I knew it as soon as I saw the first rope of wine pipeline around in the glass. It had that color. Despite the recent (2008) vintage, it had that overall chestnut cast, even more evident at the edge, overlying the magenta of a young wine. Some of this color comes from the 40% Aglianico in the blend (along with 40% Montepulciano, and 20% Olivella – an old, local variety – local to where? That’s coming.). Aglianico usually displays a palish, turbid currant-red color, and despite Montepulciano’s typical deep, dark purpleness, and Olivella’s violet color, Aglianico’s translucent deep ruby nature shone brightest.
So where does such a cool blend hail from? Well the NAME of the appellation is “Sannio” (referencing Samnium, the name of the land of an early arch-enemy of Rome) and it’s actually located in the province of Benevento in Campania…and so it all pops into focus…Overall, this region is very mountainous, lushly forested, rugged, quite remote, and culturally, proudly traditional.
There are some wines that really speak of a PLACE, and while this wine is far from generic, this bottle speaks more of a TRADITION – strictly native varieties handled in a decidedly old-school way – a bit taciturn at first, but with time, nobly spartan.
I charred up a couple of red bell peppers on my grill pan (my favorite way to do this, by the way – it’s almost like using a Mexican comal) peeled and seeded ,and with a few black olives, raisins, basil from the yard, etc. I briefly buzzed them in the food processor, and put them on toasts. Then, straccetti (thinly shredded lean beef cooked very quickly with lots of garlic, hot pepper, arugula, and red and (real!) balsamic vinegar, with fried potatoes. This is bold, rustic food, and the this wine from the rugged southern Apennines met it with a hearty embrace.
Dusty brown ruby to garnet color. Rustic nose of cocoa powder, woody spices, leaves, berries, faded potpourri, and oil paint. The palate has razor-fine tannins, an overall slightly austere mouthfeel, that smooth out nicely with some air revealing lots of Old World flavors like smokey bacon, dried cherries and cranberries, and walnuts.