Rocca dei Sanniti Aglianico del Taburno (2006)

rocca-dei-sanniti-aglianico-taburnoI came across an article the other day entitled “Aglianico: Italy’s rising grape” or “next big grape” or something along those lines (sorry, don’t remember where). This concept makes some kind of sense, given that Aglianico is one of the key traditionally indigenous Italian grapes, yet doesn’t seem to carry the same respect that Nebbiolo or Sangiovese gets outside Italy. So, the potential for growth exists.

That said, it’s hard to imagine Aglianico taking off as the next big thing, at least in the US. It just doesn’t make wines that match to the current American consumer palate. (Yes, I am speaking in generalizations.) Most people respond to big, fruit-forward, high-alcohol, sweeter wines such as Napa Cabs, Cali Zins, and Aussie Shirazes, and this simply is not what Aglianicos typically taste like.

Instead, this grape from Southern Italy tends to create rustic, often austere wines that promote earthy over fruity, with balanced alcohol, vibrant acidity and harsh tannins. They feature savory notes like tar, dirt and tobacco, often showcasing that classic wine snob descriptor “scorched earth”.

You won’t here me complaining about Aglianco’s lack of marketability to the American palate – that keeps the prices low for people (like me) who love the earthy, savory notes and food-friendly balance that this wine consistently brings. (I won’t get cocky though — I’ll bet there was some schmo saying this same thing about Barolo 10 years ago. )

The striking thing about this particular Aglianico was the aroma. We had a block of aged Tuscan pecorino on the table while we were eating (ravioli with tomato/boar ragu – which was a killer pairing, btw), and both the wine and cheese had very, very similar aromas. Not blue cheese stinky, but aged hard cheese stinkiness emanating from both, creating our own little locker room on the table. Maybe not for everyone – but we found it to be quite lovely!

Tasting Notes:

Light color, turning towards brick on the edges. Aroma is great – aged cheese, tar, smoke, meat, soap, leather and sour cherry all play a part. Palate features more sour cherry, herbs, firm acidity and moderately dry tannins. (Ever wonder what people mean by “sour cherry” in wine? Drink this one.) Versatile with food, but needs it. Good QPR & significantly better than the Mastrobeardino Aglianico that was a PA Chairman’s Selection at the same time.

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