(Aglianico pronunciation: Ahl-YAH-nee-koh)
Aglianico is the variety responsible for the rustic wines found almost entirely in the southern Italian regions of Campania and Basilicata. The Aglianico grape is said to be one of the oldest grapes still used in southern Italy, introduced by the ancient Greeks. This dark-skinned, late-ripening grape is comparable in complexity and flavors to the Nebbiolo variety of Piedmont. The Aglianico grapes are resilient and adept to endure drought conditions. While most of the Aglianico is produced in southern Italy, Australia and the United States have begun trying their hand at the wine, growing their own Aglianico grapes in recent years.
The full-bodied red wine produced by the Aglianico variety is marked with tannins and acidity, but the flavor varies on whether it is drunk young or left to age for several years before consuming. Young Aglianico wines dominant savory flavors include white pepper, leather, and smoked cured meats, while its sweeter notes consist of black cherry, tart berries, and spiced plums. Although many enjoy the young wine, the best Aglianico is aged ten or more years. The time allows the wines stiff tannins and extreme acidity to soften, leaving lavish layers of sweetened fruit with a touch of spiced smoke flavors. Along with the sweet and spiced flavors of the wine are the complimenting aromas of dried figs and floral notes mixed again with spiced smoke.
Aglianico wine pairs well with a wide array of meats, vegetables, and pasta dishes. For meat, the best food pairing is smoky barbecue since the sauce and rich meat absorb the astringency. For vegetables it is best to pick one that matches the saltiness of the wine such as roasted mushrooms or beans. The same is true for cheese, making asiago or cheddar a great match. The red wine should be served in an oversized Aglianico wine glass.
Aglianico wine making is rare but not unheard of in California. Luckily we got to snag an amazing vintage of this ancient Italian grape to feature in our Gold Wine Club!