Grapes

AGLIANICO

Aglianico grapes

Aglianico

AGLIANICO grape in a nutshell
  • Aglianico is a thick-skinned and late-ripening variety that grows in Campania, Basilicata, and Puglia.
  • It gives a wide variety of different DOC and DOCG wines, including Aglianico del Vulture, Taurasi, Aglianico del Taburno, Cilento Aglianico, and Falerno del Massico.
  • Its nickname, “ Southern Barolo”, hints of the remarkable age-worthiness of the wines it gives.
AGLIANICO wine in a sip
  • Aglianico-based wines are full-bodied and medium to high-acid, offering hearty aromas of black cherries, plums, black pepper, and botanical herbs. Oak aging helps to soften the tannins.
  • They pair well with rich and succulent meat dishes and hard and tangy cheese.

What is Aglianico?

One of the key red grapes in Southern Italy, Aglianico dominates red wine production in Campania and Basilicata.

Thick-skinned, its substantial tannin content means that Aglianico is one of the latest ripening varieties in the country. In cooler areas of southern Italy like the Taurasi DOCG in Irpinia or the Vulture volcano in Basilicata, producers pick it in late October or early November.

What are the origins of Aglianico?

The origins of Aglianico in Italy are difficult to pin down. Some ampelographers think that the grape came with Greek settlers in ancient times – and the grape name does have a Greek ring to it! Others have found no DNA links to any of the indigenous grapes in Greece or think that perhaps the original Greek grape has died out.

On the other hand, Aglianico could be native to southern Italy. The fact is, Aglianico’s past is shrouded in mystery. Whatever its roots, we’re just glad it has endured! As with most grapes, there are numerous pseudonyms for Aglianico. Some of the prettiest are Zuccherina, Fresella, and Tringarulo.

Where is Aglianico grown?

In Campania, Aglianico is grown around the village of Taurasi and Monte del Taburno. Taurasi received its DOCG status in 1993 while Aglianico del Taburno followed in 2011. This varietal is also planted in the province of Caserta, where it is the main grape in Falerno del Massico, in the Cilento coastal area of Southern Campania and in the Castel del Monte area in Northern Puglia.

In Basilicata, the grape produces Aglianico del Vulture DOC and Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG.  

Outside Italy, Aglianico has significant plantings in Australia, California, Texas, Arizona in the US, and in Ontario, Canada.

What does Aglianico taste like?

What most Aglianico-based wines have in common is a dark and impenetrable color, a full-bodied structure, medium to high acidity, and noteworthy tannic heft. The aromas and flavors recall black pepper, black cherry, game, botanical herbs, and plum. Oak aging is usually required to soften the tannins, so you may also get oak-derived nuances of cinnamon, clove, chocolate, and menthol.

Altitude in another key factor shaping the profile of Aglianico-based wine: examples from warmer and lower areas such as Cilento on the southern coast of Campania tend to be riper, smoother and more alcoholic – frequently weighing between 15% and 16.5% – while in Vulture and Irpinia vineyards lying at over 600 meters above sea level make for more austere and higher-acid expressions.

Does Aglianico age well?

The nickname “Southern Barolo” derives from the age-worthiness of Aglianico: top-notch expression of Taurasi, Aglianico del Vulture Superiore and Aglianico del Taburno share the ability to age gracefully with the king of Piedmontese wines. They often drink well for over thirty years, developing thrilling smoky and earthy complexity.

What kind of wine is similar to Aglianico?

Sagrantino di Montefalco, Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo and Tanant from Uruguay share a dark color and a high tannin content with Aglianico. Nebbiolo, instead, is completely different from a chromatic and aromatic standpoint but develops similar tertiary complexity over time. Last but not least, mature versions may remind you of Rioja Reserva or Gran Reserva.

What food does Aglianico pair with?

Because of its high acidity and imposing tannins, Aglianico works best with beef stews, braised lamb shanks, oxtail, game dishes and pasta with meat ragù. Mature Aglianico also goes well with hard and tangy cheeses like Italian Pecorino, Spanish Manchego, Cheddar, or Monterey Jack. 

 

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