Aglianico: Southern Italy’s Vinous Erotica

2008 Bisceglia, “Gudarra” Aglianico de Vulture, Bisilicata

Mount Vulture from Bisceglia's vineyards on the lower slopes.
Mount Vulture from Bisceglia’s vineyards on the lower slopes.

While Aglianico is not the grape on most people’s lips, it is one of tremendous complexity, exotic aromatics and perhaps to many people’s tastes a surplus of tannin. But well made Aglianico does not strip the enamel off your teeth, and reminds me of Cote Rotie when it is picked at 12.5% potential alcohol or less. with its peppery, floral aromas and flavors that are so expressive when the grape is not over-oaked, but the grapes structure is much more Barolo-like. Aglianico was brought to Southern Italy by the Greeks, at least 2500 years ago, and was the grape which made-up (possibly blended with the white grape Greco)

Aglianico has been planted in Campania and Basilicata since the 5th century BC
Aglianico has been planted in Campania and Basilicata since the 5th century BC

Falernian wine  which was cherished by the Roman patrician class, was made from Aglianico, where it was planted on the Campanian/Lazio volcano of Mount Falernus.  It was planted to the slopes of Vesuvius when that mountain top rained death on the inhabitants of Pompeii, and it was written about by Pliny, who most people think is a culty beer.

The regal Campanian wine Taurasi, is of made of Aglianico, Farmed again on the slopes of Vesuvius, this is the palace of Aglianico But Aglianico is also grown very successfully on the mid peninsula to the eastern coast on the Adriatic. This is Basilicata. Basilicata is definitely considered country, and it also tends to be hot, bordering on Puglia. But there is some fabulous Aglianico grown here, with several producers in del Vulture leading the charge.

“this is a wine (and varietal) that comes with no training wheels”

The winery is called the Bisceglia of Basilicata, but the firm is called Vulcano e Vini. Yes, wouldn’t one name be better? No matter, they are making fabulous wine from their organic farmed estate.

2008 Bisceglia Gudarra, Aglianico del Vulture (Review)imgres
Black purple in color. This wine has a super-exotic floral-pepper nose, with tuberose’s sweet spiciness, and geraniums green tenderness.  On the surface, the wine suggests under-ripeness. but then the deep black cherries, blackberries and raspberry fruit kicks in showing plenty ripe, richness, and finishes with a firm tar and a deep core full of licorice notes. This is a wine with lots of complex ying/yang complimentary features, leaving the wine with a tense balance fruit, acidity and tannins, giving it plenty of verve. On the finish, the exotic aromatics pick up again, never letting go of its split personality of being both aromatically floral and ripely fruity. The wine is linear and structured in the mouth, with some leanness along with a pleasant bitterness, but there is also more than enough fruit to offset the firm tannins. The acid is fairly soft, so there are no overly hard edges to dampen its moody black fruit. This is a wine, (and varietal) that comes with no training wheels,  but if you can ride this, it is truly remarkable find for under $25.  Score: a conservative 92 points. Emotionally I’d like to rate it higher. This is a sensational wine full of tremendous personality and vigor.



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Diary of a Winebuyer

About Me: Thirty years ago, I graduated with a degree in political science from the College of Letters and Science at the University of California at Berkeley. Having grown up at the height of the Cold War, I still have vivid remembrances of being instructed to hide under our elementary school desk, covering our heads. The young, white, female teacher, training us without explanation, to face away from the windows. I suppose it is not all that surprising that I had a particular interest in the realpolitik of international relations. My fascination grew with the discovery that certain conditions almost uniformly exist where all revolutions ferment. Did this mean that the revolutions which had occurred in the first half century were revolutions which had been usurped by Marxists who were in the right place at the right time? Probably. A favorite professor was A. J. Gregor. This was a man who, while rakishly wearing a Gestapo-styled black leather motorcycle jacket, exuded expertise on fascism (which he looked the part) and Marxism. Improbably, he did it with a significant swagger. Then in my last semester, I had the blind luck to take a class on Asian Marxist revolution, and the professor, who just happened to be visiting that year while he worked on some unnamed project, was Chalmers Johnson. In retrospect, I should have known his name, as he was a luminary in the political science community but at that time, I did not. It was a remarkable opportunity to experience the ivory tower, but I seem to remember being anxious to get on with life. After college, I drifted through a few of jobs that were of interest to me. One of my former high school teachers said to me. "If I were in your shoes, I'd get a job as a flight attendant." So in order to be young while I could still afford to, I accepted a job serving chicken or beef at Pan American. With that airline losing money faster than it could sell its routes, I got a job doing cellar work at David Bruce Winery. This was the beginning of my wine career. All during this period, I wrote a still unpublished novel about homegrown terrorists the U.C. Berkeley campus, attempting to use some of what I learned in school, weaving in the Vietnamese political and military strategies of Dau Tranh as professor Johnson had lectured years before. Since the early 1990's, I have been involved in the wine industry, selling fine wine in both the retail and wholesale arenas. I have approached learning about wine, by always challenging myself to question how I know what I think I know? And in an effort to try to find answers I've turned, with varying degrees of success to wine books. Overall, I've not been happy with the quality of most wine writing, finding the authors either to lack any deep knowledge, or unable to move much past what I consider to be superficial information. I recognize that wine writers have to monetize their work, but I believe this has dramatically held back our knowledge and understanding of wine. I have set out to add to our industry's base of knowledge where I can. My first series, 'The Terroir of Burgundy' (which I should probably re-edit and complete some kind of conclusion, but I got involved in this project), can be viewed here. I currently work as a sales and marketing manager for a Burgundy and Bordeaux importer based in Atherton, California.

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