Aglianico has a special place amongst the great southern Italian grape varieties. It is a very old variety, and it gives rise to some prestigious wines such as Taurasi, Aglianico del Taburno and Aglianico del Vulture. It is a rather unusual variety, because even though it can be found in many areas of southern Italy, it is best suited to a cool, continental climate with marked temperature excursions. These are the sort of conditions that can be found in the inland Irpinia districts and the slopes of the region’s mountains.
Another varietal preference is for terrains of ancient volcanic origin, rich in mineral substances but with relatively low amounts of organic material. When it is in its optimum terroir, it gives rise to particularly elegant wines, of great power and sophistication.
Aglianico del Vulture is often referred to as ‘Barolo of the South’ and the name is entirely justified.
The origins of the variety are shrouded in mystery. Traditionally it is linked to an ancient Greek variety known as ‘Hellenico,’ but DNA analysis does not confirm this theory. There are no points of similarity between Aglianico and the red grape varieties currently grown in Greece, though one possibility could be an ancestral Greek variety that has since become extinct. On the other hand, Aglianico shows a degree of genetic affinity to another ancient Campania variety, Aglianicone. Whatever its origins, we know for sure that Aglianico was established in parts of southern Italy from as early as 1500.
The Mount Vulture area is one of the most famous areas for Aglianico production. It is in the north-western part of Basilicata, in the province of Potenza, situated in what was once the crater of an enormous volcano, now extinct. Its last eruptions took place 130,000 year ago, and today it takes the form of a wide conical mountain reaching about 1,300 metres in height, cloaked in dense forest dominated by chestnuts. The slopes of the mountain have been used for vine growing for centuries, with about 1,500 hectares subdivided over about forty farms, often quite small. Aglianico del Vulture was awarded DOC status in 1971, and in 2010 it attained DOCG certification for the procedure followed for the Superiore version.
Aglianico del Vulture is a red wine with a sophisticated, austere profile. Its bouquet is rich in notes of dried flowers, spices, touches of graphite, liquorice root, against a backdrop of blackberry, blackcurrant and cherry. On the palate, it has a complex structure with a generous breadth of flavours, a dense texture of tannins and a firm acidity, the latter characteristic promising a possibility of interesting development during ageing. In fact, this wine benefits from a long period of maturation, which smooths out its youthful power and brings it to notable levels of expression, with sophisticated tertiary sensations. It is enhanced by pairing with roast or braised meat and game.
Here are some examples of labels that represent prestigious expressions of this great wine:
Aglianico del Vulture DOC Titolo, Elena Fucci
Aglianico del Vulture DOC Daginestra, Grifalco
Aglianico del Vulture DOC Damaschito, Grifalco
Aglianico del Vulture DOC Serpara, Re Manfredi
Aglianico del Vulture DOC Don Anselmo, Paternoster
Aglianico del Vulture DOC Etichetta Bianca, Musto Carmelitano
Agliano del Vulture DOC Repertorio, Cantine del Notaio
Aglianico del Vulture DOC La Firma. Cantine del Notaio
Aglianico del Vulture DOC Cruà, Basilisco