As the French have their noble grapes of the respective regions, so do the Italians. In Bordeaux France, for instance, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot are the noble grapes. In Italy, the three noble vines are Nebbiolo (responsible for Barolo and Barberesco etc.), Sangiovese (responsible for Chianti and Brunello di Montelcino etc.) and Aglianico. The wines of Aglianico are lesser known and lesser appreciated but no less pedigreed. In fact, the right vintage from the right producer can be a wine of incredible structure and complexity. Our import selection this month is one of these great combinations.
The fratelli (brothers) D’Angelo have been producing wine in the Rionero (in) Vulture region (at the instep of the boot) of Italy since 1920. Now owned and operated by Rocco D’Angelo and his sons, Donato and Lucio, they are considered the finest wine producers in the area. The D’Angelo family was the first to export wine from the Basilicata region to the U.S. back in 1926. If someone was to wonder what the Aglianico wines are all about, they would be well-advised to taste a D’Angelo Aglianico del Vulture (a 1985, I might add).
The Vulture area is in a larger region called the Basilicata. It is reputed that Aglianico was the first grape to be brought to Italy by the Greeks in pre-Roman times. Aglianico del Vulture is produced from grapes planted in volcanic soil at altitudes of 650 to 2500 feet. The best location for the vines are on the southeastern slope of the now extinct volcano, Mount Vulturino. The soil is rocky and poor. The best years for wines from this region, as rated by local authorities, are: 1988, 1985 (some single this out as the best year), and 1977.
As you can see, our selection has it all. A noble grape variety of Italy, from the pre-eminent producer of the region and grapes from the finest vintage in 60 years. I would say that this bottle of wine is $19.00 on most shelves. The color is rich with age. The rust edges that reveal its time in the bottle turn to brick red in the middle. It is clear an bright. The nose is rich in leather and cedar with a hint of dried cherry. The wine is full bodied and full flavored with the cedar and cherry coming through. A hint of tobacco interlaces the finish.
Serve at room temp with lamb stew (pg.6) or red sauce pastas.
Cellaring notes: At its peak now, will hold for another year.