Aglianico | Red wine grape believed to be one of the oldest varieties in its native Italy. Recent improvements in wine making now means Aglianico is considered among Italy’s best reds with Sangiovese and Nebbiolo.

The name | It has been erroneously ascribed to ellanico/Hellenic, as it was previously believed to be of Greek origin. Recent studies have shown no important genetic links between Aglianico and Greek varieties.

Wine style | Deeply coloured. Full-bodied wines, firmly structured with high, powerful tannin and marked acidity. Floral aromas. Aglianico is often tough and tarry in its youth but proves both very age-worthy and not without the potential for grace and refinement.

Specific styles | Most examples are dry and still. Aglianico is often blended with other local grape varieties that play a softening role. In Campania, Piedirosso brings freshness and aroma. In Puglia, Primitivo gives fruitier and faster maturing wines. In Abruzzo and Molise, Aglianico is blended with Montepulciano. Note that while the DOCGs of Taurasi and Aglianico del Taburno allow up to 15% other grapes, Aglianico del Vulture DOC must be 100%.

Wines from ItalyBasilicata: Aglianico del Vulture DOC. | Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG. | Campania: Aglianico del Taburno DOCG. | Falerno del Massico DOC. | Sannio DOC. | Taurasi DOCG. | Puglia: Castel del Monte DOC. | Other: Less extensive plantings in Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise.

Biotypes | The three major biotypes of Aglianico  take their names from the areas they are associated with: Taurasi, Taburno and del Vulture. The wines they produce are an expression both of biotype and terroir. The Taurasi biotype possesses the smallest berries and is the least vigorous. The Taurasi DOCG sits at elevations up to 500m where large diurnal differences give extremely intense aromas. The wines are the most floral, distinguished by scents of red rose. The Taburno biotype has the biggest bunches and ripens earlier with the highest sugar and acid levels. The Taburno DOCG zone is cooler and wetter contributing to elevated acid levels. The wines demonstrate nuances of leather and tobacco. Finally, the del Vulture biotype expresses the most fruit and mineral concentration. The hot summer days in the Vulture zone give the richest, darkest fruit character with violet being a hallmark aroma of the wines. Note that most producers in Vulture grow all three biotypes.

Clones | Ther numerous clones of Aglianico attests to its  the importance. Recently there has been a particularly large increase in plantings of the VCR 2 clone from Campania, especially in the Irpinia area, which produces bigger, darker black wines. Though actually a biotype, Aglianico del Vulture is still listed as a separate variety in the National Registry. Aglianico is not the same as Aglianicone or Aglianico di Napoli (aka Tronto).

Viticulture | Aglianico has thick skin that is resistant to botrytis, highly beneficial for this very late ripening grape. Long, slow ripening and a warm autumn are necessary for Aglianico to reach full maturity and soften its high acid and tannin. It grows well at high altitudes (up to 600-700m) and is best on steep mountain slopes where it produces profound, rich wine. Aglianico has an affinity with volcanic soil, which results in wines with complex smoky, spicy notes.

Bibliography

Italian Wine Unplugged (Positive Press, 2017), p.77-78.

Oz Clarke, Oz Clarke Wine A-Z (Pavilion, 2015), p24-25.