Aglianico – The Ancient Italian Grape Variety
Aglianico is one of the most famous red grape varieties in Southern Italy and is behind genuinely spectacular wines. The Ancient Greeks brought Aglianico to Italy 2,500 years ago, and it thrived in the country’s sunny south. Also known as Vitis Hellenica, literally Greek vine, the red grape spread in Italy’s volcanic soils.
Most of the vineyards planted with Aglianico are in Campania and Basilicata. The grape shows promise when grown in volcanic soils, mainly at the foothills of the Monte Vulture (where the DOC wine Aglianico del Vulture is made.) Other extraordinary wines made with Aglianico come from the DOCG Taurasi in Campania. DOCG is a wine category reserved for the finest wines in Italy.
Taurasi is fondly known as the “Barolo of the South,” and with good reason. Aglianico can produce concentrated, robust and age-worthy wines as good as the finest wines made with Nebbiolo.
Aglianico varietal development
Taurasi DOCG allows up to 15% of other local grapes, but most of the region’s winemakers make mono-varietal wines with Aglianico. On the other hand, Aglianico del Vulture, the other great expression of the grape, is always made exclusively with Aglianico.
Aglianico vines are early budding and slow ripening, so they benefit from longer growing seasons, especially if warm. The warm climate encourages the production of elevated tannins and high sugar (elevated alcohol,) but still, the noble grape retains its fresh acidity even in such harsh conditions. High tannins, alcohol, and noticeable acidity give wines made with Aglianico age-worthiness; they can even be unapproachable when young.
Aglianico: a distinctive wine for connoisseurs
Wines made with Aglianico are always ruby red with purple hints. They’re full-bodied, rich, and spicy, with a fruit-forward bouquet of plums, dark cherries, cranberries, chocolate, and shadow morels.
The wine also has elevated tannins and a persistent aftertaste, thanks to its incredible concentration. Wine enthusiasts worldwide have found the age-worthy wine a nice addition to any cellar.
What foods pair well with Aglianico red wine?
Due to the wine’s concentration and tannins, Aglianico is easy to pair with robust and hearty meals, mainly grilled red meat and stews. It will also pair with peppery food. Game, including oxtail, venison, and rabbit, will also work well with the bold red wine, and you should also try it with semi-hard cheese.
Which wine regions/countries grow the Aglianico grape?
98% of the wines made with Aglianico come from Italy, and the rest comes from Australia and the USA. There are around 9,973 hectares of vines planted with the grape in Italy. 69% in Campania and 23% in Basilicata; the rest are in Puglia.
Aglianico was nearly forgotten a few decades ago. Its popularity is relatively recent, thanks to the diligent winemakers in Campania and Basilicata, who have made world-class wine with the grape.
Fun facts about Aglianico
- Aglianico is a thick-skinned black grape varietal that grows best in hot, sunny areas.
- It is well-liked in Basilicata and Campania, two southern Italian regions.
- The winemakers use Aglianico to create dry, robust wines with flavors of pepper, black cherry, game, spice, and plum.
- Aglianico has enough alcohol content to mature for years, strong tannins, and a medium to high acidity.
- Although red wine is the most popular type, some producers also make rosé, passito, and sparkling wine.
Key dates in Aglianico’s history:
The vine is believed to have originated in Greece around 700 BC, where Phocians grew it from an unnamed parent vine variety. In the eighth century BC, Greek immigrants transported the vine to Cumae, close to modern-day Pozzuoli.
1400: The Aglianico grape was originally known as Elenico (Italian for Greek) until the 15th century when it was renamed Aglianico.
1993: Aglianico has been experiencing a long-overdue renaissance since the Taurasi region in the province of Avellino was granted DOCG status (highest level of quality in Italy) in 1993.
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Want to read more about Wine? Try reading these books!
- Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours. Jancis Robinson 2012
- Wine. Years. People. Events. Massandra Wine Collection 2010
- The World Atlas of Wine: 8th Edition. Johnson, H & Robinson, J. 2019