A Tasting and Comparison of some of the best Aglianico Wines

            

I recently had the pleasure of attending a wonderful small-group tasting of some highly-rated Aglianico wines at a friend’s house.

Aglianico (ahl yahn’ ee koh) is one of southern Italy’s best red grape varieties. It shares some characteristics with the Nebbiolo variety of the Piedmont region used to produce the renowned Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Both varieties are dark-colored, late-ripening varieties with marked acidic and tannic properties that produce firm, structured wines with complex aromas and flavors that require many years ageing before they are ready to drink. These similarities have earned the otherwise unassuming Aglianico wines the sobriquet “the Barolo of the South.”

Aglianico is both the name of the grape variety and the name of the wine made from this varietal. Aglianico is one of Italy’s oldest grape varieties. Believed to have been introduced to southern Italy by the ancient Greeks as early as the 8th century BC it quickly found a home and took root, so to speak, in the Basilicata and Campania regions of southern Italy.

While some Aglianico wines are produced in Puglia it is the Turasi, Irpinia and the Monte Taburno districts in the Campania region and the area around Monte Vulture in the northwestern part of the Basilicata region that are generally recognized as the sources of the best Aglianico wines.

Aglianico wines have long had enthusiastic fans in Italy but are just now starting to receive the critical international acclaim and recognition they deserve. I’m always pleased to see them on wine shop shelves and restaurant wine lists. They generally are well structured with tangy acidity and delicious dark fruit flavors and are excellent complements to a wide range of meat, vegetable, risotto and pasta dishes.

Six bottles of Aglianico wine from the tasting.

We tasted six top-end Aglianico wines that ranged in price from $40 to $51 and an average price of $48. Three of the wines were from the Compania region and three from the Monte Vulture area in the Basilicata region. It was a wonderful opportunity to taste and compare some highly-rated, relatively expensive Aglianico wines that might otherwise strain a wine enthusiast’s budget if purchased individually.

The wines were tasted “blind” and labels not revealed until after scores were tabulated. Of the six wines tasted, the clear favorite of the group was the 2011 “Radici” Taurasi Aglianico from the Mastroberardino winery near the town of Turasi in the Campania region. With a $51 retail price tag it was one of the three most expensive wines of the tasting.

After the Mastroberardino Taurasi, only modest differences in scores separated the five remaining wines and scoring appeared to have more to do with personal tastes and preferences than quality of the individual wines. The 2009 Taurasi from the Pietracupa winery, a highly-regarded producer in the Compania region, narrowly edged out the 2006 Roinos from the Basilicata-based Eubea winery for 2nd place.  

Perhaps the only surprise of the tasting was the last-place finish for the Rotondo Aglianico from the Paternoster winery in the Basilicata region. Paternoster is one of southern Italy’s best wineries and its Aglianico wines, especially the “Rotondo” and the “Don Anselmo,” are generally regarded as some of the best expressions of Aglianico del Vulture. Its position may reflect the competiveness of the wines tasted - only a few points separated the last four wines. But some of my tasting colleagues indicated that they thought the wine was “over the top” and “too jammy” for their tastes. It could also be that the 2011, the youngest vintage tasted that evening, is not yet in its prime and needs some additional time for its flavors and tannins to coalesce. In any event, it is what it is.

With summer fast approaching these wines would be great company for any get-together involving steaks, ribs or sausages from the outdoor grill.

The wines in order of preference are as follows:

Mastroberardino, “Radici” Taurasi 2011 (about $51)
The Radici (which translates as “roots”) is the Mastroberardino winery’s flagship wine. It is made entirely of Aglianico grapes sourced from a single prized vineyard with 35 year-old vines. The wine is aged for 2 years in a combination of French oak barriques and larger oak casks and spends an additional 2 years in the bottle prior to release for sale. It has good aromatic complexity and vivid, textured plum and dark berry flavors. It is an intense, full-bodied wine with an imposing personality.

Pietracupa, Taurasi 2009 (about $48)
Pietracupa’s Taurasi displayed more fruit and brighter acidity than usually seen in Aglianico wines. It has dark cherry and red berry flavors with good acidity and structure that culminates in a pleasing lift on the savory dry finish.

Eubea, “Roinos” Aglianico del Vulture 2006 (about $51)
From sixty year-old vines in volcanic soil vineyards comes this rich, aromatic and intense wine with complex dark fruit flavors and spice notes. The Roinos throws plenty of sediment so it should be decanted before serving.

Feudi di San Gregorio, Taurasi 2007 (about $40)
This wine from the highly-regarded Feudi di San Gregorio estate is made entirely of Aglianico. It is plush and rich but firmly textured with a grippy tannic finish.

Cantine del Notaio, “La Firma” Aglianico del Vulture 2010 (about $45)
Made entirely of organically-grown Aglianico del Vulture grapes that undergo a long (25 day) maceration, then aged in French oak barriques for a year with 4 additional months ageing in the bottle prior to release. The “La Firma” exhibits complex, mouth-coating flavors of ripe, dark, jammy fruit and cassis, a rich texture and velvety tannins, all held nicely in balance by lively acidity.

Paternoster, “Rotondo” Aglianico del Vulture 2011 (about $51)
This wine is aged in French oak barriques for 14 months and spends an additional 12 months ageing in the bottle prior to release. The wine has a dark, opaque ruby red color that borders on black. It’s what I would refer to as a “modern” style Aglianico. There are no rough edges here, just juicy black fruit flavors with balsamic notes, a dense texture and a silky tannic weave.

 

©Richard Marcis
June 14, 2017

 

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