Aglianico (pronounced “alli-yawn-nico”) is the best red wine from Italy that you’ve probably never heard of.
For the past several decades, wine critics and therefore wine consumers have almost exclusively favored the wines of northern and central Italy – Barolo, Amarone, Brunello di Montalcino, Super Tuscans, etc. The wines of southern Italy have been not only overlooked, but relegated to a category of low quality bulk wine. There had been a general belief that southern was too hot to produce elegant, ageworthy wines.
However, southern Italy is home to some real gems, including the wine with the region’s greatest potential – Aglianico. Along with Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, Aglianico is generally believed to be one of Italy’s three greatest wine grapes, and yet is often overlooked.
Aglianico has been called the “Barolo of the south”, with its best expressions found in the regions of Campania and Basilicata. It is full-bodied and rustic with dark fruit notes of plum and black cherry. It can also have hints of tobacco, coffee and leather, with earthy and gamey notes as it ages. Aglianico’s high tannins and high acidity make it an ageworthy choice for cellaring. Just like Nebbiolo (Barolo), well-made Aglianico wines come into their best after 10 or so years of age.
When looking for these wines in a wine shop, looked for labeled as Taurasi DOCG or Aglianico del Vulture DOCG.
- Taurasi is located close to Naples near the coast. The wines must be made from at least 85% Aglianico, but are often 100%. They must be aged for three years, with a minimum of one year in barrel, before release. Taurasi tends to offer more floral notes with aromas of rose and sour cherries. It is also less approachable upon release with most needing at least an 8 years in the cellar to soften their grippy tannins.
- Aglianico del Vulture is located in Basilicata, closer to central Italy away from the coast. Here, the vines grow on volcanic soils, lending the wines power, structure, complexity and minerality. These wines must be 100% Aglianico and must be aged at least 12 months in cask. The shorter aging period means they are also approachable while young. The riserva style requires five years of aging, with at least 24 months in cask.
- di Majo Norante Aglianico Molise Contado ($17)
- Donnachiara Taurasi Aglianico 2016 ($30)
- I Capitani Taurasi Bosco Faiano ($40)
- Salvatore Molettieri Vigna Cinque Querce ($45)