By Joel Mack aka @vintrospective (Twitter)
Before anything else, I should tell you this: certain of my olfactory reference points for the Aglianico varietal formed while working in old-school barber shops.
It’s true: for twenty-five cents, I would shine the shoes of customers while they waited for a haircut.
The upshot is that innumerable whiffs of shoe leather, razor strop, and cigar tobacco later, my twelve-year old brain had learned in the barber shops something that I would appreciate later in life: aromatic indicators I’d find in good Aglianico.
God works in strange ways. J
Many scholars credit the Greeks for having introduced Aglianico into Italy. The name “Aglianico” appears to have evolved sometime during the 15th century as a corruption of its earlier name Hellenico or Hellenica.
Aglianico is capable of a range of wine styles, from younger, fruity wines to those of great complexity with potential for long cellaring. Deep red and black cherry fruit provide a center of gravity to Aglianico’s sensory profile that at times is orbited by moody, dark tones of plum, prune, bitter chocolate, cocoa, leather, cigar, and smoke. High acidity and tannins that can range from soft to assertive are Aglianico trademarks.
The most well known wine made from Aglianico, called Taurasi, is produced in Campania where the varietal loves the region’s volcanic soil and heat. Actually, Campania offers other Aglianico options, too, that, along with Taurasi, make for especially interesting, unique expressions of Aglianico in the region.
Here are a few favorites:
Cantina del Taburno Aglianico del Taburno 2005
North of Napoli, the high hills of Campania’s Benevento province provide an excellent source of Aglianico. Wines from this area are generally more approachable in the short term, require less aging, and show a nice fruit component. Made from 90% Aglianico and 10% Sangiovese, this wine shows pretty cherry and blackberry scents with hints of strawberry, leather, tobacco, black pepper and spice. Soft on the palate with a smooth finish. Better still, it represents an impressive quality / value for money ratio. Enjoy it with red or white roasted meats, especially lamb, rich meat stews, pasta with red sauces, medium aged cheeses.
Feudi di San Gregorio Aglianico Rubrato 2004
Feudi di San Gregorio is a major force in the Italian wine scene and a champion of south Italy’s ancient varietals. Feudi’s Rubrato is made from 100% hand harvested Aglianco and represents with good style what Feudi is all about: Campania’s unique terroir and ancient varietals with a contemporary spin. Intense and rich, Rubrato is expressive with seductive notes of cherry, strawberry, cigar smoke and spice that slide into a deliciously smooth finish. Rubrato pairs especially well with eggplant parmigiana, lasagne, cured meats, and hard cheeses.
Terredora di Paolo Taurasi Fatica Contadina 2001
It was the rich, elegant, complex personality of Taurasi that first put Aglianico on the wine world map. An expression of Aglianico that is made for the long haul, Taurasi needs a few years of cellaring time to soften. A leading producer of the Campanian wine scene, Terradora di Paolo, produces their Taurasi Fatica Contadina from 100% hand harvested Aglianico. Elegant and velvety, the wine shows complex characteristics of black cherry, prune, spice, violets, cigar, and worn leather. Full bodied on the palate with superb acidity and balanced tannins. Enjoy it with grilled or roasted meats, especially pork or lamb, pasta served with spicy red sauces, and mature cheeses like gorgonzola, aged provolone, or parmigiano reggiano.
ABOUT JOEL MACK
Joel Mack writes about Italian wine at Vintrospective -> An Italian Wine Blog. As a free lance writer, Joel also contributes content to other Internet and print interests. He conducts specialized seminar tastings featuring the wines of Italy for private and corporate clients and teaches a college level Discover Italy series of wine classes. He has a worked for a celebrated importer / distributor of Italian wines and continues to study the wines of Italy. See all of Joel Mack’s Articles on Napoli Unplugged.