Aglianico vs Aglianico: Aglianocalypse 06/25/11
First things first: I admit to a bit of disingenuousness in posting this review after my writeup of the Wines of Chile event, because the Aglianocalypse, as fate would have it, happened to take place a few days prior. But one thing you should know about wine writers is that we’re actually masters of the space-time continuum, and even for a novice like myself, a bit of temporal shuffling is mere child’s play.
So. Once upon a time (they say) there was a certain grape, and this grape was born in a certain land. And one day this grape, by a stroke of exceptional serendipity, discovered he could make pretty kickass wines out of himself; and so he spread throughout the various villages, sharing his deliciousness with the people, and it was good.
For years, the legend goes, they managed to coexist harmoniously, even deliciously…until the grape heard tell, through a vine of some sort, of better soils elsewhere; and without even so much as a goodbye, he abandoned his native Greece for Italy, as so many others had done before him.
The title of my post may have clued you in, but just in case it didn’t, the grape I’m talking about here is Aglianico, which I’ve actually talked about on this blog before. Still, I haven’t even had close to enough of it, and neither have you, so today I come before you with not one but two Aglianicos to review.
It would, of course, be most appropriate for me to pit a Greek Aglianico against an Italian one, but as I haven’t the faintest idea where to find Greek Aglianico (or indeed, whether it’s even grown there anymore), I won’t be doing that. I will, however, be reviewing wines from two different regions of Italy – the Feudi di San Gregorio Vigne di Mezzo 2002 Efesto, an $18 Aglianico del Vulture (much like the last I reviewed), from the Basilicata region; and the Rocca dei Sanniti Aglianico del Taburno 2006, from the Taburno DOC in Campania, retailing for $20 or so (but on sale for $13) – so things could still get pretty heated.
I have some issues with the whole “age before beauty” adage, mostly because I’m young and hot. For this reason I opted to open the Taburno Aglianico first – a decision which my comrades couldn’t begrudge me, knowing nothing about wine themselves, except of course that I’m the best at it. In the glass this one poured a relatively light, clear maroon, with orange/garnet edges. Notes of black cherry, sage, and eventually (this note courtesy of Saul) blood orange provided a pretty intriguing aromatic experience, a bit different from what I expected.
The palate had the graphite minerality I’ve come to expect from the grape, along with flavors of boysenberry and (more curiously) raisin. Still tannic and somewhat acidic, this could definitely stand to age a bit, and even though this is advertised as “one of the friendliest Aglianicos” that Steve Pollack (the official wine-buyer for the state of Pennsylvania) has ever tasted, I wonder whether that’s even a compliment for a grape as exciting as Aglianico usually is.
I award the Rocca dei Sanniti Aglianico del Taburno thumbs up – a solid score, but the lowest of any Aglianico I’ve tried to date. Nice guys always finish last, I suppose…
Next was the Vigne di Mezzo Efesto, an older Aglianico whose advanced years granted him refinement and sophistication far beyond that of the Taburno. It didn’t even advertise itself as Aglianico on the bottle, suggesting a much more confident wine as well. In the glass this poured a darker maroon hue, with more orange around the edges (a sign of age).
The nose was redolent of cherry pie filling and cinnamon, creating the impression of…well, cherry pie, with notes of chocolate and tobacco leaves emerging from the background. On the palate this one tasted primarily of raspberry, with a chocolatey finish. This was universally preferred to the first Aglianico we tasted, although to be honest, I’m not exactly sure whether we should be thanking the terroir of Mount Vulture, the age of the wine, or both.
So instead I’ll just give the Vigne di Mezzo thumbs up, because it was better than the Sanniti, but not quite as stunning as that Macarico Aglianico from way back when (i.e., March).
If you’re reading this, and you’re still alive, congratulations! You’ve made it through the Aglianocalypse!
Now go buy some Aglianico.