Italy has a staggering number of grape varieties native to the country. It’s likely near impossible to have an exact number but as of 2016, the national registry of grape varieties catalogs 511. As you probably guessed, Aglianico is one of them.
And according to Italian Wine Central, this native Italian grape is a majority component in one or more wines from 85 different areas (DOGC, DOC, IGP).
That is one overwhelming list!
A thanks to Jeff Burrows at Food, Wine, Click! for hosting our Italian Food Wine Travel group this month, choosing this obscure grape, and the theme “Aglianico Shootout!”
Depending on where you are in the country, finding a wine made from this unsung grape can require digging. It’s grown in several southern Italian areas but there are only three Aglianico DOCGs. Outside of Austin where Mark and I recently stayed we located three after calling several wine shops. There’s a benefit to living in a major city when it comes to sourcing this kind of wine!
Breaking It Down
The most notable Aglianico are produced in Taurasi and Taburno in northern Campania, and Vulture in Basilicata. In each area, vines are on hillsides at higher elevations, and with volcanic and limestone soils. The extinct Mt. Vulture is responsible for some of that soil.
In Taurasi, Taburno and Vulture, Aglianico produces structured wines that tend towards earthiness and rusticity. These are the three designated DOCGs for the grape. In southern Campania closer to the coast, Aglianico is much different: not as full-bodied, softer, and easier drinking. Those of us who taste a lot of wine know that depending on the location and soil, the resulting wine will differ. I recently wrote about that here.
Generally, a slew of aromas from leather, black fruit, spiced plum and more lead to a rich palate of prominent minerals, various earthy components, and black fruits. Similar to location, aromatics differ slightly depending on the soil and overall terroir.
So we’ve got a medium to full-bodied red wine with structure, high acidity and tannins, and because of these characteristics, is capable of long aging. In fact, if you want to enjoy it’s best expression, you don’t want to drink it young. But if pressed, decanting and/or aerating can help tame the wine’s aggressive points.
To Riserva Or Not
Two of the wines we found were from the same producer, one was a riserva. I chose the non-riserva wanting to start with an Aglianico DOC wine.
Casa Vinicola d’Angelo – Tenuta del Portale, Aglianico del Vultura DOC 2013, 11.5% abv, $18
Grapes for this wine come from vineyards on the eastern slope of Monte Vultura.
On the Eye- Clear, deep ruby
On the Nose- Clean, medium intensity nose of minerality, Bing cherry, black plum, mushroom broth, faint baking spices, and old leather.
On the Palate- The mineral (think wet stone) and fruit notes are present along with mushroom broth, and hints of white pepper. Initially on the palate the wine is fresh and bright- I felt the acid and tannins but they weren’t overpowering. All the flavors played nicely together, lingering and softening; medium body, acidity, and tannins.
This was a quality, enjoyable wine at a nice price point. I was surprised it wasn’t bigger and more tannic after reading about Aglianico, but it suited my palate just fine. The winery makes the same as a riserva, the difference being longer aging. If I were still in the States, I’d go back to Total Wine and pick it up for comparison. Tenuta del Portale website
Wine Pairing: Daube, a Traditional French Stew
When I’m having a fuller bodied red wine there’s nothing like meat. I don’t often cook beef but love a grilled tri-tip or fillet. Another beef dish that pairs nicely with full-bodied reds is Daube, a French beef stew that hails from the south. I made it in classic style with carrots, celery, onions and mushrooms, although the leaner organic beef was a mistake.
There are many renditions of Daube– the addition of olives, prunes and figs, or Armangnac, chocolate and spices. You can throw just about anything you want into a beef stew to steer the flavor profile! I only had access to a 1970s Crock Pot so used this recipe, substituting yellow onions for the frozen. While the meat not as unctuous as desired, the flavor was fantastic and was a stellar pairing with the Aglianico.
Italian Food, Wine, Travel Group Brings You Aglianico #ItalianFWT
We’ll be on Twitter Saturday, March 3rd – 8:00 am PT / 11:00 am ET / 17:00 in Italy chatting about this Aglianico, wines explored, food pairings- the list goes on. Join us by using the hashtag #ItalianFWT, typing it in the search bar on Twitter to follow us. Feel free to comment and join in the conversation!
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm posts Curling up with a Good Book, a Comforting Bowl of Pasta and a Wonderful Glass of Aglianico
Jane from Always Ravenous pairs Braised Lamb Paired with Aglianico
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla writes Memories and Flavors of Campania + Feudi di San Gregorio Aglianico Rubrato 2014
Lauren from The Swirling Dervish compares Aglianico from the Old World and New: Campania vs. Paso Robles
Nicole from Somms Table shares Cooking to the Wine: Vigneti del Vulture Aglianico del Vulture with Braised Oxtails
Jennifer at Vino Travels Italy writes about The Sacred Vines of the Basilicata with D’Angelo Aglianico
Jill from L’Occasion shares Aglianico Connections in the Napa Valley
Susannah from Avvinare talks about Aglianico from Irpinia
Jeff, our host, posts at Food Wine Click! – Aglianico Battle between Campania and Basilicata
And here at Savor the Harvest I share Aglianico: A Southern Italian Gem