Aglianico is a special variety for me. It’s a grape variety that I’ve first met in the vineyard, before drinking any wine from it. When I saw it in the vineyard for the first time, it didn’t even have the grapes on it, just some young leaves and inflorescence. I was very curious about the grapes and about the upcoming the wine so I’ve started to make some research about it and blended the information with my own experiences to share it with you.
It’s known that Aglianico is a brought to south of Italy by Greek settlers. However, there are different hypotheses for the origin of the name of Aglianico, which give controversial ideas. One of the hypotheses is that it is derived from the name (vitis) Hellenica which means Greek vine. Another hypothesis is that it comes from the union of two Greek words, aglaos means clear and aglaio means splendor, since it’s a bright ruby wine. Finally the recent hypothesis is that the name derives from again the Greek word agluco means without sugar, which also coincides perfectly with peculiar astringent character of Aglianico wines (1). All in all, all these opinions end up showing the importance and noble history of the presence of Aglianico in Italy, which dates back to 15th century. Final words on the history should be the ones of Denis Dubourdieu, that Aglianico might be the grape with the longest consumer history of all (2).
In the vineyard
As the season was going further, the small inflorescence of Aglianico already turned itself to tiny little fruits. Aglianico is not an easy grape to produce; it buds early but ripens late. It means it needs a lot of time, patience and special attention to obtain fully ripen and healthy bunches. It loves dry regions and sunshine. (Well, who doesn’t?) If Aglianico doesn’t get what it wants; pick it early or try to obtain more yield than it can give, you will end up with highly tannic grapes.
If you end up making mistakes in the vineyard, Aglianico will give you hard times in the winery for sure. Let’s hope that we harvested Aglianico in the perfect maturation and health, in that case, with correct winemaking, it’s possible to obtain wines that will have a very good aging capacity thanks to high acidity and phenolic compound contents. Wines made with Aglianico grapes can be aged easily 10 up to 20 years. In the vintages that are not suitable to obtain phenolic maturity, some producers choose to make rosé wines; which will not have heavy skin contact and have crisp acidity which is highly appreciated by the consumers in this type of wine.
On the table
The more I was interested in Aglianico, the more it ended up in my wine glass. I’ve started to include Aglianico to my wine selection and to use it as a solid choice of pairing it with the suitable meals. Here, I’ve listed my 4 best Aglianicos that I’ve tasted so far and with the pairings that I’ve made.
You don’t know when a beauty would find to you. This Aglianico came to my glass during a dinner invitation. With its enjoyable complex nose and mature tannins, to me it was the perfect time to drink it. Paired with beef skewers and Greek salad as side dish. But I think it’s better to avoid red onion in the pairing to avoid increasing the sensation of astringency.
A lovely pairing suggestion here for this wine: The earthiness and meatiness of the shiitake mushrooms which I’ve used in risotto, paired perfectly with the earthy notes of the wine.
I suggest you to taste this wine, if you haven’t taste any Aglianico before and this will give you all the real impression of the variety. Try to air it with a roasted lamb leg and oven cooked veggies as we did, and you can thank me afterwards for this heavenly pairing suggestion!
This is so far the best and the most special Aglianico that I’ve tasted. An unfortunate accident on the box during transportation, as one bottle was broken and damaged the label of all the others, but inside of the bottle was intact. The winemaker of this wine, Prof. Luigi Moio, one of the most important enologists of Italy, professor at food department of Università degli Studi di Napoli, and also the writer of wine books, including the one I have been reading for learning more about Aglianico.
I guess this was a nice first meeting story of me and Aglianico. I will keep on discovering it, and will be sharing more wines and pairings about it!
All images © 2017 by Nedret Neslihan IVIT. All rights reserved.
- Moio L. (2004). Colori, odori ed enologia dell’Aglianico, sette anni di sperimentazione e ricerca enologica in Campania. Regione Campania, Assessorato Agricoltura.