What is Aglianico Wine? The World's Oldest Cultivated Grape is Italy's Unknown Wine Treasure

Aglianico is one of Italy's best “black” skinned grapes, and produces a deep garnet wine with high levels of tannin and acid.

By Lucie Robson
Dec 02, 2021
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Aglianico wine (grapes) in 30 seconds

  • Aglianico is a thick-skinned, black grape that loves hot, sunny climates.
  • It’s widely cultivated in the southern Italy regions of Campania and Basilicata.
  • It produces dry full-bodied wines with aromas/ flavors of pepper, black cherry, game, spice, and plum.
  • Aglianico has medium to high acidity, high tannins, and alcohol to enable it to age for years.
  • Although best known as a red wine, some producers make rosé, passito, and sparking styles.

 

What's Aglianico Wine?

The origins of Aglianico in Italy are difficult to pin down. Some ampelographers think that the grape came with Greek settlers in ancient times – and the grape name does have a Greek ring to it! Others have found no DNA links to any of the indigenous grapes in Greece or think that perhaps the original Greek grape has died out.

 

On the other hand, Aglianico could be native to southern Italy. The fact is, Aglianico’s past is shrouded in mystery. Whatever its roots, we’re just glad it has endured! As with most grapes, there are numerous pseudonyms for Aglianico. Some of the prettiest are Zuccherina, Fresella, and Tringarulo!

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Learn about Aglianico

With its distinct profile, complexity, and finesse, Aglianico is widely regarded as the Nebbiolo of the south and is found in several prestigious appellations across these hot climes.

 

In Campania, Aglianico is grown around the village of Taurasi and Monte del Taburno. Taurasi received its DOCG status in 1993 while Aglianico del Taburno followed in 2011. In Basilicata, the grape produces Aglianico del Vulture DOC and Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG. This varietal is also planted in the province of Caserta where it is the main grape in Falerno del Massico.

Outside Italy, Aglianico has significant plantings in Australia, California, Texas, Arizona in the US, and in Ontario, Canada.

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What does Aglianico taste like?

The bottom line with Aglianico is it benefits from aging to allow for its tannins to mellow and powerful flavors to integrate. Patience reaps rewards with this grape.

 

Taurasi DOCG

This wine boasts aromas and flavors of black cherry, raspberry, and plum as well as cigar smoke, coffee, earth, and leather. Full-bodied with medium to high acidity, high tannins, and high alcohol.

 

Aglianico del Taburno DOCG

This wine displays white pepper, black fruit, and charcuterie plus baked figs and leather. Full-bodied with medium to acidity, high tannins, and high alcohol.

 

Aglianico del Vulture DOC 

This wine features black and red fruit, sweet spice, coffee, dried herbs, and smoky notes. Full-bodied with medium acidity, high tannins, and high alcohol.

 

Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG

This complex wine displays black cherry, dark chocolate, earth, tar, and spice. Full-bodied with medium acidity, high tannins, and high alcohol.

 

Falerno del Massico

This Campania wine has red fruit, spice, and tobacco. Medium to full-bodied with medium acidity, high tannins, and high alcohol.

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What food does Aglianico pair with?

Aglianico is a heavyweight, full-bodied, alcoholic wine so the key is to pair it with equally, powerful dishes. It’s also handy to know that salty, acidic food will increase the impression of body and fruitiness while downplaying any of its signature tannic astringency. Avoid sweets because sugar highlights bitterness that’s found in tannins. Chili heat and Aglianico cancel one another out so don’t pair this wine with spicy dishes. Avoid poultry and fish as Aglianico will overpower these foods.

 

Aglianico Food Pairing

  • Meat: Rich beef stews, braised Oxtail, braised lamb shanks, salamis, smoked pork, barbecued meats, game dishes, pasta with meat ragu.
  • Vegetable and Vegetarian Dishes: Cheese-filled roasted mushrooms, pulses like lentil and black-eyed pea dishes, rich vegetable stews with tempeh.
  • Cheese: Hard, tangy cheeses like Italian Pecorino, Spanish Manchego, Cheddar, or Monterey Jack.

 

Sparkling Aglianico Food Pairing

  • Bubbly Aglianico is perfect as an aperitif or as an accompaniment to a fruit salad. This bubby is also ideal for smoked salmon and seafood risotto. 
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Aglianico Wine Styles and Production Methods

Aglianico is made in several styles through different vineyard and winery techniques. 


Classifications

IGT wines are made from fruit harvested across a wide region rather than a prestigious designated area.

The DOC categories produce Aglianico with stricter viticultural and vinification methods than IGT level wines. Only particular grapes within specific boundaries and strict vinification methods are permitted resulting in wines with more finesse.

 

Passito

This shows that the Aglianico grapes have been deliberately dehydrated following harvest in order to concentrate sugars and flavors for a richer, fuller wine.

 

Aglianico types


Riserva

As well as the IGT, DOC, and DOCG categories, some Aglianico wines bear “Riserva” on the label. This indicates that the wine has higher alcohol levels and longer aging than the local appellation laws dictate. Aglianico Reserva has to have a minimum of 14% abv and be aged for at least 24 months, nine of which are in barrel.


Sparkling 

Sparkling Aglianico usually comes under the IGT classification. A typical bubbly displays red cherry, strawberries, and delicate spice

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What kind of wine is similar to Aglianico?

  • Bandol, France.
  • Pays d’Oc red blends, France.
  • Barossa Shiraz, Australia.
  • Zinfandel, California.
  • Primitivo, Italy.
  • Amarone della Valpolicella, Italy.
  • Ripasso della Valpolicella, Italy.
  • Negroamaro, Italy.
  • Côtes de Bordeaux reds, France.
  • Nero d’Avola, Italy.
  • Chateau-Neuf-du-Pâpe/ Gigondas/ Vacqueyras, France.
  • Rioja Reserva and Gran Reserva, Spain.

Rosato Aglianico 

  • Tavel, France.

Sparkling Aglianico.

  • Rosé Prosecco, Italy.
  • Rosé Cava, Spain.

Fun facts

  • Aglianico originated in ancient Phoenicia.
  • It has the nickname “Southern Barolo”.
  • It’s also called Gnanico, Agliatica, Ellenico, Ellanico, Uva Nera
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