Posted by: tomciocco | February 12, 2014

AGLIANICO: A WORKING CLASS VERSION OF SOUTHERN ITALY’S MOST REGAL VINE

The grape variety Aglianico is the source of two of southern Italy’s finest and longest-lived wines: Taurasi in the Campania region, and Aglianico del Vulture in the largely unknown region of Basilicata (which is now as often known as Lucania). Aglianico can be found growing all over southern Italy for sure, but these two areas are universally celebrated as the twin peaks of this variety.

For hundreds of years Aglianico was thought to be a transplant from Greece, carried to southern Italy by early Hellenic colonists, and indeed the name “Aglianico” was always thought to be a multi-millennial evolution of the word “Ellenico”, supposedly clearly linking the variety to the Greeks. Well, the genetic science doesn’t lie, and all of the work done in identifying Aglianico’s origins definitively say that there is precisely zero connection – either direct or indirect – with Greece. There are no examples of Aglianico now growing anywhere in Greece, nor is there any close relative of the vine being cultivated there either. This is a vine that is indubitably ancient, but which seems to be wholly endemic to the Italian peninsula.

This evening’s wine hails from Basilicata, and more specifically from within the aforementioned mountainous Vulture region in the northernmost reaches of the Basilicata region (located in the “arch” of the Italian boot). All wine grape varieties, regardless of their specific origins, thrive on volcanic soils but this goes double – maybe triple – for Aglianico. As one might infer from the name “Vulture”, which makes reference to the Roman deity Vulcan, God of volcanos, this is an area that is rife with extinct volcanos, and if there ever was a sweet spot for the Aglianico grape, this is definitely it.

Aglianico del Vulture carries the highest D.O.C.G. classification, and rightly so – it is potentially one of Italy’s finest wines. And though these wines still remain very fairly priced due to their continued relative level of obscurity, tonight’s wine, which is classified as an I.G.T. Basilicata, has higher permissible yields and shorter aging requirements than Aglianico del Vuture, comes from the same vineyards as the ones that give us Aglianico del Vulture, and there can be no doubt that there will always be a market for a “junior” version of a truly great wine, and this precisely what this wine gives the drinker.

I matched this imposing and complex but still very drinkable wine with an appetizer of roasted red pepper fritters flavored with sage and oregano and a main course of baked fennel “shells” stuffed with a hash of ground beef, caciocavallo cheese, onions, garlic, breadcrumbs, rosemary and basil.

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Musto Carmelitano “Maschitano Rosso” Rosso di Basilicata I.G.T. 2011

Very deeply saturated, crimson/purple color. Elegantly rustic and fragrant  nose of black cherry, grilled plums, boysenberry, watermelon rind, dark chocolate, sweet spices, coffee, underbrush, juniper and dusty mint. In the mouth the wine is quite dry, powerful, with a chunky texture and a pleasantly austere tannic structure that strongly supports favors of black currant jam, bitter orange, blueberries, an intense, salty minerality and dried rose petals. Big, muscular and moderately long finish.

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Responses

  1. i have several bottles of musto carmelitano maschitano rosso 2011 and was wondering about your thoughts on drink dates for this wine I have not tasted it as yet

    • Hey Peter-

      I’d say that since this is not an oak-aged bottling, it should be drinking pretty well now, but I’d educatedly guess that it should improve over the next 3 years or so, and then gracefully fade thereafter. Let me know how it is when you decide to open one, and thanks for reading.


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