Fifty Shades of Aglianico

IMG_0379One of Italy’s best under-appreciated native grape varieties is Aglianico. Can I say how much I love it? It grows principally in the South of Italy, mostly in the regions of Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, and Calabria. Whether a wine is 100% Aglianico, or a blend, there is a lot to be said for this grape, the unsung hero of the South.

At this Vinitaly, I made it a point to seek out the various expressions of Aglianico, a black (very black!) grape that makes rich, full-bodied wines with pronounced tannins. I started out in Campania, with a wine I know and love: the award-winning Simbiosi, from Fattoria La Rivolta. Paolo Cotroneo and his team discovered the lovely symbiosis between the Aglianico (85%) and Piedirosso (15%) grapes.

Moving onward and southward, I moved into Basilicata, where Aglianico del Vulture Superiore is the region’s only DOCG. Vulture is a volcano, and this is a grape that loves a volcanic soil (don’t forget, Vesuvius is in Campania!)UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_196ccThese proud women producers from the region display their bottles of Aglianico del Vulture. Can you spot Elena Fucci*? Her wine, Titolo, has been featured at the Wine Spectator-Vinitaly event, Opera Wine.


Basilicata, like its famed wine Aglianico del Vulture, is all to be discovered. So I took some time here, finding producers and stands where I could sample what people are doing with this grape.


Producer Carolin Martino to the right, and her enologist Gerardo Briola, of Martino Vini have much to be proud of. The rosé version was also captivating!



So, what am I drinking?


Yes, folks, that’s right. This is an Aglianico made as a white wine, a blanc de noir as it were.

So now you know why a post about one of the darkest red grapes in Italy has a photo of a white as its cover… Fooled ya!

Meandering back to Campania, in the area of Irpinia, we find a major producer of Taurasi, Mastroberardino. Also known as the Barolo of the South, Taurasi is a DOCG wine that by law must be at least 85% Aglianico. Here we started out with Re di More 2017, made from their own clone! It is an elegant expression that spends one year in barrique. After that, we tried Radici (which means ‘roots’) 2015, and a Radici Riserva 2012. But to top it all off, we ended up with a special 1998 vintage, and then even an Aglianico passito called Anthères! Since I was on the Aglianico trail, this was truly a treat!

These photos may be out of order, but that is due to the effect of the Aglianico. We are talking some heavy hitters here!

Mastroberardino also had a surprise up its sleeve (and this is not the order we tasted in, needless to say!) Take a look at Neroametà, which literally means ‘half black’ just like the label shows. Yes, this too is an Aglianico made as a white wine. Temperature control and probably two seconds of contact between the skins and the must… produce surprising and delightful results. Get a load of that (lack of…!) color in the glass!


Yours truly happily tasting and reporting from Vinitaly 2019.


* Elena Fucci is third from the right, with signature black bangs

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