Spotlight on Southern Italy: Feudi di San Gregorio Aglianico del Vulture DOC 2005

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map_campania_smThe Campania region of Southern Italy finds its centre in the city of Napoli (Naples), a strange chaotic place if I’ve ever seen one. The wine growing regions here sprinkle themselves around the region, with the most famous being the three DOCGs inland from Naples around the city of Avellino. Campania, like the rest of Southern Italy, has a hot climate comparatively to many European wine regions save a few in Spain and Greece. Campania has also had a long history of producing low-quality wines.

The one exception to this trend was the producer Mastroberardino, whose 1999 Taurasi Aglianico Riserva I’ve written up before and included in my top wines of 2009. It was largely Mastroberardino, too, that prompted the considerable increase in quality in Campania, and in particular, within the DOCG Taurasi. There are, I believe, 3 DOCG regions and about 19 DOCs. However, the DOCs only comprise 7% of the region’s wine production, clearly indicating that there is a lot of room for improvement in quality. That said, there are real signs of potential here, particularly with some of the ‘cult’ blends such as Montevetrano, which blends merlot and aglianico.

Most of Campania’s red wines (which comprise 64% of the total wine production) are made from two grapes: piedirosso and aglianico, with aglianico being the most important. Quality aglianico has, within the last decade, spread beyond the confines of Taurasi, where it first became famous via the wines of Mastroberardino. Aglianico is thought to have been brought by the Greeks to Italy.

Map_vulture_in_basilicataHowever, this particular aglianico is not grown in Campania, but in the neighboring region of Basilicata. The Vulture DOC (one of only two DOCs within Basilicata) has volcanic soils, similar to Taurasi, but is also quite mountainous and thus produces very tannic aglianico, compared to the fruity versions of southern Campania or the dense and less tannic versions of Taurasi itself. Winemakers in this region have recently increased their use of French oak, which I suppose would help add to the structure of this grape. I would fear, however, that too much oak would make the wine almost unbearably tannic. The particular version I tasted, however, was not over the top.

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The wine itself, from producer Feudi di San Gregorio (one of the biggest of Campania), was extremely structured. Made from 100% aglianico, this had a yummy nose of cherry, strawberry and earth. The huge palate was quite tannic, with bright acid, tons of black pepper, cedar, black cherry, and a dark brooding fruit character that makes this wine quite deep and thoughtful. While the acidity is quite high, and the mid-palate is perhaps a bit too bitter right now, if you pair this with the right foods (say a spicy sausage pizza or pasta) the harsh characteristics will mellow out. Or, you could simply lay this down for a few more years – it could take it easily. A woody wine, but a tasty one. Not in the same league as the Mastroberardino Taurasi Riservas, but also a good $50 less.

Very Good to Very Good+
$35 at Kitsilano Wine Cellar

Aglianico is a grape with many variations, the ability to express terroir, and tremendous future potential. It’s one of my personal favorites from Southern Italy, and it is the perfect wine to let age for a while and pull out of the cellar in some years to surprise your fellow wine geeks. Wines made from this grape have stuffing.

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