The Puglian Job, Part II

Aglianico: The next greatest unknown wines of Italy


Today, in addition to continuing my discussion about the state of the Puglian wine industry, I’ll also be taking a look at some of the perennial next greatest unknown wines of Italy: Aglianico. I was fortunate to taste these wines, as well as the Puglian wines in previous reports, courtesy of the 2010 Radici Wine Festival, which was held in November to coincide with the release of the current edition of Radici’s guide to Puglian wines.

Some of you might be wondering why I’m talking about a grape more closely associated with Basilicata, but the truth is the province of Puglia is long and almost surrounds some of the great wine regions of Basilicata. Yes, there is Aglianico in Puglia, as well as Aglianico made in Puglia from vines across the provincial boundary. So, whether you consider it to be a Puglian grape or not, there are Puglian wines to be considered.
Top 6 Aglianico tasted
In some ways Aglianico is emblematic of where Puglian wine has been, where it is today, and where it is headed in the future. Aglianico is an ancient grape, very possibly brought to Italy by the ancient Greeks and inheriting its name from the name “Ellenico,” or "Greek." Jeremy Parzen’s fine article on the topic can be found at Aglianico ≠ Ellenico? on Do Bianchi.

Click for a slideshow of 6 top Puglian wines.

While the name's origins are fascinating, it’s the color, alcohol and polyphenolic richness that concern us here. Aglianico has a history as a blending grape precisely because it has so much to offer. In some ways it actually has too much to offer, and might be best blended to help soften its robust character. But the trend of the day is to bottle it on its own, and from a single vineyard if possible.

I’m not saying that this is right or wrong, only that we are in the midst of a learning adventure -- as producers take wines that were once used to augment the wines, very frequently, of other more illustrious regions, and try to make them their own. We have moved from one extreme to another and only now are seeing this mature yet dynamic market segment discovering its new medium. In addition to Aglianico, many blended wines are playing a role in this transformation of the Puglian winescape. I’ve included reviews of these wines in today’s feature.

Puglia has long been a land of bulk wine production or the previously mentioned vino da taglio production. This had as much to do with luck as intent. Not only is Puglia blessed with a rather comfortable climate for grape-growing, but it is also home to many indigenous grape varieties that produce powerful, dark, alcoholic wines -- perfect for enriching a lighter, cooler-climate wine if that’s your thing.

Because of this reliance on bulk wine production, many vineyards were planted with clones of grapes that stressed productivity: that is, quantity over quality. While in production as bulk wine producers, these vines tended to be used for as long as possible since they didn’t easily support their wholesale replanting and few winemakers were enthusiastic about the prospect of three years without a crop.

This left Puglia in a difficult, but not impossible, position. With all those old vines there was certainly the promise of something special lurking among the vineyards. After all, there must be some superb plots mated to clones that somehow were able to produce high-quality fruit, regardless of their profligacy. The trouble then was simply in finding those vines, knowing what to do with them, and being able to bring them to market. Easy, right?

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  • Snooth User: PELLEZZANO
    512238 58

    Before arriving in Puglia the grape aglianico was introduced in Campania by the Greeks maybe 1,500 years ago.
    You should dedicate, later one, some lines to the wines of Campania.


    Jan 17, 2011 at 6:15 PM

  • As most of the wines you mentioned are N/A in the U.S, there are several CA. producers of Aglianico. You can search for "california aglianico producers". Some that I know of are Caparone in Paso Robles (there seem to be 3 others in Paso), VJB in Sonoma Valley & Montevina in Amador County.

    Jan 17, 2011 at 9:48 PM

  • Snooth User: hhotdog
    Hand of Snooth
    78705 481

    great stuff here always i love the history and stories abut the wines. 2008 Metiusco Rosso Passito sounds right up my alley. can't wait for the next round!!

    Jan 17, 2011 at 11:22 PM


    Jan 18, 2011 at 8:51 AM

  • Snooth User: bropaul
    268864 117

    I had my first chance to visit Puglia in September. Since it was September and we were on the coast, it was mostly white wine. I had my first taste of both bombino bianco and malvasia di Trani - any chance you willl be reporting on the white wines too?

    Jan 18, 2011 at 10:55 AM

  • Been enjoying an inexpensive blend (neprica) from Tormaresa in Puglia. Makes a great table wine. 40% negromaro, 30% primitivo and 30% cab. The recent batch of articles on Puglia have been quite interesting.


    Jan 19, 2011 at 12:03 AM

  • this is a wonderfully instructive article highlighting some of the best producers in the area. great work, well done! dom

    Jan 20, 2011 at 6:41 AM

  • Greg, your notes on the Grifalco della Lucania wines are unclear about which of their wines they pertain to. I can see by the pricing that they're different, but you neglect to distinguish bottlings by name, e.g. Gricos, Damaschito, Bosco del Falco, Grifalco. Any clarification appreciated!

    Jan 20, 2011 at 10:20 AM

  • Snooth User: bici
    28235 5

    Hi, Iam curious to hear if the Aglianico wines from Puglia are rated higher than those from Basilicata/ Campania regions. i ask becaue i have really enjoyed the Primitivos and Negromaro wiens that i have tasted these past few years.

    I am looking forward to tasting my first Aglianico wins asap.


    Jan 20, 2011 at 12:26 PM

  • Snooth User: Helen Poole
    1337036 29


    Aug 30, 2013 at 5:55 AM

  • Snooth User: anvilpep
    1370081 34


    Sep 24, 2013 at 12:51 AM

  • fantastic

    Sep 27, 2013 at 1:52 AM

  • fentastic

    Oct 06, 2013 at 11:37 PM

  • great

    Jan 21, 2014 at 1:01 AM

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