Greig Santos-Buch

Understanding Aglianico – Campania’s Red Grape Variety

Aglianico is a black and blue grape variety that produces predominantly dry red wine. It is thought to be of Phoenician origin. This wine was prized and distributed by the Greeks throughout their ancient trade routes, and thoroughly enjoyed by ancient Roman culture as well.

Today, Aglianico has for the most part disappeared from the Greek islands. It is now most well known for being grown in the Campania region of Southern Italy, especially in the Taurasi DOCG. The Campania area also encompasses both beautiful Naples, Amalfi and Salerno.

RELATED: 10 Authentic Things To Do in Naples Italy

While the Old World is still the most famous for producing Aglianico, New World Vintners are now making concerted efforts to harness its awesome flavor. I recently sampled a delicious Aglianico produced in Driftwood, Texas by Duchman Family Winery. The limestone soil composition, compounded with both the dry and very sunny climate in Driftwood is reminiscent of the terroir in parts of Southern Italy. Thus making it an ideal location for new world Aglianico vine growth.

Aglianico Viticulture

These grape vines tend to grow best in dry and well aerated soil. They love lots of sunshine, and tend to bud early while ripening late. Even though the skins of Aglianico pack large amounts of polyphenols (making them heavily tannic), they are surprisingly susceptible to a couple of diseases, particularly noble rot.  Thus, it’s imperative that vines are micromanaged, not overly saturated and harvested on time.

RELATED: What Exactly Are Tannins?

Flavor, Style and Aging

The traditional tasting notes of Aglianico have both depth and complexity. This is a somewhat obscure wine grape that very much deserves more attention for its flavoric profile.

It’s a grape variety that most commonly yields full-bodied, dry red wines. Good wines tend to be refreshingly acidic with gritty tannins and red fruit. This structural composition actually makes it an ideal style for long term aging.

These wines should be aged for at least a couple of years before consumption, and in Taurasi there’s actually a 3 year requirement (with one being in oak). Reserve variations of Taurasi reds require at least 4 years of aging, and can also be blended with other well known Italian varieties, including Barbera and Sangiovese.

While New World variations are less regulated and can be consumed while young, the red fruit notes become more rounded with the and tannic structure mellowing out over time. Aged Aglianico is typically more balanced and approachable.

Winetraveler Tip: If you’re buying in the US, Aglianico can be a very affordable big-bodied red wine to try!

Aglianico Tasting Notes

Common Flavors and Aromas

  • Fruit: Red
  • Earth & Mineral Notes: Limestone, Dust
  • Additional Complexities: Chocolate, Tomato, Mushroom, Red Pepper, Cacao

Structure

  • Body: Full
  • Sugar: Dry
  • Tannins: High
  • Acid: High
  • Alcohol: High (13.0%-14.5% ABV)
  • Finish: Medium-Long

Terroir

  • Soil: Limestone & Clay
  • Climate: Warm, Hot and Sunny
  • Notable Regions: Campania, Italy | Driftwood, Texas | Riverina, Australia | Southern California, USA

Food Pairings

Being a big-bodied red wine with a deep tannin structure, consider rich and savory meats. Ideal to pair with grilled steak, lamb, roasted pork or braised barbecue ribs.  Remember, older Aglianico will pair better with sweet and savory foods, while younger wines are better paired with both spicier dishes. I tend to enjoy most Mexican and Indian plates with younger Aglianico (good luck finding it in a Mexican or Indian restaurant, but consider buying a bottle and making a dish at home — you won’t regret it).


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Greig Santos-Buch
Co-Founder at Winetraveler.com
Greig Santos-Buch is a Co-Founder at Winetraveler.com and a WSET 2 sommelier. He works with several brands focusing on experiential and immersive-style travel.

In his spare time, you can find him hiking with a bottle of Cabernet Franc in his backpack or scuba diving trying to talk a reef shark into trying Swiss wine.
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