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Awesome Aglianico

Northside Staff

Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, Mark Britten, Robert Bradley, and Jay Reed

Many who drink Italian wine on a regular basis are unfamiliar with what is arguably southern Italy’s most noble grape variety, Aglianico (ah-lee-ah-nee-co). It is grown primarily in the southwestern Campania region, home to the city of Naples, and Basilicata, a region sandwiched between Campania to the west and Apulia to the east.

Aglianico seems to flourish in volcanic soils, and its two finest expressions are generally considered to be the Mt. Vesuvius-influenced Taurasi wines of Campania and the Aglianico del Vulture of Basilicata, near extinct volcano Mt. Vulture.

While these wines may be unfamiliar to the general public, they are the darlings of many a wine critic. John Gilman writes in his electronic wine newsletter A View From the Cellar that “these wines (Taurasi) will rival some of the very best Baroli and Barbaresci and eclipse most of what is made in Brunello di Montalcino these days (Issue #55].” Similarly, in The New York Times, Eric Asimov calls Aglianico “the Barolo of the south” and describes the best examples as “delicious, structured, and age worthy [June 6, 2013].”

With great curiosity, the staff at Northside Wine & Spirits recently blind-tasted 11 Aglianico wines. Overall, the wines were very characterful and intriguing, displaying an array of red and dark fruit flavors accented variously by hints of menthol, anise, and cedar. Mercifully, none of the wines were overpowered by new oak.

The staff’s unanimous top pick was theMolettieri 2006 Taurasi “Cinque Querce”($41). This deeply colored, aromatic winedisplays a spectacular balance of black cherry, cedar, licorice, and brown spice notes all underscored by supple integrated tannins. A stunning wine, it’s enjoyable now, yet easily has another decade of cellaring potential.

The best value of the tasting was theTerredora di Paolo 2012 Aglianico Campania($15). This bright, medium-bodied red has adelicious core of black cherry fruit augmented by hints of smoke, anise, and leather. It has a delightfully chewy finish and can be drunk over the next 2–3 years.

These wines are highly and enthusiastically recommended. Try them with Osso Buco, pasta dishes with rich meat or mushroom ragu, or sheep milk cheeses such as Pecorino. Yum!

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