Chapelle by Jaboulet? Monosyllabic tasting note: “slurp.”

Thanks again, AJ, Dave, and Simon! You guys ROCK!

Btw, the toponym Taurasi is believed to be derived from the pre-Roman (probably Etruscan) taur[o] meaning mountain. One of the earliest documents mentioning the ancient village of Taurasi dates back to the 14th-century and there is also a mention inscribed in the sarcophagus of Scipio Barbatus (died 280 B.C.E.). The village sits above the valley of the Calore river at 398 meters a.s.l., hence the name.

Sounds like a great place to raise wine, no? (The hydronym Calore is a bit more problematic so I’ll have to go into that on another occasion.)

Thanks for reading!

6 thoughts on “1982 Taurasi: monosyllabic tasting note “wow” (and notes on the origin of the name)

  1. J, how far back do the “Radici” vintages go? I’ve tasted back to ’99, but I’m sure there are earlier ones. My favorite wine from my favorite vineyard from my favorite producer…

  2. Adrian,

    Funny you mention that, I got a bottle of the 1999 Radici as a gift earlier this year and loved it. Served it with some veal chops and cheese grits.

    Jeremy,

    On etymology, any relation there to the Old English “tor” for top of a mountain, or simply happy coincidence? A rare loan word left over from the Roman occupation?

  3. @Adrian the oldest Radici I’ve tasted was 1995 but I think it did go back a lot further…

    99 Radici is awesome.

    @Ben I think it’s a linguistic coincidence since the etymon predates Latin.

    Here’s what OED says:

    [Occurs as an element in topographical names in early West Saxon charters; also, as a local term for a topographical feature from OE. onward. Generally held to be Celtic; but, though frequent in place-names in Cornwall, Devon, etc., not recorded as a ‘common noun’ in Cornish or Breton. In Welsh the nearest word is app. t{wgrave}r (= tur), OW. twrr ‘heap, pile’ (rare in place-names, but cf. Mynydd Twrr, old name of Holyhead Mountain, Rh{ycirc}s). Prob. cognate with Gaelic tòrr ‘hill of an abrupt or conical form, lofty hill, eminence, mound, grave, heap of ruins’ (Macleod and Dewar), primarily ‘heap, pile’, cf. tòrr vb. ‘to heap up, pile up, bury’, Ir. torraim ‘I heap up’, and the deriv. Gael. torran ‘little hill, knoll, hillock’, Ir. torrán ‘heap, pile, hillock’. Cf. also quot. 1905.]

    1. a. A high rock; a pile of rocks, gen. on the top of a hill; a rocky peak; a hill. In proper names of eminences or rocks in Cornwall, Devon, Peak of Derbyshire; also sporadically in some other counties, e.g. Glastonbury Tor, in Somerset.

    with earliest occurrence in the 9th century C.E.

    I haven’t forgotten Santorini btw… just distracted with other work stuff… more on that later!

    thanks for the comments, guys! :-)

  4. Jeremy,

    As a mere amateur observer of linguistics, I thought it was interesting that we don’t really have any English words derived from taurus/bull, which is what I casually assumed that Taurisi was derived from. Closest I can think of is that folks are familiar with the Spanish-derived toreador as a bullfighter.

    My own name is a very basic morpheme that means something almost entirely different in every language. I started using “Benito” as a nickname just because the extra syllables made it easier for friends that don’t speak English first. Though I’ll always love the Vietnamese because “Binh” is a common name pronounced mostly the same and it doesn’t confuse anyone. :)

    Cheers,
    Ben/Benito/בִּנְיָמִין

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