Wine of the Week 41 – an approachable and attractive Aglianico

Firstly, my apologies for not publishing a Wine of the Week last week, I was in Italy’s Campania region and I just could not make the internet work. I was a guest of the wonderful Campania Stories event that aims to immerse wine writers and wine educators in the wines of the Campania. Naples is the local capital, so as you might imagine, it is a beautiful and fascinating place and I was able to taste a great many terrific wines while I was there. I will write about it at some length soon, but by way of a teaser, my Wine of the Week is made from Campania’s classic black grape – Aglianico.

wine map of southern Italy - click for a larger view

wine map of southern Italy – click for a larger view

Aglianico can produce all manner of wines from rustic and earthy, through bright and enjoyable to classy, serious and elegant. If you have never tried an Aglianico – the g is silent by the way – then you have a treat in store. Be warned though, Aglianico can pack quite a punch of tannins and has equally high acidity, so is almost never a wine to drink without food. At its best I think the wines made from it, which include Taurasi and Falerno del Massico, as well as Aglianico del Vulture in the nearby Basilicata region, are among the most delicious and exciting in the world. They are usually pretty big wines, think Priorat or the red wines of Douro, what’s more they have very hard edges in their youth, so need a fair amount of ageing to soften the tannin and to let their complexity show. The effort is worth it and I will be writing more about some of the region’s fine wines soon. However, luckily for us some producers are also now making more approachable examples of Aglianico, so we can enjoy this exciting grape without waiting for them to soften.

Here is one that’s juicy, drinkable, widely available and great value for money, so I made it my Wine of the Week.

P1120129

Marco Giulioli, the talented and engaging winemaker at La Guardiense.

Aglianico

2013 Marks & Spencers Aglianico
IGT Beneventano
La Guardiense
Benevento
Campania, Italy
This wine is not a DOCG, or even a DOC, but a more humble IGT which means it is made in a less classic wine region with fewer rules and regulations about how it can be made. Benevento is quite a large IGT production area in the east of Campania, north east of Naples and near the border with Puglia. The first winery visit I made in Campania was to the superb La Guardiense cooperative who make this as well as their own higher quality and more serious wines under the Janare label, one of which was my first ever Wine of the Week.

The nose gives off lovely red plum fruit, soft spice and herbs with a note of rich red earth that lends it an attractive savoury character, it smells very Mediterranean in fact. The palate is smooth, with firm, yet supple tannins and refreshing acidity that makes it perfect with food. It tastes of plum and blackberry together with black pepper and a smoky, earthy flavour. The fruit dominates this Aglianico and there is no oak here, which makes it a perfect example for beginners to this extraordinary grape. It’s drinkable and delicious, yet gives a pointer to what this grape can do. 86/100 points.

Try it with charcuterie and all manner of pastas, the acidity makes it very good with tomato based dishes, as well as barbecues, shepherd’s pie or bangers and mash, actually any informal meal.

Available in the UK from Marks and Spencer for £6.50 per bottle.

Aglianico can be a difficult grape to grow, that can produce wines that are difficult for some palates to enjoy as they are often very serious wines, very dry, tannic and savoury. They need food frankly, which is how the locals enjoy them. This wine from Marks and Spencers though shows the grape’s softer, gentler side and will make a perfect starting point in any discovery of Campanian reds.

Do try an Aglianico soon, anyone whole loves red wines would find them worthwhile.

 

Wine of the Week 1 – Janare Colle di Tilio Fiano

colle_di_tilio2012 Janare Colle di Tilio
Fiano Sannio D.O.C./D.O.P.
Campania, Italy
This rather confusingly, but elegantly, labelled wine was a great find as it is utterly delicious, effortlessly classy and goes with fish perfectly.

It is made by La Guardiense which is a large cooperative in Italy’s Campania region, Benevento in fact, where a great many exciting wines seem to be made – read about more here. Their main label is the stylishly packaged Janare range whose aim is to protect the local grapes – especially the wonderful Falanghina and Aglianico and to perfect modern style wines made from them. The Janare Cru range of wines, of which this wine is part, come from specific places so are more terroir wines than varietal wines.

wine map of southern Italy - click for a larger view

wine map of southern Italy – click for a larger view

Fiano is a wonderful grape that comes from Campania and it usually offers nice weight and roundness, even some waxy characters as well as lovely aromatics, often with a honeyed and floral quality. Apparently Fiano was originally called Vitis Apiana, which means vine beloved of bees. The grape is traditionally famous for producing Fiano di Avellino D.O.C./D.O.P. wines, well Sannio is just 12 km or so to the north of there and shares similarly volcanic soils to produce enticingly mineral, yet rich wines.

It is unusual for me to be confused by a wine, but none of the terms on the label are explained at all, so if I had not known that Fiano was a grape I would have really been struggling. So, it needed bit of decoding, Colle di Tilio is an area in Sannio which was a historical and geographical region of Italy, inhabited  by people known as the Samnites in Roman times. Today it is the region around Benevento in Campania. As the wine is made in Sannio from Fiano it is a Fiano Sannio D.O.C – D.O.P. in the modern parlance.

None of which matters at all. All that is important is, do I like and do I think you will?

Well, yes, I do like, enjoy and admire this wine – I think it’s really rather fine.

The nose is aromatic, floral and lemony with lemon pith herbs and enticing stony mineral notes together with that touch of honey so beloved of bees.
Actually it smells like a being in a garden in the Mediterranean in summer.
The palate gives a wonderful combination of crisp mineralality, lively, bracing acidity and some texture, rich lemony fruit which means it has poise, elegance, richness and a bracing quality, all of which makes it dry, medium-bodied and full-flavoured.

All that means balance, finesse and elegance and it is a lovely dry white wine and quite superb with a bit of swordfish – 89/100 points.

Which brings me to where you can buy it:

The Wine Society stock it for the stunning low price of £8.95 – hence the high mark.

If you are not a member of the Wine Society then Jeroboams sell it for £12.50 per bottle, which is still well worth it.

I hope you like this new Wine Of the Week feature, let me know? I will try and publish a weekly post about anything interesting that has come my way, please leave a comment.