AGLIANICO

Aglianico (pronounced "ah-LYAH-nee-koe") is a black grape grown in the southern regions of Italy. The vine originated in Greece and was brought to Campania by Greek settlers. The name may be a corruption of Vitis hellenica, Latin for "Greek vine". Another etymology derives the name Aglianico from a corruption of Apulianicum, the Latin adjective which indicates the whole of southern Italy in the Roman age. In early Roman times, it was the principal grape of the famous Falernian wine which was the Roman equivalent of a First Growth wine today.

Aglianico is thought to have been planted in those regions as early as the 7th century B.C. This wine is notably rough when young due to high tannins noticeable acidity and a dense concentration of flavours; it’s definitely built for aging. As this wine matures, it can exhibit great balance with subtle fruit flavours and earthy, tarry and chocolaty characteristics.

History

Ruins from the Greek settlement of Cumae. The vine was believed to have first been cultivated in Greece by the Phoceans from an ancestral vine that ampelographers have not yet identified. From Greece it was brought to Italy by settlers to Cumae near modern day Pozzuoli, and from there spread to various points in the regions of Campania and Basilicata.

While it is still grown in Italy, the original Greek plantings seem to have disappeared. In Ancient Rome the grape was the principal component of the world's earliest First Growth wine, Falernian. Along with a white grape known as Greco (today grown as Greco di Tufo), the grape was commented on by Pliny the Elder, the maker of some of the highest-ranked wines in Roman times.

Traces of the vine have been found in Molise, Puglia and on the island of Procida near Naples, though it is no longer widely cultivated in those places. The grape was called Ellenico (the Italian word for "Greek") till the 15th century when it got its current name Aglianico.

Wine regions

In Basilicata, Aglianico forms the basis for the region's only DOC wine, Aglianico del Vulture, and is concentrated around the areas of Matera and Potenza. The most sought-after productions of Aglianico del Vulture come from the vineyards located in and around the extinct volcano Mount Vulture.

In Campania the area in and around the village of Taurasi Aglianico's only DOCG wine is produced, also called Taurasi. More Aglianico can be found in the province of Benevento. In Campania, it is also the principal grape of Aglianico del Taburno and Falerno del Massico.

Other regions
The grape has also recently been planted in Australia and California, as it thrives in predominantly sunny climates. In Australia it is being introduced in the Murray Darling region with some success. Producers in McLaren Vale, Margaret River, Mudgee and Riverland are also experimenting with plantings.
 

Viticulture and winemaking

The vine buds early and grows best in dry climates with generous amounts of sunshine. It has good resistance to outbreaks of oidium, but can be very susceptible to “peronospera”. It also has low resistance to botrytis, but since it is much too tannic to make a worthwhile dessert wine, the presence of this noble rot in the vineyard is more of a viticultural hazard than an advantage.

The grape has a tendency to ripen late, with harvests happening as late as November in some parts of southern Italy. If the grape is picked too early, or with too high yields, the grape can be excessively tannic. The vine seems to thrive in particularly volcanic soils.

Wine styles

Wines produced from Aglianico tend to be full bodied with firm tannins and high acidity, making this a wine that has aging potential. The rich flavours of the wine make it appropriate for matching with rich meats such as lamb. In Campania, the grape has been blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the production of some Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) wines.

In its youth the wine is very tannic and concentrated, with need of a few years of ageing before it can be approachable. As it ages the fruit becomes more pronounced and the tannins more balanced with the rest of the wine. The trademark colouring of the wine is a deep garnet. In well made examples of the wine, it can have chocolate and plum aromas.

Environmental, cultural characteristics and needs

It has medium leaf, longer rather than wide, lobed; bunch is medium-small, cylindrical, often winged, compact, small-medium berry, ellipsoidal with waxy skin, thin but strong, black colour. It has abundant and steady production. It's ideal for growing in cold regions and high altitudes, thanks to the early sprouting and ripening.

Diseases and adversity

It has good tolerance to fungal diseases, with a slight sensitivity to powdery mildew and downy mildew. It resists cold.

 

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