Aglianico: Do-It-Yourself

Aglianico: Do-It-Yourself

For those of you pursuing an indie do-it-yourself wine education (Really, who else can do it for you?), you might like to take time to explore one of the great and most important grape varietals of Italy’s south, Aglianico.

You’ll probably notice pretty quickly two confounding things about Aglianico: a) that you won’t find it in every wine shop and, b) that when you do, you will likely encounter Aglianico wines from varied regions such as Campania, Sicily, Molise, Puglia, and Basilicata to name a few.

tenuta-del-portale-le-vigne-a-capanno-2009-1All the aforementioned regions produce noteworthy expressions of Aglianico and you must try them eventually. But, do yourself a favor: begin your exploration with Aglianico from Basilicata, Aglianico del Vulture to be specific (takes its name from the region’s dormant volcano Monte Vulture), or from Campania’s Taurasi appellation (named for one of the production area communities), as those two expressions of Aglianico generally set the bar for important Aglianico reference points.

Brief geography: Basilicata is that part of the Italian peninsula that forms the ankle on the boot. You can locate that pretty easily. With only slightly more effort, to find the area for Taurasi, zero in on the Province of Avellino in Campania and you’ll have the place (Hey, don’t complain, I did say “brief” geography, remember? It is do-it-yourself, afterall). Separated by just 40 or so miles, the very common denominator relating the del Vulture and Taurasi production zones is the volcanic soil on which they are situated and in which Aglianico seems to thrive.

I can offer a thumbnail sketch of how the Vulture and Taurasi wines compare: well, actually, I hate doing this kind of broad brush thing, because there are always exceptions, but as you force me:

Aglianico del Vulture wines tend to be wines of complexity and detail, with dark and red fruit tones underlined by mineral character (volcanic, right?) and firm, often dusty tannins, while Taurasi – again, generally speaking – is perhaps the more structured of the two, also has the mineral thing going on, a wine that can show incredible depth and a finish that can go on forever. When cellared, Aglianico wines from either del Vulture or Taurasi areas will reward your patience.

Descriptors for wines from either zone could include red cherry, black cherry, plum, violets, smoke, meat, leather, vanilla, cocoa, menthol and tobacco, and no, that is not a definitive list. Foodie’s will appreciate that Aglianico’s naturally high acidity makes it a great food wine (and also balances alcohol levels that can be north of 14%).

Recommended, reasonable price points and pretty good trade distribution as far as I know:

Bisceglia Aglianico del Vulture
Tenuta Portale Le Vigne a Capanno Aglianico del Vulture
Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi
Terredora di Paolo Taurasi Fatica Contadina

Bisceglia Aglianico del Vulture Terra di Vulcano 2006

Bisceglia Aglianico del Vulture Terra di Vulcano 2006, DOC

Recently:

It’s been a good vibe all day long. And I am hungry now: bison burger, frites, and salad almost ready. The sun that warmed the leather of my sandals so nicely is starting to go down on one of Spring’s first warm evenings.

As I pull the cork of Bisceglia’s Aglianico del Vulture Terra di Vulcano 2006 an already nice day is about to get better.

bisceglia-aglianico-del-vulture-terra-di-vulcano-2006Bisceglia’s Aglianico del Vulture Terra di Vulcano 2006 is a wine that I just love to love: thoroughbred character, charming style, and an interesting taste experience all at a price point that makes me feel like I just got a real good bargain.

Azienda Agricola Bisceglia was established in 2001 by Mario Bisceglia and is located in the Basilicata region of Italy on the slopes of extinct volcano Mount Vulture. The estate produces two product lines of wines based on indigenous and international varietals.

Bisceglia Aglianico del Vulture Terra di Vulcano 2006 is made from 100% Aglianico grown in volcanic calcareous and clay loam soil rich in potassium. Vineyards are south – south east facing at 300m altitude.

After 4-5 days of cold maceration on the skins the wine is aged in steel for 12 months and then in bottle for an additional 4 months.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Dark cherry licorice stick, anise, conifer, brooding chocolate and spice underscored with exciting mineral vitality and delicious acidity. Immediate and fresh with beautifully intense, garnet color. Soft yet firm, balanced tannins maintain good grip on the finish. Remarkable quality / price ratio.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: a perfect “chops / steaks / burgers” wine. If you haven’t tried a ground bison burger, do it now! …topped with mushrooms, carmelized onions and melted gorgonzola 😉 PASTA: pasta dishes, generally speaking, rock with this wine, but I especially like baked pasta here with a red sauce of both meat and cheese; VEGETARIAN: no brainer -> baked pasta with cheese and good marina sauce, manicotti, stuffed shells, etc.; CHEESES: try a good aged provolone or sharp Italian table cheese.

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A Bad Day, Noodles and Aglianico

The commute sucked, the rain was relentless, and the work day had its way with me.

Finally home, crazy hungry, I fall onto the sofa and snap on an episode of THE OFFICE just as a plate of noodles with sweet and sour pork arrives to the rescue.

What’s to drink, I wonder. A half bottle of previously opened Aglianico del Vulture stares me down, as if reading my mind.

[ thinking ] … Is that a dare?

At first, uncertainty, trepidation. And then… chilled out calm factor pervades:

No fear.

noodles-sweet-sour-sauce-bisceglia-aglianic-del-vulture-2006The wine’s dark fruit and spice gave compliment to the Asian sweet and sour sauce, bringing “bottom” and depth of flavor to the pairing. Good structure and minerality checked sweet / sour components from smearing, and soft tannins in just the right measure left balance of the sauce undisturbed. The wine’s remarkable freshness – apparent even though previously opened – was nicely suited to the dish.

I search for an allegorical moral to the story:

Bad days end with relaxing about the tasting experience.

Knowing what tastes good in your own mouth is as natural as breathing. Taste wines you like or have interest in. Put them with foods that you like and or have interest in. What’s to worry, you can’t be wrong… it’s your palate and you’re the expert on that 😉

THE WINE:
Bisceglia Aglianico del Vulture Terra di Vulcano 2006, $

THE SAUCE:
1 part white vinegar, 2 parts cooking wine, 3 parts sugar, 4 parts light soy sauce, 5 parts water. Simmer all in sauce pan and add corn starch to thicken and red pepper flakes for spiciness to taste. Use with chicken, pork, or shrimp served with rice or noodles.