Not too long ago, before it had made some space for itself in the market, it was common to hear the great southern Italian red grape variety Aglianico referred to as “The Nebbiolo of The South”. And with just those five words, you’ve said a hell of a lot, and in the end, maybe too much.
At least on one level, albeit a touch glib, the comparison is true. Both Nebbiolo and Aglianico are old, noble varieties, producing very sophisticated and distinctive long-lived wines, but in terms of the actual details of their aromas, textures, and flavors, they’re far more different than similar.
Each grape, or blend, or region should always be taken and judged on its own terms and merits, but since Nebbiolo is typically held up as Italy’s paragon grape vine, for me there actually is another southern variety that’s pretty damned close to being Nebbiolo’s true doppelganger, and that’s none other than Calabria’s Gaglioppo (gal-YO-poh). This evening’s wine is officially designated as a Calabria Gaglioppo I.G.T., but it’s under the name of Ciro’ (chee-ROH) that the Gaglioppo grape makes its way into most people’s glasses, and it’s also one of the places in which Gaglioppo really shines, and becomes Calabria’s Barolo or Barbaresco.
Because the permissable yields are notably higher with I.G.T. wines, and the fruit can be sourced from anywhere in Calabria (this producer is located inland on the western side of the province of Catanzaro; Ciro’ is on the eastern coast, north of Crotone), the Calabria Gaglioppo I.G.T. is more like a good Nebbiolo d’Alba than any of Piedmont’s heavy hitting Nebbiolo wines like those mentioned above, but nonetheless, both varieties have a sometimes almost uncannily similar color, weight, structure and olfactory character despite the fact that Calabria and Piedmont are like night and day in terms of…well, just about everything.
So sticking with my usual seasonal and regional approach, I served up a pasta with an asparagus, pea, pancetta, wine, and mint sauce as a first course, and then for the main, little rosemary and garlic-laced lamb meatballs, fried and then stewed with tomatoes, potatoes, wild oregano, and black olives.
Statti Gaglioppo Calabria I.G.T. 2011
Slightly brownish, just translucent, deep ruby color. Intriguing nose of cherry, strawberry preserves, wood smoke, pine tar, subtle asian spices, forest floor, and and a touch of magic marker(!). The medium-full body has a moderately rich mouthfeel that is stood up by big, austere, but fine tannins and direct but elegant flavors of black cherry, red currants, fig paste, toasted fennel seeds, chestnut puree` and rose water. Dry hot cocoa finish.