Tenuta le Querce Aglianico del Vulture Il Viola (2006)

Cleaning out my freezer. That’s what inspired me to drink this bottle of Aglianico. My freezer was overflowing. Every time I opened the door, food fell out, often on my feet. There were probably 10 plastic containers of mystery fluid, unlabled, of unspecified origin. I got to work cleaning it out. First, I found a pack of whole wheat broccoli rabe ravioli. A good start to a meal, but pairing the rabe with wine would be difficult. The bitterness of this vegetable will bring out acidity and tannin in any red wine for sure. Maybe a Pinot Grigio from Northern Italy would work, but only because that wine tastes like water. An off-dry Riesling might also work, with some sweetness to cut through the bitter. But really, a malty beer is probably the best bet.

I remained resilient. I wanted wine, and had no watery whites. Perhaps, if I found enough flavor in some other foods that were paired with the pasta, it would offset the rabe. After tasting two red sauce-like foods that both turned out to be romesco, I found a tomato sauce that seemed to also have roasted red peppers and a touch of cream. It had some nice sweetness that I thought might counterbalance the bitter. I also sauteed some sweet grape tomatoes and some Italian sausage (also from the freezer).

What does this story have to do with choosing this particular wine? Well, I bought just one bottle earlier this year on a whim. I didn’t know much about it. It had no glowing wine magazine reviews (that I was aware of). I had very little expectation for it. My cellar is getting a bit full, and I need to clear out some space for some pending shipments. If it wasn’t good, or didn’t match my freezer meal, I wouldn’t be disappointed. So I went with it.

I drank a glass before dinner (after decanting about 30 mins). Wow. Earth and smoke. Ripe cherries. Really interesting stuff here. Sadly, the rabe was overpowering. Completely destroyed the wine. Even worse, it destroyed my dinner. See, I figured it would be mostly ricotta in the filling, with a touch of rabe. It was the opposite. I’m not even sure there was any ricotta at all. The filling was so overwhelmingly bitter that it ruined the dish, the wine, everything. The good news is that I only ate a few bites. No need to force yourself to eat bad food.

Scrambling for a backup plan, I found some leftover pulled pork that I mixed in with the remaining sauce. I added a fried egg and truffle salt and tried again. Though this dish was satisfying, it still didn’t love the wine. I lost the fruit and just got acidity and spice. Though I expected the rabe to pair poorly, a ragu-style dish seemed like it would go quite nicely. Perhaps my palate was just too far out of whack by this point.

Despite the food troubles, I really did like this wine. The earthiness was central but did not completely outshine the fruit. Time to order a few more bottles and try again with the pairings!

Tasting Notes:

Decanted about 30 mins. Starts off with aromas of barnyard and mushroom, with hints of smoke and oak spice. Got more mushroomy as the night went on. Taste features violet, ripe cherries and plums. Soft, present tannins with a zesty acidity. Medium body. Great balance of complexity and flavor. I picked this up on whim for $14 a few months back and didn’t expect much, but it really surprised me. Great QPR.

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