Posted by: tomciocco | October 24, 2014

MAY I TAKE YOUR COAT, SIGNOR AGLIANICO?

This is pretty common knowledge by now, but I’ll reiterate nevertheless – the juice of almost every red-skinned grape is as white as that which comes from Fiano or Chardonnay or Albarino. There are a few oddities like certain strains of Gamay and the Georgian variety Saperavi that are called tinturier varieties that have red juice, but they are very much the exception. The pigmentation that appears in almost all finished wines comes from a process called maceration whereby the skins are left to sit in the juice for a certain period of time, and during this process, the colorative compounds called anthocyanins leach into the juice, coloring it red. So with this understood, it becomes clear that it is possible to make white wine from red grapes by pressing red-skinned fruit and immediately separating the skins from the juice, and on occasion certain vitcultural iconoclasts decide to do just that, and that is precisely what we’ve got here.

And of all the candidates for doing this very atypical winemaking choice, the Italian powerhouse variety Aglianico might be at or near the bottom of almost anyone’s list. Aglianico is a very ancient variety that is native to southern Italy, but it’s found in its highest concentrations in Campania and in the northernmost area of Basilcata known as Vulture (VOOL-too-reh), and it is this latter area from whence this wine hails. Due to the deeply volcanic soils (the earth in many spots in Vulture approaches a nearly black color) and the high elevations in this region, the red Aglianico wines from this region are the most complex and elegant of all the regional styles, so it stands to reason that these terroir-driven traits would come through as prominently in an Aglianico wine made in bianco (the Italian language term for making white wine from red grapes) and indeed this wine bears out that supposition. And while I wouldn’t say that Aglianico vinified in bianco has even the remotest chance of supplanting the red stuff, or that it even should, this approach is undoubtedly a clever and fascinating way to showcase a truly noble variety in a really unconventional way.

I paired this lovely little oddball of a wine with a first course of pennoni pasta with a ricotta, pancetta, yellow pepper and broccoli rabe sauce, followed by a main course of flounder baked with bread crumbs, green olives, oregano and red onions and a side of deep-fried cauliflower.

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Madonna delle Grazie “Leuconoe” Basilicata Bianco 2013

Ever-so-slightly coppery-toned “white gold” color. Clean nose of pear, orange, yellow cherry, wildflowers, cinnamon and vanilla bean. The palate is medium-full and well structured and slightly buttery but with a balancing fresh acidity and minerally flavors of lemon juice and zest, peach pit, canteloupe, apricot nectar, ground ginger and a long bitter almond finish. Uncommon juice indeed.

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