Al-Yan-Ik-Oh or Alli-Yawn-Nico
Aglianico is a red wine grape, native to the south of Italy. Along with Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, it makes up the holy trinity of tannic Italian red varietals. Aglianico’s exact origins are a mystery. For a long time, it was believed that it was introduced to Italy by the Ancient Greeks, but DNA testing has revealed no connection.
Aglianico grows best in hot, dry climates, and is a thick-skinned and vigorous grape. It requires careful attention while growing because it has a tendency to produce large amounts of fruit.
The grape is grown in very small quantities in Argentina, Australia and the United States, but it is mostly cultivated in Southern Italy. Within Southern Italy, production is largely focused on 2 regions, Campania and Basilicata. All of these contain deposits of volcanic soil, in which Aglianico thrives.
Aglianico Tasting Notes
Aglianico is an intense wine, full-bodied, highly acidic and packed with tannins. In the glass, it is usually a scarlet red but can develop some orange hues as it ages. In terms of alcohol volume, Aglianico typically falls between 13.5% and 15%.
It has dominant flavors of black fruit, spice and earthy meat. The profile can vary depending on age, but in any bottle of Aglianico, look out for notes of black cherry, plum, dried berries, smoked meat, tobacco, white pepper, chocolate and baking spice.
Aglianico is extremely rare outside of Italy. It is almost always produced in the same dry, oaked style.
Blends Made From Aglianico
In the region of Campania, Aglianico is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to make IGT wines. These are intense red blends, with Aglianico bringing even more structure and boldness to the other two varietals.
Aglianico wines can be found at all levels of the Italian classification system, VdT, IGT, DOC, and DOCG. These letters essentially refer to the number of restrictions on the production of the wine. DOCG-level wines are the most specific. They are tied down to a particular terroir or vineyard and must contain at least 85% Aglianico. As you move downwards, requirements become more relaxed – but that doesn’t mean they are less tasty.
You have the IGT-level blends produced in Campania that we have mentioned already and some DOC options. At the top tier, there are 3 Aglianico DOCG wines to choose from. These will be more expensive, but worth keeping an eye out for.
Taurasi DOCG wines are considered the best of the best. They are highly floral and are made for extended cellaring. The Aglianico del Taburno DOCG is also found within Campania, north of Taurasi. These wines are perfect if you’re seeking a lower price. They have an earthier profile than Taurasi wines.
Finally, you have the Aglianico del Vulture in Basilicata, which achieved the status of DOC in 1971. However, its premium version, the Aglianico del Vulture Superiore, was awarded DOCG status in 2011 and is still the only DOCG wine being made in Basilicata. This one has more elements of spiced plum and a coffee bean earthiness.
When To Drink Aglianico
Aglianico is a distinctly Italian wine, so we recommend you save it for some Italian food. It can be fantastic if you’re firing up the pizza oven or at least visiting somebody who has one. Pair it with heavy meals, like pasta with meatballs, southern Italian dishes, or pizza with rich toppings and plenty of tomatoes.
It needs to be decanted for at least an hour before serving – it will be much more enjoyable after some breathing. Best served at 64-68º F (18-20 ºC).
Best Years To Drink Aglianico
Aglianico is extremely worthy of some aging. It is suggested that you should wait at least 8 years after the wine’s vintage to open it, to let it become more accessible, but that’s totally up to you. Either way, Aglianico can age for over 20 years.
Younger Aglianico wines will have more flavors of pepper and black fruits and will be stunningly tannic. As the wine ages, it will develop more flavors of dried berries, musky aromas, and soft, aged leather.
Aglianico Average Prices
When shopping for an Aglianico wine, you can get a nice IGT-level bottle for as little as $4. The most expensive option is, of course, a DOCG wine from Taurasi. The “Vigna Quintodecimo” Riserva will set you back $136.
However, both of these are unnecessary, because it isn’t hard to find high-quality DOCG wine from Taurasi for a very reasonable price of $20.
Fun Facts About Aglianico
Aglianico is highly susceptible to Botrytis, the “noble rot” that can be utilized for dessert wines – but usually, it is far too tannic to make a dessert wine.
Aglianico is also known by the name Ellenico, which led many to believe the grape was Hellenic or Greek in origin.
The grape is a late ripener, sometimes coming to fruition as late as November.