Raffaele Pagano’s family thinks he’s crazy. This fourth-generation heir apparent to his Salerno-based clan’s income stream—two million bottles per year spread among three wineries—chose a wildly different path, and today Raffaele produces a mere 18,000 bottles annually, from three and a half hectares in Irpinia and Capri. But they’re his wines, made according to his vision, and this Campanian maverick wouldn’t have it any other way.

Pagano began his passion project in the early 2000s, acquiring several parcels of extremely old Fiano and Aglianico in the towns of Lapio and Paternopoli, respectively, and bottling his first vintage in 2006. He christened his winery Joaquin. A few years later, Raffaele was, amazingly, able to purchase a 0.8-hectare parcel of co-planted Greco, Falanghina, and Biancolella on Capri off the Amalfi Coast, a splendorous and heavily touristed little island where only 20 hectares of vines exist in total.

Fiano di Avellino “Vino della Stella” 2018 

“Vino della Stella” comes from a 0.9-hectare parcel of Fiano between 20 and 30 years of age planted in the commune of Lapio’s volcanic clay-limestone soils. Lapio’s cool microclimate, high altitude, and huge diurnal temperature shifts allow for Fiano of exceptional precision and complexity, and Joaquin’s combines those traits with a magnificently concentrated palate which swells dramatically on the finish. 

 “Piante a Lapio” Campania Fiano 2013 

Made from 80-to-100-year-old Fiano planted in Lapio’s high-altitude volcanic soils, “Piante a Lapio” is fermented spontaneously in casks of chestnut and acacia from local forests and aged in those same vessels for nearly five years with no topping up. Incredibly, it develops a yeast veil just as a Jura wine would, although it is marked notably less by veil-derived elements than a Jura Savagnin. This unorthodox aging regimen manifests itself in a combination of breadth and salinity, but variety-typical notes of lemon confit and jasmine still manage to ring strongly through the wine’s manifold layers. 


I Viaggiatori” Campania Aglianico 2017 

 Raffaele’s Aglianico holdings are the stuff of legend: 1.2 hectares of ungrafted pre-phylloxera vines between 150 and 200 years of age, trained high above the ground and spaced widely, with gnarled trunks and vast arms that occasionally touch across the rows. This astonishing parcel is located in the commune of Paternopoli, in the Taurasi appellation’s southernmost and coolest subzone, although Raffaele produces a Taurasi DOCG only in certain vintages. In other vintages, he produces this wine: “I Viaggiatori” (“The Travelers”), a gutsy but finesse driven Aglianico that spends slightly less time in barrel and typically bears a slightly lower alcohol level than the Taurasi proper. Aged in used oak barrels following a 15-day maceration in old open-top wooden casks, “I Viaggiatori” combines tangy, resonant acidity with dark cherry fruit, and while its tannins are a bit punchy as per the variety, the lingering impression is one of freshness. 

Joaquin’s Taurasi “Riserva Della Società” (“Company Reserve”) is a bold, singular wine of remarkable presence and depth, one which Raffaele only bottles in certain vintages. The Taurasi appellation requires a minimum of 18 months in barrel and a release date no earlier than four years after harvest; Raffaele, by contrast, ages this for at least three years in previously used oak and acacia casks, plus an additional four or more years in bottle before releasing it. “Riserva Della Società” is rife with earth-derived aromas and flavors, evoking damp woods, cool herbs, and wild fruit, and it manages to remain nimble despite its fearsome density; Raffaele certainly does us a favor by holding it for so long first. These remarkable Aglianico vines have spent between 150 and 200 years developing their root systems and have been disrupted neither by phlloxera—these are own-rooted vines—nor by tilling. The resulting wine, though new to the RWM portfolio, is nearly certain to become one of our most iconic. 

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