Passa ai contenuti principali

AGLIANICO: The Barolo of the South

Aglianico Emerges From the Bottom of Italy’s Boot
 No. 1, 2008 Macchia dei Goti Taurasi from Antonio Caggiano


The vast ocean of wine that is Italy is fed by many rivers. Sangiovese and nebbiolo, universally considered to be among the world’s great grapes, pour in to acclaim. They are joined by great floods of crowd-pleasers like pinot grigio and workhorses like montepulciano and trebbiano, which account for many serviceable but indistinct wines. Lesser-known varieties trickle in from all directions, adding wonderful flavors and nuances.

One of my favorites is a red grape that seems largely taken for granted, when it’s thought of at all. It stirs little excitement. I’m not sure why, because I find the wines delicious, structured and age-worthy.

I’m talking about aglianico, the primary red grape of Campania, which encompasses Naples and Salerno on the western coast of southern Italy, and of Basilicata, the arch and instep of the boot. Aglianico has been termed the Barolo of the South, a seemingly admiring phrase made hollow by a patronizing note.

Yes, the tannins, acidity and dark flavors in aglianico bear a resemblance to the great Piemontese wine. But aglianico has much to offer of its own. Perhaps it’s time to shed the notion that aglianico’s value comes from what it resembles rather than from what it is.

To get a clearer sense of aglianico, the wine panel recently tasted 20 bottles from Campania and Basilicata. All the wines were from recent vintages. For more-accessible wines, the latest releases were from the 2011 vintage. More age-worthy wines might receive prolonged cellaring at the winery; the most recent release for some was 2006.

Florence Fabricant and I were joined for the tasting by Joe Campanale, the beverage director and a proprietor of four New York restaurants, including Dell’anima and L’Artusi in the West Village, and Liz Nicholson, the wine director at Maialino, who in September will become a sommelier at Marea.

All of us share the perception that aglianico is underappreciated. Liz has tried to do something about it at Maialino, where her wine list has quite a few aglianicos in the Southern Hospitality section.
“Maybe the wines people are embracing are lighter, softer and easier going,” Joe speculated. He may be right. 

The red wines of Sicily, which have caused such excitement in recent years, tend to be fresher and more agile, and many wines that can age for decades, whether Bordeaux, Napa cabernet or Brunello di Montalcino, have been purposely made more accessible at an earlier age. Yet people haven’t turned their backs on Barolo, which, like the more age-worthy aglianicos, can require significant aging to soften its tannic intensity.

Not that aglianico is heavy by any means. We were all impressed by the consistently high quality of these wines. Some, as the range of vintages suggested, were more immediately approachable, while others will continue to benefit from aging. 

We found big differences in texture and density, but most of the wines were distinctively structured and earthy, with flavors of red fruit, licorice and menthol.
“I was imagining even more tannic, massive wines,” Joe said.

As is true in many parts of the world, the aglianico producers in our tasting seemed to have backed way off their earlier use of small barrels of new French oak. The tannins in the wines seemed to have come naturally from the grapes. We detected little in the way of oak tannins or the vanilla and chocolate flavors imposed by the barrels.

Most of the wines came from Campania, which has a range of aglianico appellations. Taurasi is the most famous and prestigious, perhaps rightfully so — three of our top four wines were Taurasis. It’s also generally the most expensive, with wines usually ranging from $30 to $65.

Other Campania appellations include Aglianico del Taburno and Irpinia, while the best appellation from Basilicata is generally Aglianico del Vulture. As one might guess from this land of extinct volcanoes like Mount Vulture and decidedly active ones like Mount Vesuvius, aglianico thrives in volcanic soil, especially on sunny hillsides where the ripening season can stretch well into the fall.

Our No. 1 wine was the 2008 Macchia dei Goti Taurasi from Antonio Caggiano, beautifully balanced and lovely to drink right now but with the potential to age. The relative delicacy of this wine made for a nice contrast with our.

No. 2 bottle, the 2006 Taurasi from Salvatore Molettieri, a powerhouse full of chunky, dark, complex flavors. Together they demonstrate a versatility of textures and densities.

The third Taurasi among our top four wines was the 2007 Mastroberardino Radici, a wine of great concentration and structure that will continue to improve. Mastroberardino is the great historical name of Taurasi and Campania, and almost single-handedly for decades made a case for the greatness of aglianico. I’ve had wines from the 1960s that have held up beautifully.

In the 1990s, a split within the Mastroberardino family resulted in the name’s staying with one branch and the vineyards going with another at Terredora Di Paolo, the producer of our No. 3 bottle, the 2010 Campania. This wine, which is not from one of the more prestigious regions, is intended to be easy to drink at an early age. While it won’t age like the three Taurasis and doesn’t have their complexity, it is delicious now and a great deal at just $16.

Many of these producers are familiar names, but it was a pleasure after our tasting to learn of some new producers whose wines I hadn’t tasted before, like Gioviano, the source of our No. 5 bottle, the fresh, graceful, aromatic 2008 Irpinia Aglianico.

Our two top wines from Basilicata, the 2006 Aglianico del Vulture from Basilisco and the ’09 Aglianico del Vulture from Musto Carmelitano, were also new to me.  Age had softened the Basilisco, while the Musto Carmelitano, three years younger, was dense but savory. Incidentally, I wouldn’t sell the Basilicata wines short. I’ve had fascinating wines from the region, and I believe it has great potential.

As the weather gets warmer and summer approaches, imagine these wines accompanying steaks and sausages sizzling on the grill or ribs in the smoker. Aglianicos are just right; savory and robust enough to stand up to such dishes, while lively and intriguing enough to refresh. That sounds like a great combination to me.

Tasting Report:
Antonio Caggiano, Taurasi Macchia dei Goti 2008 $52, ***
Balanced and lovely, structured yet approachable, with savory flavors that linger.
Salvatore Molettieri, Taurasi Vigna Cinque Querce 2006 $40, ***
Dense, tannic, structured and powerful, packed with dark, spicy flavors.
Terredora di Paolo Campania, Aglianico 2010 $16, ***
Light-bodied and supple yet intense, with earthy, smoky, plummy flavors.
Mastroberardino, Taurasi Radici 2007 $45, ***
Great concentration and structure, with balanced flavors of red fruits and licorice; needs time still.
Gioviano Irpinia, Aglianico 2008 $24, ***
Fresh, complex, graceful and aromatic, with earthy flavors of red fruits and herbs.
Basilisco, Aglianico del Vulture 2006 $25, ** ½
Soft and inviting, with mellow flavors of dark fruits and licorice.
Musto Carmelitano,  Aglianico del Vulture Pian del Moro 2009 $25, ** ½
Tannic and dense, with savory, spicy, plummy flavors
Michele Alois Campania,  Aglianico 2009 $18, ** ½
Bright yet earthy, with savory, gamy, almost saline flavors.
Donnachiara, Taurasi 2008 $30, ** ½
Fresh and fragrant, with soft, plummy fruit flavors and a touch of menthol.
Ocone, Aglianico del Taburno Apollo 2007 $16, ** ½
Round, pleasing, balanced and approachable, with floral, herbal aromas and flavors of red fruits.


Post popolari in questo blog

Scienza, sviluppato dispositivo per misurare il metanolo nel vino

Ricercatori svizzeri hanno sviluppato un dispositivo economico che rileva basse concentrazioni di metanolo nel vino. La nuova tecnologia può essere utilizzata sia da i consumatori che dai produttori ed è in grado di rilevare valori di metanolo in soli due minuti. Perdita di coscienza fino al coma, disturbi visivi fino alla cecità, acidosi metabolica. Sono i segni caratteristici dell’intossicazione da alcool metilico o metanolo. In piccolissime percentuali, l’alcool metilico, è un componente naturale del vino ma che se aumentato dolosamente, provoca danni permanenti, portando anche alla morte. E' bene ricordare che più di trent'anni fa e purtroppo proprio in Italia, si verificò il più grave scandalo nel settore del vino. Si tratta del triste episodio del "vino al metanolo" che nel marzo 1986 provocò 23 vittime e lesioni gravissime a decine di persone come la perdita della vista. Al quel particolare vino erano state aggiunte dosi elevatissime di metanolo per

Vino e scienza, il sistema agrovoltaico come efficiente risposta allo stress idrico della vite

I risultati di uno studio francese dimostrano l'efficacia del sistema agrovoltaico nella gestione del vigneto. I pannelli solari installati nel vigneto sembrano avere un impatto positivo sulla resistenza della vite allo stress idrico. Nasce un nuovo e promettente modo di coltivare, secondo recenti studi l'agrovoltaico, ovvero agricoltura + fotovoltaico si sta dimostrando un sistema efficace nella gestione del vigneto che combina su una superficie, una coltura e pannelli solari fotovoltaici, sollevati da terra e controllati in base alle esigenze fisiologiche delle piante. In effetti è un doppio sistema in quanto i pannelli oltre a produrre energia pulita e rinnovabile, proteggono le piante modificando il clima sulle colture. L’agrovoltaico di fatto può essere considerato una tecnologia 4.0 applicata alla viticoltura. I pannelli solari installati nel vigneto sembrano avere un impatto sulla resistenza della vite allo stress idrico. Uno studio condotto dalla Camera dell

Archeologia, Toscana: a San Casciano ritrovate statue di bronzo etrusche e romane intatte. Scoperta più importante dei Bronzi di Riace

 A San Casciano dei Bagni in Toscana riemergono da alcuni scavi 24 statue di bronzo etrusche e romane intatte. La scoperta è più importante del ritrovamento dei Bronzi di Riace. 24 statue di bronzo, 5 delle quali alte quasi un metro, e perfettamente integre. L'eccezionale scoperta è avvenuta a San Casciano dei Bagni in Toscana, piccolo borgo nella provincia di Siena noto per le sue affascinanti terme. In queste ore i tecnici del laboratorio sono già al lavoro per il restauro delle opere. Il ritrovamento grazie ad un progetto in cui gli archeologi sono impegnati da tre anni. Gli scavi furono intrapresi infatti nel 2019 con la concessione del ministero della Cultura e il sostegno anche economico del comune toscano. Alla guida del progetto l’archeologo Jacopo Tabolli, docente dell’Università per Stranieri di Siena. I lavori nel sito hanno fatto già fatto parlare di sé. Dalle acque delle terme infatti emergono oggetti straordinari, come la grande vasca, svariate offerte votive, altari